2006 saw Greyhound Rescue West of England celebrate 10 years as a Registered Charity. GRWE was formed in 1991 and became a registered charity five years later. We operate mainly in the west of the UK but greyhounds come to us from all over the country. In the past 12 months GRWE has homed over 600 dogs, and word about our work is spreading.
Angela Yardley, the founder of GRWE looks back at how it all started in this very personal message....
In the early 1970s my father was a fencing contractor occasionally doing work for greyhound stadiums and I was totally ignorant of the horrendous problems that would be revealed to me later. I/ we possibly have my father to thank as he was a great animal lover and was deeply affected by the ‘lovely dogs spending their lives shut in kennels’. That year I bought some Christmas cards from the then newly-formed RGT and I still remember the pictures clearly – on the front was a beautiful dog lying by the fire while on the reverse was a muzzled fiend racing round a track! The irony of this bad publicity would not strike me until much later.
I have always had salukis but in 1984 I saw ‘SOMETHING SPECIAL’ advertised at my vets and subsequently met Erica, who did homechecks for the RGT. I had to have a greyhound and was sent to a trainer near Salisbury. Greyhounds crowded round a gate in the huge walled garden, all waving their tails and pushing their noses through the bars. Looking back I think Michael Edwards was a good trainer who cared about his dogs. We took an enormous blond boy, rather larger than we had had in mind - this was Merlin and it was he who really started everything.
The main area of energy then was Anne Shannon on the Isle of Man, who organized RGT homechecking and wrote many letters trying to stop the Irish/ Spanish traffic. I did homechecks and collected Jamie - my first ‘personal’ rescue who was with me for 15 years.
By now my telephone number was starting to get out and about with a vengeance and it was not unusual to be on the phone after work until midnight! I met Anne Finch in the late 1980s when we were both helping Anne Shannon - we had a long discussion outside the Happy Eater in Burford with the result that she went to Spain and started GIN and I stayed home and started GRWE. A whole new world was opening up, together with all the nasty shocks and equally delightful surprises and poignant moments.
BBC Radio Gloucester interviewed me and a person who responded was Margaret Stocken and together we started to home greyhounds from RSPCA Cardiff. No one was interested in having greyhounds then so there were cheers and tears when our first ‘checked home’ arrived and took not one, but two greyhounds! We started a newssheet and once people realized there was someone prepared to take greyhounds we were receiving calls from all over the country – often driving miles to collect and bringing them home as we could not afford to use kennels. It took over our lives.
In 1992 the Forums started up in a direct response to increasing publicity but there were very few dedicated greyhound rescues and it was still an uphill task to ‘sell’ anyone the idea of a greyhound. Money was so tight that on one occasion when I received the bank statement with only £28 I cancelled all advertising and cleared the kennels, bringing 3 dogs home with me!
By the early 1990s, Tracy and I had formed GRWE. The idea of Honorary Friends was hatched and in 1994 we held our first sponsored walk (£400+!) and held our first dog show at Glewstone. During this time we received a great deal of help from Christine Mason and her late husband Fred. We gradually built up a small stock of merchandise which I kept at home. The Greyhound Club helped us into Crufts, thanks to Daphne Gilpin, then Hon. Sec, who let us have their ‘breed rescue’ stand in the corner of the ring. Further shows and street collections followed and our homing increased to 80+ dogs annually and then rose to 150. All homechecking, publicity, fundraising, secretarial work was done by a handful of us – no computers, email or internet! We also met Shirley Watts during this period and Sally Willbie and Jan Lake and in the mid 90s GRWE achieved charitable status.
In recent times we have grown into a truly professional charity to be proud of - I think that reflects well on the early beginnings which we should not forget.