Living on the streets is a hardship many of us won’t have to bear, made a little easier by the companionship of man’s best friend.
Yet who helps homeless dogs stay healthy in the face of harsh nights, cold winters and their owners’ perpetual struggle for food and shelter?
Ruby Shorrock, a final year veterinary student, has made it her mission to ‘help the hounds of homeless people’ and founded The Trusty Paws Clinic, which provides much-needed care free of charge, to do so.
You can hear Ruby’s story – and those of the countless pups she helps – below:
As a vet in Glasgow, a city with one of the worst homelessness crises in the UK, Ruby quickly recognised rough sleepers ‘are in dire straits and they need companionship’ as well as the relationship and responsibility which comes with caring for a dog.
Speaking to UNILAD at one of three clinics, Ruby explained The Trusty Paws ethos:
We want to protect that relationship and help maintain it, while helping homeless people to get off the streets.
As Ruby has seen first hand, the company of dogs can be the difference between life and death for some rough sleepers, like Darren, a regular at The Trusty Paws Clinic.
Darren told UNILAD about his five-year-old Staffy, Bronson, who’s his reason for living, adding, if he lost the companionship of his loyal dog, he would feel suicidal and want to kill himself.
This is why, as Darren explained, the good work of the vets who volunteer to give Bronson health check-ups and much needed vaccinations, is so important.
They’ve been inseparable ever since Darren saved Bronson’s life.
Five years ago, Darren chanced upon his then owner preparing to throw the pup, trapped in a bin bag, into the river to his certain death.
Darren recalled how he stepped in and took the Staffy to safety without a moment’s hesitation.
It’s been a tumultuous ride and Bronson is constantly under threat from other homeless people, some of whom Darren explains try to steal him, knowing they’ll make more money begging if they are accompanied by a dog.
Yet he’s adamant Bronson, who he now calls best friend, has saved his life tenfold since.
The Trusty Paws Clinic offers dogs like Bronson a safe-haven from medical threats, such as exposure, starvation and other infections.
Needless to say, their free care, offered at monthly clinics in Glasgow, London and Liverpool, means the world to guys like Darren and other homeless dog owners.
One clinic regular used to bring his dogs, Tara and Bruno, to Trusty Paws’ pop up every month.
Tara and Bruno were offered regular check-ups and vaccinations and their loving human was given pet supplies such as food and warm dog coats, supplied by the clinic’s sponsors.
When Tara got sick with a terminal illness, which tragically took her life a few months ago, the team of veterinary volunteers were also able to help him cope with his grief, surrounded by fellow animal-lovers.
It just goes to show the strong unconditional love which can develop between man and beast when both find themselves in times of struggle.
Vet students who help Ruby out at clinics told UNILAD about one couple, who take it in turns to sleep rough on the streets with their beloved dog, Diesel, as most shelters won’t allow a pet indoors.
The problems these vets see every month in the clinic speak to a wider societal issue with homeless people who keep pets.
Ruby, who otherwise works full time in a Glasgow surgery, said:
I started The Trusty Paws Clinic with homeless people with dogs in mind.
After doing some research, I found there weren’t any services offered to them or their pets.
I thought a clinic would be an amazing project to set up because it also gives the vet students really good experience, as the sort of problems we see here at the clinic are actually not much different to what I’d see in my day-to-day job.
At The Trusty Paws clinic, we offer homeless dogs preventative vaccinations, microchips, and flea and worming treatments, all free of charge to the dog’s owners.
If they need any further vet care, we’re all in contact with excellent local vets who can help us out.
Ruby grew up on a farm in the Midlands, developing a love and understanding of all animal-kind, telling UNILAD she’s always wanted to be a vet.
Now putting her training towards charitable aims, Ruby, who is the proud mum of cats herself, is trying to promote a more empathetic attitude towards all animals, no matter where they live and no matter who their human.
Ruby and her team of vets have seen over 100 dogs in their Glasgow clinic, all in different shapes and sizes and all loved equally, by their loyal owners.
All sorts of Very Good Breeds come through the doors, from young puppy to old boy, from smiley Staffies to small fluffy balls of fur.
Ruby told UNILAD:
We do this because of the underlying human-animal bond.
I think the bond they have with animals and the benefits, psychological and emotional, these animal bring to them is accentuated with people who have fallen on tough times.
Ruby has seen the special relationship between man and dog firsthand, growing up with dogs herself.
Dogs just provide this unique and special mutual respect and love.
They don’t lie to them, they’re not going to hurt them.
Most importantly, Ruby’s job is to help look after the animals whose owner’s are homeless, but, ‘it’s not about perpetuating their life on the streets’, she explained.
Rather, Ruby concluded, ‘it’s about preserving that bond to help them and their dogs move forward’.
You can donate here to help Ruby and her team at The Trusty Paws Clinic continue with their life-saving veterinary work.