EDINBURGH – Walking around this charming old city, you see so much beauty.
It can be found in the old stone architecture that defines its exterior features; in the considerable green spaces, like Charlotte Square and Calton Hill; in the awe-inspiring surrounding landscapes of Arthur’s Seat and the Firth of Forth.
It’s also difficult to walk around Scotland’s capital and not stumble over an historic literary site, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former address, with a statue of Sherlock Holmes standing sentry outside the front door, or The Elephant House, an unassuming café where J. K. Rowling penned her first Harry Potter novel… just to name a couple. There are so many more.
What you won’t see much of – thankfully – are homeless animals. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, when you consider that Edinburgh was home to Greyfriars Bobby – the dedicated dog whom the 19th Century people of Edinburgh essentially adopted as an honorary citizen while he sat vigil by his caretaker’s grave for 14 years.
That kind of forward-thinking ethos impelled compassionate residents to found the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (a.k.a. the Home), a charitable group that has been caring for homeless and abandoned canines and felines since 1883.
Today, it is overseen by chief executive Howard Bridges, a man who cares so much about animals that he lives at work. This isn’t hyperbole – Howard actually resides upstairs from the Home’s offices, strategically located along Edinburgh’s beautiful coastline.
The Home is the type of place that even draws foreigners, like American expatriate Alanna Kibiloski of Virginia. She arrived several months ago to head the Home’s membership and fundraising efforts, and gave us a tour of the facility when Nutmeg visited in May 2017.
“I love it here,” Alanna told us. It’s obvious why when you see all the good work she and her colleagues (including some 60 active volunteers) are doing for Edinburgh’s animals. The Home’s dedicated volunteers support the organization with various tasks, from fundraising to helping out in the community.
“We don’t really have a homeless animal population to speak of in Edinburgh anymore,” Alanna explains. “We certainly do take in strays or the occasional homeless dog or cat, but most of the animals in our care were brought here because their previous owners couldn’t care for them any longer – or just didn’t want to – for whatever reason. Often, pets go missing as well, and we help reunite them with their owners via the electronic chip implant system.
“At the moment in the United Kingdom, it is only required by law for dogs to be fitted with microchip identification, while highly recommended for other animals. We are pushing for this same law to be applied to cats and other pets. In the meantime, we microchip all cats and dogs that are re-homed from our facility and offer free microchip implanting services.”
In addition, the Home enjoys a partnership with the Royal Dick Veterinary school at nearby University of Edinburgh, which allows the dogs and cats to received top-flight medical care on-site in a safe, hygienic environment, and at their specialist animal hospital as well.
We’re also delighted to learn that the Home prides itself on being a no-kill facility. Animals are euthanized only in extreme circumstances, such as terminal illnesses or untreatable, violent behavioral issues.
“We do not put a healthy dog or cat to sleep,” explained Alanna. “We do need to put an animal down on rare occasions. Again, this is rare, and we do everything in our power to ensure that our animals receive all medical treatment and behavioral training they need.”
The Home’s full-time staff, though relatively small, pays acute attention to detail when it comes to caring for their animals. For instance, while guiding us through the interior dog pens, Alanna pointed out the glass doors of their enclosures.
“Although the doors look great, we have found that these are not ideal, because the dogs like to smell the people who come to visit. With the glass separating them, it’s difficult for them to get a sense of the person who might be interested in adopting them. As a result, we’ve decided to change all the doors to something more practical.
“These changes are all part of a number of renovation projects at the Home. Improvements to our kitchen, clinic, and kennel spaces will allow our staff to be more efficient and enable us to help more dogs and cats than ever before.”
Having been to several similar facilities around the world, it was wonderful to see how modern and sanitary Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home’s headquarters are. The Home takes care to provide separate facilities for its dogs and cats, and even to subdivide those populations based on levels and types of needs. There’s a comfy, inviting area where prospective adoptive parents can get to know the animals, as well as a large, grassy, outdoor space for them to play with and exercise the animals.
While the Home is in relatively good condition compared to other similar organizations around the world, it still needs and welcomes whatever assistance it can get. Alanna provided Nutmeg with a wish list ahead of our visit, and we stopped at a local pet supply retailer to purchase more than £350 (approximately US$455) worth of requested materials, including leashes, collars, non-skid food and water bowls, pet toys, and other supplies.
We brought those gifts along when we visited the Home, much to the delight of more than a few of the long-term residents there. It was Nutmeg’s first contribution to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, and the beginning of what we hope will be a productive partnership for years to come. ETS
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