When Christine Bailey’s lurcher Zak ran away in 2015, she feared she’d lost him forever. She tells Neil Hudson about the moment they were reunited.
Christine Bailey was in the supermarket in Chapel Allerton when she received the phone call she thought she would never get.
“Someone rang and said they’d found my dog, Zak,” explains Christine, 70, a retired auxiliary nurse who took the abandoned lurcher on in the middle of 2015. “I couldn’t quite believe it at first, because I’d almost given up all hope of ever seeing him again. I’d looked everywhere for him, put posters up, posted appeals online, I even called the Highways Agency to see if they’d had any dogs reported knocked down, I did everything I could think of.”
Months went by until, Christmas came and went and then, almost six months on, she was told her pet dog had been found. But that wasn’t the most surprising part, as Christine explained.
“The phone call was from Norfolk. He’d been picked up down there and because he was chipped, they managed to trace me.”
Quite how Zak managed to travel almost 200 miles remains a mystery but Christine said he appeared to be in good health, apart from the odd scratch.
I did everything I could to look for Zak but after more than five months, I had just about given up. Then I got a call from Norfolk to say he’d been found.Christine Bailey, who was re-united with Zak
“He was covered in ticks and he had scratches all over where he’d charged through hedges and things like that but otherwise, he was ok.
“Really, when I got the call, I couldn’t quite believe it. It had been five months or more. When he first went missing I was absolutely devastated. It was horrible, not knowing where he was. I even lost weight myself. In the end, it was my daughter who said we’re never going to find him.”
The call from Norfolk came on March 2, coincidentally her daughter’s birthday. In another bizarre coincidence, Zak had managed to turn up in an area of Norfolk Christine was already familiar with. “He was found near King’s Lynn and I have relatives down there, so that was a little strange.”
Christine added: “I was overjoyed to get him back. It was a four hour drive down there, I think Zak was pleased too. We took him to the vet to get him the ticks removed and check him over. He’s absolutely fine now. I’m so glad to have him back.”
Zak was a rescue dog, one of hundreds looked after by Doncaster-based Tia Rescue, which specialises in providing homes and care for abandoned greyhounds and lurchers, not to mention shire horses and a few other animals.
The centre is run by Debra Rothery, a retired policewoman who found a second calling in life after being seriously injured in 1995.
“Basically, I was stabbed while on duty in Halifax,” she says matter-of-factly. “It was a routine call which ended badly. It affected me quite badly, I developed a fear of crowded places and even today I do not like going shopping.
“I was off work for about 18 months. I had three dogs at the time and I would go out walking with them and that’s when I found out about greyhounds and what happens to them when they get older.
“Dog walkers get to know each other and I would see this man walking some greyhounds and we got talking to one another and so on. He told me he was getting rid of one of the dogs because he couldn’t run any more. I offered to take him. I’d taken stray dogs in before, I just didn’t like the thought of them going to the kennels.
“That comes from an experience I had during my time with the police. There was a box full of puppies found in Brighouse and one of them happened to climb out. That saved his life to be honest.
“They brought the puppy to me but the puppies ended up in the kennels. When I went to check on them a week later, they had all been killed. They were eight weeks old.”
It was an experience which changed her forever. “The one I kept lived for about 15 years. It just made me sad the way they were treated.
“When I was off work and heard about what happened to greyhounds once they were not able to race anymore, I felt I had to do something.
Tia Rescue was the result. The centre, based at Mill Race Farm, Doncaster, is supported entirely by charitable donations and caters for over 100 greyhounds but will soon expand its operation to take on around 300.
“Greyhounds are bred to race and while they do, they are looked after but as soon as they are not able, whatever age they are, they’re worth nothing and many owners will just do anything to get rid of them.
“It basically means putting them down even though they are healthy and could live a long time. There have been scandals reported in the national press about it. It’s a national issue and the trade has been exposed before but it’s still just as big a problem today as it ever was.”
Tia Rescue has several charity shops: in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Pickering, Meltham, Ashby and Doncaster. The centre spends thousands of pounds a month looking after all its animals.
In addition to looking after abandoned greyhounds, Debra has also branched out, taking on retired shire horses, donkeys, goats and sheep, even at one point looking after a giant rabbit, which featured in a television commercial (but which is sadly now dead).
Her work is concentrated on rehoming dogs.
The farm holds regular open days, inviting families to attend and meet the animals and play in six acre orchard, together with other events, included guided dog walks and fundraising events.
The next planned events will take place on December 3 (Breakfast with Santa) and December 4 (Christmas funfair) but the farm is open from 8am-4pm daily seven days a week and Debra welcomes visits by families.
Contact Debra via email at email@example.com
Tia Rescue is home to up to 100 Greyhounds, lots of Shire horses, lots of donkeys and a menagerie of other animals
They are now in their 20th year
Tia became a registered charity in 2004 and has gone from a few stables in a field in Sowerby Bridge, to a very recent move to a 70 acre farm in Finningley, Doncaster.
Tia is one of only four approved shire horse visitor centres in the country
They also have a 20 acre field available for hire
Website: www.tia-rescue.org or call 01302 772935