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Take A Bow-Wow!

Inspiring volunteer Jo fosters 100 dogs
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Jo is one of over 500 Dogs Trust foster carers across the country
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There are those who love dogs. And then there's Jo Heather.

Incredibly, the mother-of-two has looked after almost one hundred of them in her role as a foster carer for Dogs Trust's Home from Home scheme, where volunteers care for a dog temporarily whilst Dogs Trust looks for their forever home.

From Labradors to lurchers, collies to Chihuahuas, big and small, young and old, Jo has welcomed them all into her home in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

"I never imagined we'd end up fostering as many as we have," said the 56-year-old, who fostered her first pup in 2017.

"It's just so difficult to stop, especially when you know the need is there."

Jo is one of over 500 foster carers across the country.

All costs are covered by Dogs Trust - a charity supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, who to date have raised more than £20.6 Million for their work.

"When my daughters Emeline and Chloe were younger, they were always talking about dogs," said Jo. "Our local Dogs Trust rehoming centre is about a 15-minute drive from us, so we used to pop in with little donations, blankets, dog biscuits - things like that.

"And then one day we were in, I noticed a poster looking for fosterers and that's where it started."

A New Lease Of Life

Jo's first foster dog was a young Jack Russell called Mini and since then the family has helped give a new lease of life to countless canines. Some puppies have been with them for a single night, while others have stayed for as long as three months - even joining the family on holiday.

And one chihuahua cross made such a lasting impression that Jo decided she couldn't be without her.

"Nellie came to us at six months old," explained Jo. "She had conditions affecting her joints and so she needed medication and some extra TLC."

Despite the challenges, Dogs Trust and the great care of the Heather family helped Nellie to thrive, and at one year old she was adopted by Jo and became one of the family.

Jo said, "Nellie's five now and is such a loving wee thing. The difference in her has been incredible."

Fostering has been rewarding for the rest of Jo's family too.

She added, "When we first started, my daughters were mid to late teens. They were real animal lovers and I suppose I was doing it for them.

"My youngest daughter, Chloe, who is now 20, was suffering terribly from anxiety at that time - to the point where she couldn't go to school anymore. And yet she would always engage with the dogs I cared for. So, it was a real positive in her life. Now, as it happens, she has started her own dog walking and pet sitting business."

And for Jo, her time volunteering with Dogs Trust has reignited another of her passions - painting.

She said, "Very often during an evening, I found myself sitting on the sofa and I'd have a dog next to me. One night, I got some pencils out and started sketching. Then I started thinking, I've got a little bit of time here - the dogs are happily sleeping so I can sketch them and paint away and that's how it happened really. Just a sort of tender, quiet end-of-the-day moment really.

"I don't know how many I have now painted. Dozens anyway. I've gifted many of them to the new owners as a good luck present."

The Importance Of Foster Carers

This year, the need for foster carers like Jo has never been so great. Home from Home is one of two foster schemes run by the charity, with volunteers caring for a dog for as little as a few days, to several weeks. The charity also runs a unique fostering scheme called Freedom, for dog owners escaping domestic abuse.

Abbi Moon, Dogs Trust Head of Rehoming Central Operations, said, "This year, foster carers have been more important than ever before. We had over 50,000 handover calls last year because dog owners are facing so many struggles, including the cost of living. We have 21 rehoming centres, but our kennel space is stretched, and we don't see that easing any time soon. Thanks to volunteers like Jo, we can have a kennel ready for the next dog who has nowhere else to go.

"When our volunteers foster a dog, it's not just one dog they are helping, but so many more. The support of players of People's Postcode Lottery has helped us expand our foster network this year, and we couldn't be more grateful."

Added Jo, "I have such complete faith in Dogs Trust. I feel 100 per cent happy that whatever dog we have had has gone on to somewhere great.

"I don't even want to think what it would be like if Dogs Trust didn't exist."

And with dedicated volunteers such as Jo and the generosity of Postcode Lottery players, it means the charity can help every dog have its day.

Making A Difference

People's Postcode Lottery players are helping deserving causes like Dogs Trust make a difference every single day. Read more about the range of Charities that our players support.

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Published: 12/02/2024

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