National Pet Month is all about celebrating the amazing impact pets have on our lives and the joy they bring to us every day. Here, in the first of a series of blogs, we focus on pet owner Tara Coyles-Gould who speaks about life with her incredible dogs Kimi and Casper who have helped raise funds and awareness for Staffie rescue groups.
"Casper, a Staffie cross German Shepherd, has been with me since he was five months old. I was his third owner,” explains Tara.
“From what I was told by his temporary fosterers, he had been mistreated - his mouth being taped shut was just one of his horrors. He had no training whatsoever, chewed everything in sight, had no manners and barked non-stop.
She adds: “He did not know what a lead was or what stairs were and so a lot of work was needed. He'd been through such a lot in his short little life. I felt I could not turn my back on him like all the others.
“Kimi, a Staffie, joined us at six months old, from Leicester Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue. She was found wandering the streets on Christmas Eve so was named Cracker by her foster mum.
“She was such a lively little puppy who loved cuddles and a good old belly rub, all of which made us fall in love with her instantly. We think Kimi was also mistreated at some point as she has some kind of old injury to her back end which still troubles her today, seven years on. Much the same as Casper, she is easily scared of raised voices and hands but also things like a door slamming or other dogs barking at her.”
Tara continues: “To anyone with the negative Staffie stereotype, Kimi is the complete opposite. She will avoid any kind of conflict and loves nothing more than to play. Kimi also adores children and likes to wash Bramble the rabbit like she is her pup.”
Despite their tough starts in life Kimi and Casper help Tara raise positive awareness about Stafforshire Bull Terriers and help with fundraising, winning many people over with their lovely natures.
Tara adds: “We held several stalls at fun days/fetes, a couple of which were part of National Pet Month last year with tons of information on responsible pet ownership, in particular the responsible ownership of Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
“Kimi attended these fun days with us and even entered one of the novelty dog shows, in which she won 3rd best rescue dog. She stole the hearts of several bull breed critics and changed the opinions of many once they saw her giving young children kisses on the stall.”
Casper also took centre stage when he joined Tara and her partner Adam, walking to the summit of Mount Snowdon to raise funds for two Staffie rescue groups.
“Casper loved the adventure and was enthusiastic from start to finish,” says Tara who adds:” Because of this we will be completing the Three Peaks this summer - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - in the hope to raise even more.
Collectively through the Snowdon walk, stalls and online auctions, Tara and her canine team helped raise more than £500 for Little Angels Staffie Rescue http://www.lasr.info/and Leicester Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue http://www.sbtrescue.com/.
Life with Casper and Kimi has been hard work at times, but thoroughly rewarding and well worth the effort, says Tara.
Speaking of Casper she says: “It took months and months of training and cuddles and even years for some things but today - six years later - he is a wonderful dog.
“He knows all his sit, paw, stay, down, wait, leave commands, most without verbal prompts from me which is a bonus! We have such an amazing bond and I could not imagine life without him.
She adds: “He adores children, especially snuggling up at night with them. His favourite things are his ball, swimming and adventures. He still has some trouble, like being petrified of tea towels and rubber bands. He worries if he hears a raised voice or sees a hand raised (just a wave will have him looking worried). I can only imagine the memories these things bring back to him, but he knows he is safe now and is such a happy little chappie!”
Casper now lives with his two ‘girlfriends’, Kimi and Ziggy and house rabbit Bramble.
Tara explains: “He is particularly well behaved when it comes to rabbits as we have always had them so I carefully introduced him to them whilst he was a puppy. Now he is their climbing frame and seat! They like to sleep on his back when he is lying down and will often entice him to play; the late Alan, even liked to groom Casper's tail for him!”
At a time when more dogs than ever need forever homes Tara has never regretted taking on her two wonderful canine rescue companions.
“They are both beautiful dogs who will continue to show the world how wonderful the bull breed is,” she says.
"Kimi will be attending fun days, fetes and dog shows again this year to win over some more critics and Casper will be enjoying his mountain adventures to raise funds for dogs who haven't yet found their forever homes.”
Tara adds: “We chose to give something back to Staffie Rescue Groups because without them, we would not have Kimi. It is somewhat of a family tradition with my grandma owning a rescue Staffie, Sasha and my uncle having four (the result of working at a rescue centre) Lenny, Willow, Charlie and Phoebe.
Our family will always support the breed and raise money for them, year after year, with the help of Kimi and Casper. They help to change the perceptions of not only the bull breed but also rescue dogs. Just because you do not know the background of a dog, it does not mean they cannot be the perfect family member.
She adds: “I am proud to own them both and, as you can see from their photo, they are both truly 'Happy Staffies'.”
Don’t forget National Pet Month runs until Monday, May 6 so there’s still time to get involved and help make a difference to UK pet charities like Little Angels Staffie Rescue and Leicester Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue.
Register your support for National Pet Month for free at www.nationalpetmonth.org.uk and get involved.
If you have an amazing pet you’d like to tell us about then send your story and a pic to email@example.com and you too could be featured here.