Life of Freedom

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Freedom in her new home

Freedom, the ambassador for abandoned dogs and our June cover star, is safe in foster care with dancer Ian Waite, the patron of Saving Strays. But many others remain in dire need of help…

It had been 195 days since I last held her. The wait had, at times, felt never ending, but at last Freedom was here. She greeted me with a wagging tail and wiggle and lots of kisses. It seemed a lifetime away from the public asylum where we found her – myself, Ian Waite and Kim, our treasurer trustee, all volunteers for the small UK charity Saving Strays.

I thought about her journey – not just her physical journey, but her sentient journey as she had navigated all that was placed in her path. All too often, we don’t consider how our companion animals are experiencing this world; it is something we need to consider more often. We have no idea why she was abandoned, but when we found her, you could not tell if she was a girl or a boy. Her coat was caked in blood and faeces, with painful dreadlocks hanging from her body.

As we looked around, we saw decay and imminent death for so many of these dogs, but there she was, with a few others, pushing forward to say hello, to offer a paw and a nose kiss to us, the human intruders whom she and her friends decided to trust in that moment.

Freedom and four of her friends made it out and so their journey to recovery began

That very act in itself is one of great bravery because all these dogs had suffered at the human hand, but here they were, taking a chance, because maybe this time things might be different?

And they were, as the Dogs Today cover story of June told. Freedom and four of her friends made it out and so their journey to recovery began. With multiple health issues, including skin problems, cracked teeth and total malnourishment from starvation, the team at Saving Strays, working with our incredible kennel partners, Mersad and Melisa, took these dogs on the road to recovery, a recovery that is still ongoing for some as they settle into their new homes.Grady, who was so thin with open sores to her bones, is now happily settled into her new foster home with Sharne, another volunteer who was with Grady when she was rescued.

Salma, the young Husky named and rescued by our treasurer, will be setting up home with Kim and her canine family, and Lawrence, the Labrador cross whose laid-back nature surely saw him survive the public facility, has a wonderful home with a loving family. The little white dog Jed, who never left Freedom’s side, has found his inner dog and is waiting patiently to meet his new family with several potential adopters coming to see him. But what about Freedom?

I remember the moment that we met her. We knew she was special and we knew that she would change lives on her journey. A natural ambassador for abandoned dogs, naming her in the vet’s that day felt like a defining moment – that the meaning in her name would help so many others like her, hoping for liberation and kindness. She personifies all that the world needs more of: positivity and gentle curiosity; bravery and happy abandonment.

I remember the look on our patron Ian Waite’s face when he first entered the public asylum. I watched as the horror registered; the more he looked, the more suffering he saw. Time was suspended and there was an earthly sharp intake of breath. Since that day, Ian has continued to support the Freedom Fund that was created in her name to help the charity continue its work with stray dogs in the UK and overseas, and his deep personal connection to both Freedom and Jed grew.

Some time after his own beloved companion, Olly, passed away, Ian decided to foster Freedom, to get her used to life in a home. Help with toilet training and socialisation is going well with the help of Ian’s other dog, Cooper. I have no doubt that Freedom recognised Ian when they were reunited at his home; it was a very special moment for all of us.

“As soon as I saw her in there, I connected with her. She is so calm and relaxed and she wants human contact”

“It feels so surreal,” Ian told me with great emotion as we sat on the floor and Freedom sank into his lap. “To think that she was there in that public asylum with no hope, and now here she is with me, learning how to be ready to settle with a family and have an amazing life. As soon as I saw her in there, I connected with her. She is so calm and relaxed and she wants human contact.

“With my exacting schedule, it is difficult to manage too many dogs, as I rely on family support when I am away, but in my quieter periods, fostering is a very special thing to do, giving a dog the right environment to learn how to manage the sounds and activities of a house. This is something that people often forget can be overwhelming for a dog and it is a real honour to be a part of the process. It is hard work and it requires patience and love, but along with the support of the charity who will match her with the right home, it is a real blessing to be on this journey with her and she will always have my love and support as her foster dad in her future.”

There is no doubt that the future is full of hope and love for these dogs and we are so thankful to Ian for being with us on this journey. But let’s not forget those in our care who are still waiting for the chance of a foster family or adoptive parents – and, of course, those still in the public asylums that we have yet to help. With the cost-of-living crisis still governing our existence, all we ask is that people share Freedom’s story and the fund created in her name. Together with kindness, we can make great change happen.

This is an article by Maria Slough, as published in the November 2023 issue of Dogs Today.

You can donate to the Freedom Fund, to save more dogs like Freedom, here.

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