A Dogs Trust Canine Carer who puts her heart and soul into helping nervous dogs at Darlington Rehoming Centre has been praised for her dedication to her role. Michelle Graham, who has worked at Dogs Trust for four years, has helped turn around the lives of countless canines at the County Durham Centre.
Michelle is renowned for building the confidence of anxious dogs and finding different positive training techniques to help gain their trust. She thinks nothing of spending lunch breaks with a dog in their kennel, taking them on trips, or having a doggie friend for a sleepover.
One dog who left Dogs Trust a completely different pooch thanks to Michelle’s patient devotion was Shane, a Labrador cross who spent 16 months with the charity. On arrival, Shane had to be carried to his kennel because he wouldn’t walk on a lead. He was so anxious he would hide, tucked away in the corner of his kennel, hardly daring to move. Very slowly Michelle tried to build a bond by sitting with him every day.
He was fed using licky and snuffle mats, rubber mats where food such as soft cheese can be spread or treats hidden. These encouraged him to lick, sniff out and find food, as did multiple feeding bowls, which all helped with enrichment. Once he was comfortable with Michelle’s presence, she then introduced Shane to a lead. Hours were spent sitting with Shane getting him accustomed to just being around a lead before it was even clipped on as they sat together. It took months before Shane was walked on a lead and then slowly introduced to other dogs.
Shane developed complete trust in Michelle, eventually going on days out and spending time at her home. He even became best pals with Michelle’s dog. To everyone’s delight in January this year, Shane was successfully rehomed to a local family who own another dog.
Sharon Boult, Assistant Manager Operations at Darlington Rehoming Centre who manages Michelle said, “Finding loving homes for all our dogs is a huge team effort from receptionists, adoption advisors, trainers and of course, our dedicated army of canine carers, including Michelle, who dedicate their lives to ensure all of the dogs get the best possible care whilst they are with us.
“It’s important to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose support helps to fund some of our canine carers, as they are such an important part of our wonderful team here at Darlington.”
Michelle said, “Dogs have always played a huge part in my life, but I thought you had to have a degree to work in animal welfare. When I was made redundant, I began volunteering with Dogs Trust to gain experience. I then saw the canine carer job and applied.
“I’ve become known for loving the ‘nervous nellies’ as I’ve come to call them. I love working closely with the dogs that need one on one time to build trust and help increase their confidence, so they can be rehomed. I enjoy being part of their journey and witnessing the positive changes in their behaviour and nature.
“Shane was the most nervous dog I have ever worked with. It took hours of sitting with him to build his trust. The moment he knew he could trust me was the most heart-warming moment and was a true privilege. Waving him goodbye as he went to his forever home was very special and remains my biggest motivation.”