Geraldine Doherty-McMullan is a special person, a pet rescuer. She loves animals and devotes a large part of her life to their welfare.
Speaking to Down News, Geraldine, who lives in Dunsford near Ardglass, said: “I’ve loved looking after animals all my life. When I was a child I used to go to Gresham Street in Belfast and bring home rabbits, guinea pigs, gold fish, white mice and anything that my parents would let me keep. I just hated tp see them caged up. My early memories are looking after rabbits but I just fell in love with cats and dogs. Over the years I have become more involved in animal welfare and I set up a local Facebook page to connect people who have lost their pets around the district. It can really be a traumatic experience for many people whose pets are treated just like members of the family. I’ve seen my fair share of tears over the years as distraught owners come to me asking for help.
“Many dogs are found again even though they can travel a significant distance from their homes or where they were first lost. I have come across a dog which made it to Castlewellan from the Kilclief area and the happy owner was delighted to have the dog back home again.
“I had another call from a very upset owner of a wee dog that was deaf and seventeen years old. The owner lives in Ballyhornan but the dog had got lost near Strangford and I found it wandering along the rocks on the shore. It had become totally disoriented. The dog lived on for another year so that was a tale with a happy ending.
“People come to me all hours of the day asking for help to find their dogs. They are just like babies to them and the owners are often very upset and fearful. I had one owner of a Yorkie bitch that had died who came to me as the dog had three very young puppies. I took them home and fed them with a dropper until they were bigger. Later I found good home for them all.
“I can remember one wee dog from the Tullyronan area was lost and I had searched high and low for it. I managed to get the help of a resident group of teenager staying at Glebe House who helped me do a through search and we found the dog and re-unite did with its happy owner. I have been out at night looking for dogs and even found one in Killyleagh once that had roamed from the Kilclief area, a long way from home!
“It is the responsibility of owners to look after their pets and keep them under control and ensure their welfare. I have seen lost dogs being knocked down on the roads. I have even heard of some being used for dog baiting. I came across a case where one dog had seventy bite marks on its body. These people who engage in dog fighting use small dogs to train their bigger dogs to attack other dogs. They tape up the small dog’s mouths and hold them up by the back legs. It is quite horrific. So I fully understand the fears of these dog owners who have missing pouches.”
Geraldine even reflected on a couple of dogs that had entered fields with sheep. She explained the farmers had shot them. “This is a real problem especially during the lambing season,” she said. “But dogs that have a market value such as many pedigrees do, are often sold on to unsuspecting people. You should only buy dogs from recognised breeders or kennels. That is the reason why dogs are neutered and chipped now. When they are found roaming around it is much easier to identify them from the database once they are scanned. Thankfully the police can get involved now in matters of animal cruelty.
“I am totally opposed to badger baiting which too still goes on. It is not only cruel to the badgers but often the small dogs sent into the badger sets get badly injured too.
“I also have a Facebook page to appeal for items such as dog blankets, bowls and dishes, collars, harnesses, leads, beds, cages etc and anything that is of use. Towels are also very useful as when strays come in they often need a good bath and they may well be loads with fleas.”
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But Geraldine has even looked after valuable lost homing pigeons, lost cats, and a lost goat on one occasion. She said: “I keep the dogs at the back of my house but by law they then have to go to the local Council pound which is Corran Kennels. They then check the dogs over too and scan them to see if they are chipped and try and identify the owners. Sadly, the dogs are only kept for a couple of weeks as a rule before they are put down. But thankfully most dogs are returned to their owners.
“I have three rescue dogs, Oscar, Alfie and Tilly. They are part of the family. I know they are spoiled but they are just adorable.”