The start of the day at Hillcrest Re-homing Centre. From 7.30am its lights on & hatches open, all dogs are placed in their runs while kennels are disinfected, water and any soiled bedding is changed. Then breakfasts are made & all dogs fed, the medication list is checked and any meds are administered as required. While we prep food one of the kennels will be open so those dogs can be free on the yard as ‘breakfast helpers’! After eating breakfast all dogs are given a rest to allow them to digest their breakfast, while staff wash up and then disinfect all the outside runs. We are extremely lucky to be sponsored by Burns, meaning all our dogs enjoy Burns high quality food at each mealtime.
Morning walks start now. Each kennel is opened in turn and dogs are taken for off-lead exercise either alone or in their pairs in our large, fully enclosed paddock. When running in pairs our dogs are muzzled. This is to protect them from accidental skin tears if they become too playful when chasing each other. It is a marvellous sight to watch a greyhound in full flight, running simply for joy.
Staff are always observant for any changes to the dogs & this is a typical time when we might have a brief physical check over & anything of note will be recorded and followed up.
Vet Runs – Any dog needing neutering/vaccinating/medical assessment will be taken to our Vets, Bush House Ammanford at this time. We work very closely with Bush House, they know us and our greyhounds well, provide excellent care and are always available even at the shortest notice to see a dog in need. On average, and in ‘normal’ times we make vet run trips approximately 3 days a week.
At this time of day we work on our cleaning rota and do any shopping/ordering. Hygiene is very important at Hillcrest and each area of the site is thoroughly disinfected on a rota basis. Our washing machine is on constantly, luckily we have a good supply of fleecy bedding!
As well as our Burns sponsorship, we regularly receive Lifeline vouchers to spend at Pets at Home. This is a huge help and today we were able to stock up on tinned food and training treats! We always use positive reinforcement and spend as much time as possible working with our dogs, so as you can imagine, we go through a LOT of training treats!
This part of the day is devoted to 1:1, enrichment and assessment work. All dogs undertake daily activities with staff and all are assessed on specific issues before becoming available for rehoming. Activities include;
• Trips out – Under normal circumstances we always take our dogs out and whether it’s a walk up the lane, to the local park or into town will depend on their stage of progress. Trips out are where our dogs learn socialisation skills with other breeds/different animals, they meet new/unfamiliar people or children, they see traffic and shops. Racing greyhounds have quite a sheltered early life, so seeing more of the outside world is an important part of their transition from racing dog to family pet and builds their confidence hugely. Hill walks to strengthen muscles are a vital part of rehabilitation for any of the dogs recuperating from injury. Visits to the park are a time to assess each dogs reaction to other breeds of dog, as well as being a fantastic opportunity to talk to other park users about the work of GRW! Whilst lockdown is in place however, we are limiting ourselves to a daily walk up our lane.
• 1:1 work in our Enrichment Hut, here the dogs take part in free work where there is lots of sensory experiences for them to explore. We have a variety of multi textured surfaces for them to walk on, food puzzles set up and various scents for them to seek out. This is great for body awareness and confidence. Dogs can come back to their handler as often as they like for attention and/or reassurance.
• Play-time/training on the ménage, we work with all our dogs to encourage play and help them to learn about toys. Some are naturals and are quick to chase after balls etc and even start to learn recall here, others need time to understand what toys are all about & that interacting and running around with people can be fun. We also start on basic training, such as ‘wait’, to help the dogs learn to control their emotions.
• Canine sports massage, we have a weekly program so any dog with an existing injury or muscle soreness will be treated regularly to support their rehabilitation.
Lunch and Admin time! Not only staff benefit from some down time, but also the dogs get used to the whole site having a quiet hour. In normal working times we try to avoid appointments/visitors during this time as it is important for all to be able to recharge their batteries.
Admin time is when staff write up reports on the individual dogs that they have completed assessments on and/or their weekly summaries. Formal assessments are a part of each dog’s rehabilitation and are they are not adopted out until we have finished this process. Typically, greyhounds will be assessed on the following; prey drive, contact with strangers, resource guarding (toys/treats), traffic, lead walking and car travel. This information allows us to understand which areas specific dogs may be struggling with and helps us make informed decisions when deciding the type of home they would be suited to.
afternoon exercise starts now, all dogs are taken for their second off-lead time of the day in our enclosed paddock. Despite their ability for great speeds, a surprising number of our dogs don’t always bother with zoomies, often preferring to potter around sniffing or walking with staff!
Vet runs – any dogs in for surgery will be collected at this point in the day, in our fabulous GRW van!
Evening meals. The dogs in our care thrive on routine, they all know when it’s tea-time and after a full day they are all ready for their meal. They nearly always have very good appetites and it is unusual for anyone to leave any food! Again, it is reassuring for us that all dogs have high quality food via our sponsorship from Burns. As with breakfast, one of the kennels will be opened while we prep food so we always have a ‘tea-time helper’ on the yard! Again, any medications will be administered.
After the kennel dogs have been fed, Dr Moo and the foster dogs in the house are all waiting eagerly for their tea too!
After all the kennel and house dogs have been fed and settled to rest, staff will catch up with additional admin work and spend time answering queries/emails etc, planning and prepping anything necessary for the following day and writing social media posts to promote our wonderful dogs!
Bedtime! Now it time for hatches to be closed, heat lamps on when it’s chilly, bedtime biscuits & cuddles given and lights out until morning, when it all starts again! This is a rewarding time of day, knowing that all the dogs are safe, warm & tired from receiving good food, exercise, enrichment & great care and love throughout the day.
Thank you so much for joining us on our day. We hope it gave you a better idea of how we work and what goes on here at Hillcrest.