Waking up cuddled up to our furry friends at Christmas is one of the most lovely things about being a dog owner.
But sadly taking in a dog at Christmas time - whether it’s much wanted companion for the children or a new addition to the family - can end in heartache.
More dogs are abandoned after the festive period than at any other time and welfare campaigners across the country are urging people to think hard before getting a pet.
Anna Stansfield is one of them. She’s worked at Cheshire Dogs Home for ten years.
Anna said: “We deal with the dogs that really have been forgotten. Each year, we rehome hundreds of dogs.
“Currently we’re looking for people to join our Foster Scheme. We’re so grateful to people who foster a dog at Christmas.
“They’re taking them into their warm homes and ensuring they have a lovely time and helping the dog adapt to life in a home, particularly if they’ve spent a long time in kennels.
“Some people may be alone at Christmas or have a quiet time so having a dog at home brings them a lot of happiness too.”
One of the dogs Anna is keen to match with a loving owner is four year old Maddie.
He’s run more than 100 races and suffered an injury that left him with scarring on his ear, cheek and eye during his time on the tracks.
Anna said: “We’d love to find a home for him with someone who has had sighthound experience and lots of love to give.
“It will take time and patience to settle him into a home environment as he’s never had that before and no small furries due to his chasing instinct.
“Maddie has been with us since July. It’s so sad as he is adorable and has so much to give.
“We give lots of rehoming guidance and support and it would make our Christmas wish come true to find a home for him.”
When rehoming a dog, Anna, 37, stresses the needs of the animal come first.
They assess family background, lifestyle, activity levels, how many people they have in their household and how much support they will have caring for the pet.
If they’ve had a dog before, staff speak to their vet to ensure they’re aware of the commitment they’re making and that the dog will be wormed, vaccinated and given regular health checks.
Anna has three rescue dogs from the home herself; Max, a crossbreed aged seven, who was re-homed six times, and Pomeranians Poppy, nine, and Betty, eight.
Her own experience means she knows what to look for in potential pet parents. She explains: “We have to be thorough as the dogs have been through so much.
“Having one is a commitment but it’s highly rewarding and we want our dogs to go to homes where they will be loved and cherished forever.”
Sadly despite endless warnings from welfare charities, many people are still inclined to take in a new puppy at Christmas time.
It means senior dogs suffer, like Golden Oldies Phoebe, 11, a Collie cross, and Ralph, nine, a German Shepherd cross.
They’re looking for a home together after their owner got a new puppy.
Anna understands that some owners will want a puppy, but urges them to be responsible.
She says: “Get as much information as you can.
“Speak to experts and find a responsible breeder who understands the type of dog and what kind of home is suitable.
“If they say their dog isn’t right for you please listen. Don’t buy from recycling websites and please remember all kinds of dogs find their way to rescue homes.
“This year for example, we have had 11 Pugs. Other shelters have reported a rise in French Bulldogs.
“Rehoming from a rescue means you have advice and support and you’re giving the dog a second chance at happiness.”
Dogs looking for special homes include puppy Boris, a sweet but nervous six month old American Bulldog.
He came to the shelter after his owner needed to relocate for work.
There’s Lurcher Champ, aged six, who is super friendly and loves playing with his ball and came in as a stray.
Gizmo, an Akita aged three and Kassi, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier aged five who has been at the shelter since April were both found frightened and alone on the streets of Warrington.
As Christmas is an emotional time, Anna says she does have concerns about people deciding on impulse to adopt a dog.
She explains: “It needs so much thought as it has a huge impact on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the dog and the owner.
“Every person who comes here does so with good intentions and having to return an animal is heartbreaking for the person.
“Dogs are something to be celebrated. Our relationship with them is so special. They need love and care but the unconditional love they give back can’t be measured.”
Anna sees the dogs when they come into the home with nothing and giving them a second chance at happiness is the most rewarding part of her role.
And seeing them in their forever homes brings so much joy.
She added: “We see our dogs on social media every day loving life, being adored by their owners, going on lovely holidays and at this time of year, being spoilt at Christmas.
“It’s so heartwarming and it’s our wish to have this for every dog.”
How you can help
If you’re thinking of adopting a dog, or would like to fundraise for them, visit www.dogshome.net
They currently have a ‘buy a dog a Christmas dinner’ appeal and £15 can feed a dog for a month. You can donate on their JustGiving page.
Find them at 225 Knutsford Road, Grappenhall, Warrington, WA4 3JZ and opening times are 1pm to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 1pm - 4pm on Sunday.
We have made a donation to Cheshire Dog's Home as a thank you for this interview.