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Dame Ellen MacArthur visits Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies

Saturday, 15 August 2009 was a very special day for the Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies (FOSTBC) when Patron, Dame Ellen MacArthur came to open The Skye Memorial Building. Skye’s dedication and commitment to her work both as an excellent everyday working dog on the farm and as the lead member of the Mainline Border Collie Centre canine team, home of FOSTBC, and based in West Yorkshire, demonstrated the very best qualities of the Border Collie. Following her death in September 2008 it was agreed that this new building would be dedicated to her memory.

Some 70 guests, and some of the dogs who have been rehomed from the Trust, joined Dame Ellen, the Trustees and the Welfare team for a relaxed and happy afternoon. Following the official opening guests had an opportunity to see all the Trust’s facilities and to learn more about its activities. Buddy, one of the senior dogs who came in following the death of his elderly owner grossly overweight, demonstrated the benefits of the Trust’s new treadmill. Two very special dogs ‘told’ their stories . Abuse and cruelty happens in all walks of life. Mick was an abused farm dog who came into the Trust in such a bad state that it was thought he would never be rehomed, in which case he would spend the rest of his life in sanctuary at the Trust. But for every dog there is the right home and Mick now has his forever home with one of the Trust’s dog walking team. 13 year old Oscar’s owners no longer wanted him when, as an old dog, they considered him a nuisance. According to his vaccination history he had weighed over 16 kg in the past but his weight when he came into the Trust was under 11 kg and the Trust’s vet said he was the worst case he had ever seen. Gradually Oscar’s weight has increased and he has happily settled into a new life at the Trust. Last but not least, the afternoon’s activities included a sheepdog demonstration by Vicki Sykes with Lad to show what can be achieved with a dog who had arrived in a very bad mental state. Lad’s confidence has now grown to the point where he was happy for a couple of the guests to work him.

The aims of FOSTBC are to help promote a better understanding of the breed, to educate the public about its needs and welfare and to give sanctuary to needy, old, infirm dogs or those in need of rehabilitation or a healing time. Dogs coming into the Trust’s care are given however much time is needed for their problems to be solved so that they can be rehomed or, in the case of the golden oldies, go out on the Trust’s Senior Dog Foster programme. The Trust’s policy is to ensure that no dog is rehomed unless the Trust is very sure that the home is right for that dog and that no dog leaves for a new home before basic good manners have been instilled. Back up is given to all guardians of a Trust dog and every dog is vaccinated, microchipped to the Trust and, whenever possible, neutered before it is ready to leave for its new life.

The Trust’s founding Trustee and Chief Executive is Barbara Sykes, a member of the Canine and Feline Behavioural Association and the British Institute of Professional Dogs Trainers. She has worked with dogs all her life and her unique method of behavioural training – Thinking Like Canines (TLC) – is applied to all the dogs who come into the Trust.

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