Our founder’s story

In 2016 Forever Hounds Trust celebrated 20 years as a registered charity. Here, our founder Angela Yardley looks back at how it all started, in this very personal message….

“In the early 1970s my father was a fencing contractor occasionally doing work for greyhound stadiums and I was totally ignorant of the horrendous problems that would be revealed to me later. I/ we possibly have my father to thank as he was a great animal lover and deeply affected by seeing the dogs left in kennels, or in some cases living in a few sheds left while a stadium was being demolished or re-developed.  That year I bought some Christmas cards from the  newly-formed Retired Greyhound Trust and I remember the pictures clearly – on the front was a beautiful dog lying by the fire while on the reverse was a muzzled fiend racing round a track! The irony of this bad publicity would not strike me until much later.

Photo Angela's first gh Merlin 1988

Merlin, Angela’s first greyhound, in 1984

I have always had salukis but in 1984 I saw ‘SOMETHING SPECIAL’ advertised at my vets and subsequently met Erica, who did homechecks for the RGT. I had to have a greyhound and was sent to a trainer near Salisbury.

When we arrived greyhounds crowded up by a gate in the huge walled garden, all waving their tails and pushing their noses through the bars. We took an enormous blond boy, rather larger than we had had in mind – this was Merlin and it was he who really started everything.

The main area of greyhound welfare energy at that time was Anne Shannon on the Isle of Man, organizing RGT homechecks on the mainland and working night and day trying to stop the Irish/ Spanish traffic. I did homechecks for her and collected Jamie – my first ‘personal’ rescue who was with me for 15 years.

By now my telephone number was starting to get out and about with a vengeance and it was not unusual to be on the phone after work until midnight! I met Anne Finch in the late 1980s when we were both helping Anne Shannon – I remember the long discussion, sitting on the grass outside the Happy Eater in Burford, with the result that she went to Spain and started Greyhounds In Need and I stayed home and started Greyhound Rescue West of England. A whole new world was opening up, together with all the nasty shocks and equally delightful surprises and poignant moments.

BBC Radio Gloucester interviewed me and a person who responded was Margaret Stocken and together we started to home greyhounds from RSPCA Cardiff. No one was interested in having greyhounds then so there were cheers and tears when our first ‘checked home’ arrived and took not one, but two greyhounds! We started a news sheet and once people realized there was someone prepared to take greyhounds we were receiving calls from all over the country – often driving miles to collect and bringing them home as we could not afford to use kennels. It took over our lives.

In 1992 the Forums started up in a direct response to increasing publicity but there were still very few dedicated greyhound rescues and it was an uphill task to ‘sell’ anyone the idea of a greyhound. I first met Clarissa Baldwin in 1976 and I cannot overstate how much she has done for greyhounds and their cause – we all owe her a great deal.

During this period money was so tight that on one occasion when I received the bank statement with only £28 I cancelled all advertising and cleared the kennels, bringing 3 dogs home with me!

By the early 1990s, I had met Tracy and Greyhound Rescue West of England became a recognised rescue. The idea of Honorary Friends was hatched and Sir John Harvey-Jones was our first – even before we became a registered charity. Later, I contacted Jilly Cooper and spoke to Lord Faringdon in Buscot House Garden when he was watering flower beds, accompanied by his lurcher – also depicted on the huge family mural in the tearoom.

Angela with Jilly Cooper at Forever Hounds Trust's show at Glewstone, c1997

Angela (right) with Jilly Cooper at Forever Hounds Trust’s show at Glewstone, c1997

In 1994 we held our first sponsored walk (£400+!) and our first dog show at Glewstone. During this time we received a great deal of help from Christine Mason and her late husband Fred. We gradually built up a small stock of merchandise – purchased by ourselves – which I kept at home. The Greyhound Club helped us into Crufts, thanks to Daphne Gilpin, then Hon. Sec, who let us have their ‘breed rescue’ stand in the corner of the ring. Further shows and street collections followed and our homing increased to 80+ dogs annually and then rose to 150. All homechecking and placing, publicity, fundraising, secretarial work was done by a handful of us – no computers, email or internet! We also met Shirley Watts during this period together with Sally Willbie and Jan Lake, and in 1996 Greyhound Rescue West of England achieved charitable status.

In 2003 I met another Angela, but this one worked at How Caple Court and we were looking for a new venue for the annual show – this was a lucky break and I am so pleased that the show is still held there.

In recent times we have grown into a truly professional charity to be proud of – I think that reflects well on the early beginnings which we should not forget.”

Greyhound Rescue West of England became Forever Hounds Trust in July 2016.

Read more about Forever Hounds Trust’s key milestones here or watch a video interview with Angela Yardley here.