Tell us a bit about Underdog Internal and inspiration behind the charity?
After four years of working together to decrease the stray dog population worldwide through rescue and neutering campaigns, myself and our founder Nadine recognised that the most effective way to create a meaningful and lasting change was through interacting with children. Encouraging positive interactions and teaching compassion from a young age helps to raise a child with an understanding that animals should always be treated with kindness and consideration. Nadine and I already knew we worked well together so it was a no brainer that we would start a new venture together. And so, Underdog International was born!
The best thing about being a part of the Underdog team is that we all have our specialist roles, but we have the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the charity. Because our team is so small, it’s very much a case of ‘all hands on deck’ when things get busy. Our main areas of focus are:
Rehoming; We have partner shelters in China, Cyprus, Bosnia, Mauritius and Romania, all of which provide lifesaving care to stray, abandoned, or neglected dogs. We then work to find them a suitable home in the UK or mainland Europe where they have a more promising future.
Therapy; We are so grateful to have a team of behaviourists who assess our dogs to become a part of the Underdog therapy dog team. Some of these dogs visit mainstream schools across the UK and Ireland to provide important lessons to children compassion, whilst others visit specialist schools to help build bonds and relationships with children who have educational, emotional or physical needs.
Education; We also work to educate children outside of the UK. In Romania and Uganda we have established classroom programmes which will reach over 40,000 children, teaching them to understand how to look after animals and why they deserve compassion just like humans do.
COVID-19 support; Throughout the pandemic we established Underdog Unity, which brought volunteers together with vulnerable people who desperately needed help with their pets if they were unwell or isolating. Thousands of people signed up across the country to offer their support.
Tell us about the ‘office’ dogs at Underdog and their stories.
Nadine has Bally and Sammy from Romania, and Ivy from the UK. Bally was rescued as a puppy after his mother was decapitated, Sammy was rescued as a stray, and Ivy was adopted the day before she was due to be put to sleep in a UK pound. They have recently moved to Norfolk and they are absolutely loving the fresh air and vast spaces to run and explore.
Sam has Olive from Greece and Stanley from the UK. Olive had spent her life chained to a barrel before Sam adopted her alongside Stan. Olive spends a lot of time silently judging people and taking up all of the bed, while Stanley likes the wind in his eyebrows and chasing birds.
I work alongside our twelve Cypriot rescues and take intermittent breaks for petting. Maggie, Jack, Hollie, Ralphie and Hector were all unwanted puppies, Archie, Amber, Angus, Bonnie and Matilda were all discarded hunting dogs and were all starving to death when they were rescued. Daisy is an escaped farm dog who had been beaten, and our newest addition, Lady, is a senior hound that was no longer wanted. Their favourite things are pig ears and howling for the neighbours.
Leanne cries on a daily basis because right now she doesn’t have any dogs, just a very sassy cat called Vanity. We have to send her photos of our dogs so she gets her daily fix.
How can people get involved?
There are two things that we always need – foster homes, and funds!
We are so grateful for anyone who has the time to raise money for Underdog, as donations really do keep our operations going. We have recently had some young Underdog supporters organise their own bake sale, whilst others have sold macramé to raise funds, run marathons and designed socks for us! People are genuinely so thoughtful and their donations make such a difference.
You can sign up to foster a dog if you’re in the position to offer a temporary home to a dog that might need a little extra help to find their forever home. We do ask that fosters have some previous experience of caring for dogs and are able to commit to at least one month of care, but it’s such a rewarding thing to do (if you can bear to let them go!)
Oh, and if you think your dog has the nature to make an ideal therapy dog, you can also sign up to become a part of our therapy dog programme here.
What plans do you have for the coming year?
The pandemic was hard on everyone, and Underdog had to learn to adapt quickly to the ever-changing situations. It completely put our therapy and education programmes on hold as schools closed and social distancing measures were in place, we weren’t able to travel abroad to the shelters we help, and it also drastically impacted our transport opportunities for our dogs travelling to the UK. Our dogs from China suffered the most, in some cases having to wait for over a year before they were able to travel. The costs sky-rocketed and transport plans were fragile and often cancelled which was really hard on our adopters. We have just about come out the other side now though, and we’ve seen hundreds of dogs rehomed throughout the past 18 months despite all the difficulties, as well as therapy dogs starting to go back into schools to help the children.
We’re now looking forward to a couple of surprises to round off the year on a positive note, and we’re also excited for our trip to Romania next year with a big group of volunteers who are coming to help at one of our partner shelters! Although the past year has been really tough, equally a lot of positives have come out of it and we’re just thankful to all the adopters and supporters (many of whom have become friends) who have kept our spirits up.