Angels With Furry Coats - the Lancashire dog rescue charity
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 December 2017
Countless abandoned and abused dogs have been given happy homes thanks to campaigner Pat Senior. Alison Coleman spoke to her
The German shepherd lying on the couch next to Pat Senior looks a picture of health – bright-eyed, alert, and content. Yet just a few weeks ago his life looked as though it was coming to an end.
The 14-year-old dog had been found in a house in Bolton, without food or water. He was thin, his fur matted, he was flea ridden and he was terrified. It was a sight that Pat had seen many times before, having devoted the last 38 years of her life to rescuing thousands of dogs and giving them a fresh start and a new home.
The dog was brought to her home in Blackrod, where a vet discovered the dog also had cancer. Yet two months on, after a successful fundraising campaign, PJ, as he’s now known, is a different dog; gaining weight, growing a beautiful new coat and in good health. Even better, he has joined the seven other rescued dogs that have made Pat’s house their permanent home.
None of this was how Pat had expected life to turn out. Growing up in her hometown of Westhoughton, her ambition was always to sing. At 13 she joined a group, giving her age as 16, a fleeting musical career that ended when the local press came to her house, only to be told she was at school.
Undeterred, Pat took classical training and enjoyed a successful career as a professional singer. She also studied art at college and opened her own painting and pottery studio. Then, one fateful day in 1980, she met a woman in Bolton town centre trying to find a home for a stray lurcher called Lexus.
She took him home and soon more people began asking her to help rescue other dogs, including several unwanted ex-racing greyhounds. But as fast as new homes were being found, more dogs in distress were being brought to Pat’s attention.
‘I couldn’t sit and do nothing, so I bought a van,’ she says. ‘I’d drive round the local pounds, taking as many dogs as I could fit in it, and bring them home. I got them vaccinated, chipped, and neutered, by a fantastic team of local vets, and started finding them new homes.’
One errand of mercy almost cost Pat her own freedom when she launched a midnight raid on a puppy farm near Manchester. With a group of friends volunteering to help, they broke in and brought out around a dozen dogs. ‘I went back in for the rest and I got caught,’ says Pat.
Pat was charged with conspiracy to steal a dog and she was fined £1,500. She was told by the judge that a repeat offence would result in prison. ‘It didn’t deter me,’ she says. ‘I’ve done it many times since then. The dogs are all that matter.’
Her biggest challenge is paying for the food and vet bills, which cost around £15,000 a year. Pat’s own savings have long since gone.
‘I was on Blackrod town council and became the Mayor,’ she says. ‘I had some fabulous clothes, but I sold them all to raise money for the dogs.’
She does have a loyal team of friends, neighbours and fellow dog-lovers who help with the rescuing, walking and rehoming.
They have also boosted fundraising efforts by setting up the Angels With Furry Coats charity which raises money through regular online auctions.
Her dedication to dogs in need has never wavered.