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German Shepherds’ fosterer shocked at cruelty meted out to gentle creatures

Pets picLOO Johnson nods at the two German shepherd dogs dozing on the sofa by her grandchildren Sophie and Lucas. “Look at them – fierce guard dogs, eh?”

Loo is well aware of the reputation German shepherds have. And she knows how far removed this can be from reality. “They get a bad name. People see them as police dogs. They don’t see when the policeman takes his uniform off and it becomes a family pet.”

The gentle nature of many German shepherds is why Loo devotes so much time to their care.

For the past few years she has been a keen volunteer with Second Chances German Shepherd Rescue, a charity dedicated to rehoming the breed.

They are brought to Second Chances for a variety of reasons. Owners die. Relationships break down. And sometimes these dogs are the victims of cruelty.

The two dozing in Loo’s Dalston living room are Molly and Max. Molly had lived in a crate exposed to the elements. Max had been in a van for two-and-a-half years.

“All they did was sling his feed in every day,” says Loo. “It was the time of life when his brain should have been absorbing information. He can’t hold information. He’s very easily distracted.”

A previous guest at her home was Heidi.

“Heidi had brought up her puppies without being fed. We had to get the RSPCA to get her out. I spent three nights giving her one spoonful of food an hour. That’s all she could eat.”

Another German Shepherd was given away because its owner bought a new carpet, and thought the dog hair was too visible on it.

“I’ve lost my faith in people, when you see how cruel they can be,” says Loo.

Ironically, she was “terrified” of German shepherds until she saw a Second Chances stall at Upperby Gala and the breed began to grow on her.

All dogs are assessed by one of Second Chances’ volunteers before being placed with a suitable new owner.

The charity is also looking for fosterers to care for dogs before they find a permanent home. Second Chances pays fosterers’ vet bills.

“We don’t just let someone take them,” says Loo. “We assess the dog and the home and put them together so you get the right combination.

“It’s wonderful when they’re rehomed. You see the dog blossoming. Some of them don’t know what it’s like to be loved and cared for.

“We’ve not yet had a dog put to sleep. When you get the old ones you keep them ’til death us do part.”

Max will be with Loo until the end. She doesn’t yet know whether Molly will stay with her or move on.

Second Chances relies on the public for funding. Loo spends time making greetings cards and cakes to sell at events. Friends and family also help.

She says the people of Dalston and local businesses have been wonderfully supportive. Many have been charmed by the German shepherds they’ve seen Loo walking through the village in the past few years.

“They’re so intelligent,” she says. “They melt your heart.”

Then she adds: “There are no bad dogs – just bad owners.”

For more information about Second Chances call 01228 402267 or visit


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