Ice hockey photographer Lauren Hagan – who covers the Widnes based Mayhem sledge hockey (para) team - has set up a new dog-related initiative called “The Smokey Project” in memory of her rescued Staffordshire Bull Terrier of that name who died earlier this year.
The aim of The Smokey Project is to raise awareness of the plight of rescue dogs and to support various dog rescue charities or shelters each year across the north west and beyond.
This year Lauren is organising a "Shoeboxes for Shelter Dogs" appeal and is collecting donations that will be given to the Cheshire and Manchester Dogs' Home in Harpurhey, Manchester, in the run up to Christmas.
She has set up a “wishlist” on Amazon where people can donate by selecting items from the page and they will sent straight to Lauren for inclusion in her Shoebox packages: https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/17KOPJ2D6NPYI
There is also a Twitter account that can be used to follow the progress of the project and to make contact about direct donations: https://twitter.com/SmokeyProject
Here Lauren tells the story about Smokey the Staffy in her own words:
My Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Smokey, passed away on the 25th July this year unexpectedly (the day before my birthday). It left our family completely blindsided, and we're still trying to come to terms with losing him.
I rescued him in December 2009. He was a former bait dog (a dog used to train other dogs in dog fighting), and had numerous scars from it, and was left with nerve damage that would make his leg shake when he sat. He also had had his fur burnt on his left shoulder. He was scared of other dogs, going in the car and had never been on a walk before. It took him five years just to go for a wee on a walk.
It took him a little while to settle in, but when he did he became bold, bossy and extremely affectionate. He loved nothing more than cuddles, especially with my dad and they had a very special bond - he trusted my dad implicitly.
He seemed to know that my mum couldn't hear without her hearing aids, so if he thought she couldn't hear when the phone rang or there was someone at the door he would go get her. It sounds untrue, but it is true. I couldn't be bothered to root around in my bag one day for my keys and knocked on the door, and I heard him go get my mum who was drying her hair.
I'm trying to do something positive, so I've started The Smokey Project. In its first year, we hope to collect donations of toys, treats and food to give to a local dogs' home. This year it's Cheshire and Manchester Dogs' Home. I've called it "Shoeboxes for Shelter Dogs", the idea being that people fill a shoebox with items and donate that, but people can also pick something from the Amazon Wishlist if they so choose.
We've made a good start collecting donations, and in order to try and gain more exposure I've enlisted the help of the para ice hockey team that my husband coaches - the Manchester Mayhem. They're helping to promote "Shoeboxes for Shelter Dogs" on their social media accounts.
One of the players, Darren who plays in goal, is planning a sky dive to raise funds for the club and has so very generously said that he will donate some of the funds raised to The Smokey Project.
Although I'm starting small with The Smokey Project, I hope I can grow it year on year. The aim is to help raise awareness that rescue dogs are worthy of a second chance, and they can be amazing given time and patience. Of course, I'm also hoping that I can help to change the perception of Staffys too (even if only a little bit) - we did on occasion, have to listen to other dog walkers throw snide comments our way while walking Smokey, and all because he was a Staffy.
We hope to give all the donations to Cheshire and Manchester Dogs’ Home on the 17th December.