Skye Wardle is a true animal lover.
The 22-year-old student and animal welfare assistant from Minsterworth, Gloucester, has adopted three slaughterhouse survivor dogs and now wants to raise awareness of the dog meat trade and Yulin, the annual Chinese dog meat festival that takes place in June.
Skye’s urge to adopt a pooch came about after one of her friends rescued a stray from Spain in 2016. She contacted the Rushton Dog Rescue, a charity that looks after dogs that have been abandoned, abused or unwanted, and that was the start of her adoption process.
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In November that year, she was sent photos of Clover, a beautiful golden retriever rescued from a dog slaughterhouse in Changchun, China. The animal had been starved and dehydrated, and contracted pneumonia and canine distemper (a viral disease).
‘We are all animal lovers and have always had lots of pets including dogs and horses,’ said Skye, whose mum works for animal charities.
‘We have always known about the Chinese dog meat trade and Yulin, as it’s publicly spoken about by celebrities such as Simon Cowell and Ricky Gervais. But we never thought we’d be able to adopt a dog from the meat trade.
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‘A friend of ours rescued a Spanish street dog from Rushton Dog Rescue and we saw their Facebook page. We saw they had started a project rescuing dogs from the Chinese dog meat trade, so I contacted them and was surprised to find out they had a golden retriever.
‘We saw photos of him and immediately wanted him. Clover arrived in the UK in December 2016 and we went to Rushton Dog Rescue’s farm in Somerset to meet him once he had been there a few days to settle.
‘We adored him and signed the adoption papers and took him home that day.’
*Warning: the following features photos that some readers may find upsetting.*
In March 2018, Bonnie joined the family.
The pooch experienced suffering from a young age; at just 10 months old, she’d been found abandoned on the streets of Beijing, covered in sores and lice. It’s a miracle she’s; Bonnie also has the same canine distemper virus, which has an 80% fatality rate among puppies.
Despite having recovered since, the pup still suffers from a syndrome known as myoclonus (involuntary muscle spacs that resulted in a neurological tic) but is now happy in her forever home.
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Eight months later, Skye adopted Nellie.
The Samoyed dog escaped a brutal fate when someone burned down the puppy mill where she was bred for the purpose of being sold as dog meat. Nellie, who was pregnant at the time, survived but was badly burnt.
She was treated for her burns and gave birth to eight puppies – though unfortunately only seven survived.
The pups were sent to Y-Not Save a Sam Rescue, while Nellie herself was taken in by Skye and her family.
Skye said: ‘Clover is the sweetest boy, he is quiet, friendly and sensitive. I would say he is the most affected by the abuse he has been through, as they are manhandled and beaten, thrown around by metal poles around their necks in slaughterhouses.
‘He is a cuddly boy but loves his own space and loves his walks where we he can walk for miles on his own exploring.
‘Bonnie is a larger than life, hilarious character. She is small from stunted growth from her starvation as a puppy, but she makes up for it in personality. She is loud, loves to bark and play fight, she is funny and a real tough cookie, gets bowled over and trampled by the other two when playing and gets back up and carries on every time.
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‘She is the little boss, always starts the play fighting and is fiercely independent, even though she needs a lot of help and support with her myoclonus.
‘She has definitely come out of her shell and changed the most since we adopted her, she was quiet and frail at first, very weak and her tic was very bad to the point she could barely sleep or stay crouched to go to the toilet. She has blossomed and grown into an amazing character.’
Skye said: ‘Nellie is a typical Samoyed and has been from the beginning. She has the “Sammy spirit” and Sammy smile, is endlessly happy and adores her life.
‘She absolutely loves chasing her ball and running, walking lots and cuddling up to us at night. Her and Bonnie have a special bond we noticed straight away. Nellie has had puppies and is very maternal, and we don’t know if Bonnie ever knew her mum, she spent most of her recovery in isolation as she was so ill.
‘Nellie treats Bonnie like her baby, cuddles her, licks her and looks after her, and Bonnie seems to really love her and enjoy it. Their relationship is so lovely to watch.
‘All the dogs get along so well and love each other so much.’
Now, Skye wants to educate others on the dog meat trade, and encourages people to adopt when it comes to dogs.
She said: ‘We would just like to raise awareness of the dog meat trade and rescuing and urge people to adopt instead of buying dogs.
‘People have a common misconception that rescue dogs are difficult, problematic, or always cross-breeds and undesirable breeds who aren’t family-friendly.
‘I think our three show that is not always the case, and rescuing has changed our lives as well as theirs.
‘Rescue dogs deserve a chance of a loving, safe forever home, and they give so much.’