Happy birthday Twilight, 13 today!

Today we celebrate Twilight’s thirteenth birthday! Can you imagine, thirteen years (and more really, as Leeanne and Mike were rescuing Puds long before they became an “official” association). Thirteen years, twenty-four seven, caring for, comforting and loving over four hundred dogs. In celebration of this achievement, we thought our supporters might like to look back to the early days of Twilight, with this extract from parts of the Twilight biography Paws Before Bedtime, which recounts how Twilight came to be.

Small beginnings

After several happy years in Greece, reluctantly, the decision was made to move on. Although Leeanne and Mike had not travelled a great deal in France, they had a feeling that the rural lifestyle and attractive property prices had something to offer. Starting with a two-room barn, with no bathroom or drainage, Mike renovated the building to become a beautiful three-bedroomed house. The couple soon established a life in rural France.

Throughout this time, dogs had been at the centre of Leeanne and Mike’s life. They had come to France with their three golden retrievers, sisters Abby and Kizzy, and Abby’s daughter, Teg. Sadly, Abby died of stomach cancer not long after the move, a death that has remained in their memory. Teg and her Aunt seemed to be quite happy together, but the affinity with dogs in need had not diminished and from time to time various abandoned, sick or injured dogs and puppies passed through their doors. The majority were rehomed with friends and clients. All was well until the sad day that Kizzy passed over the Rainbow Bridge, leaving Teg alone and unhappy. Within days Teg became depressed, her grief was tangible, and it was clear that she needed a new canine friend.

Leeanne and Mike were put in touch with Sue Glibbery who runs the PoorPaws adoption service for abandoned dogs in the department of the Lot, a couple of hours south. With Sue’s help and advice, Mike and Leeanne adopted first brother and sister, Bailey and Fiddich, and then Taffy, who came via the Phoenix Association. [And Taffy is still at Twilight today!] As they learnt more about the plight of homeless dogs in France, Leeanne and Mike decided that they would focus on adopting the older dogs that the refuges and adoption centres found it impossible to rehome.

Once the leaning towards older dogs had been realised the numbers began to grow. The first ‘official’ Twilight dog, as opposed to a Whitley family dog, was Nina who came from Sue at PawPoors. Several more old, unadoptable dogs followed. Legally, in France it is permissible to keep up to nine dogs in a domestic home, over nine and up to fifteen dogs is permitted, providing this is registered at the Mairie, but the dogs must be kept kennelled. Above this number, then permission is required. As the figures increased, Twilight was getting dangerously near to exceeding legal limits. What’s more, once the number of dogs went over seven the days began to revolve around the animals’ needs. Leeanne and Mike were aware that not only did they need more time, but more space, too. They were still living in the small semi-detached village house at this time, not only with the dogs, but with an array of other lost and lonely animals – orphaned lambs, piglets, and billy goats. The neighbours’ tolerance levels were wearing thin. Leeanne describes, “One day we woke up and said, what we need is a house with more land and that we can make more dog-friendly. As we do, once we make decisions like that we don’t hang around.” So, it was time for another visit to the friendly bank manager and the move to La Peyzie

It was around this time that the concept of Twilight as a formal rescue evolved. No one seems to know exactly how or when the name came to mind, but as the fundamental purpose was to look after dogs in their twilight years, the official name ‘Twilight the Retirement Home for Dogs’ was born. When it became clear that there was no end to the stream of old dogs needing Leeanne and Mike’s help, and that they had found a vocation, it was time to put the ‘business’ onto more of a professional footing. In order to ‘do things properly’ Twilight would need support, both professional and financial. A formal association was created and this enabled Twilight to legally accept monetary donations.

And we finish today’s blog with a few birthday thoughts from Leeanne:

What a privilege it has been to share our last 13 years with so many puds. Even though Mike is not so able these days, the love he gives and healing hugs is immeasurable. I love him so xxx

Memories of volunteers passed, those who have moved away or indeed crossed the bridge themselves; we couldn’t have got this far without any single one of you. The volunteer team might not be huge in number, but it is beyond measure in the love and care each and everyone gives xxx

In short, how blessed are we xxxx