Double Delight for Shelter Education Team

Prestbury Library collect the David Vaisey award from Edward Gillespie and War Horse author Michael Morpurgo.

The Education Team here at the Shelter have had a busy few months, and their hard work and creativity were recognised recently with two fantastic awards.

Firstly, at Cheltenham Literature Festival, the ‘Paws for Reading’ project won the David Vaisey Prize.

The David Vaisey Trust recognises and rewards outstanding initiatives by public libraries in Gloucestershire which result in more people reading.

Last year we were approached by Prestbury Library to work in partnership and trial an assisted animal therapy program called ‘Paws for Reading’. Every alternate month we take a rescue dog for the students of Ridge Academy School to practice reading skills to, activities included vocabulary worksheets, word searches, a rhyming basket, literacy dominoes and mindfulness colouring. In the other month a small group of students would visit the shelter to practice their reading skills to our rescue cats.

Reading to animals offers the opportunity for students to improve their reading accuracy, speed, comfort and confidence. Another added benefit of the program is that the animals in the shelter are gaining socialization and companionship throughout the reading sessions.

Following on from the David Vaisey prize our HALT Project won a Spotlight Prize at the Impact Awards hosted by Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. (OPCC)

The award ceremony is designed to recognise the outstanding work of officers, organisations, volunteers and members of public, who all work to make Gloucestershire a safe place to live. The OPCC has been funding our Humans and Animals Learning Together for a few years now, allowing us to offer places to at risk young people, with the aim of helping them integrate and perform better in mainstream education. The courses have always received fantastic feedback and are known for their ingenuity and success, but this is the first time the hard work has been publicly recognised.

The awards were held at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel and attended by Shelter Manager Pete Newcombe, Dani, Deb and Erica from the Shelter Education Team with Claire representing our Trustee Board. Dame Janet Trotter (The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire) and Martin Surl (Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner) presented the award.


Animal Day Ingenuity Entertains The Dogs

Erica with the IFAW blankets

Supporters at Cheltenham Firm DMS recently donated a large number of fleece blankets to help us keep the animals warm through the winter. The blankets were originally for one of their clients, IFAW, who kindly agreed that they should be put to good use once they weren’t needed any more.  The animals have been loving them but our Education Team have also put a couple to an ingenious new use…

As part of the Animal Days we offer for children during the school holidays, we always have a craft activity. In the past we have created treat tubes for small animals or catnip toys to drive the cats wild. This half-term though the kids have been working on something special for the dogs. Using strips of material and some cut up floor matting they are able to make snuffle mats, brilliant feeding toys to keep the dogs entertained in their kennels.

Modelling the finished snuffle mats

The children have been weaving and tying, choosing the brightest colours and making each mat different, ready for their favourite pooch. Once finished, the mats are placed in kennels and sprinkled with dry food or treats before the dogs get to search them out. Treats get lost in among the weaves so the dogs are using their noses and brains as well as mouths to feed, and it’s this kind of mental stimulation that we use regularly to reduce kennel stress and make meal times more interactive.

Education Officer Erica said “the kids really enjoyed this project, it was much more colourful and tactile than working with toilet rolls! The snuffle mats are really popular with the dogs and some of the children will be making their own at home for their pets.”

Barley enjoys treat time with his new snuffle mat

Fabulous Firewalk Fundraiser!

In a first for Shelter fundraising, we sent 26 incredible supporters out to “brave the blaze” and walk over 20 feet of hot charcoal, burning at over 1,200 degrees fahrenheit!


In a spectacular event, arranged by Blaze – The Firewalking People, our fundraisers spent 90 minutes in preparation for tackling their fears and taking to the red hot runway. With lots of positive thinking, breathing exercises and noisy fun the team were hidden away in our classroom while they went through their process. The walkway was lit after dark in a mesmerising fire display and burned brightly while the walkers went through last minute mental exercises.

Then the time came and one by one these fearless fundraisers walked the flaming path, a picture of control and focus, before the cheers and screams of joy as they reached the other end! Many of the walkers went again or even for a third time, proving that mind over matter will allow you to conquer any challenge.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the brave firewalkers, the Shelter raised over £5,000, which is an incredible result for a new event. We hope Blaze will be back again in future years to give you the opportunity to “brave the blaze” and support the Shelter.

A Wet But Wonderful Open Day 2018

After the disappointment of postponing the event in July due to the heatwave, we were relieved to finally open the doors on Open Day 2018 even if we had chosen the only wet day in September for our event!

We didn’t let the weather stop us! Fundraiser James welcomes the visitors.

Despite the conditions we still filled the paddock with a wide range of stalls offering gifts items for sale, useful information or services and of course lots of fun games. Particularly popular this year was a new addition, the bottle tombola, offering the chance to walk away with champagne or shampoo and everything in between! The bouncy castle sadly was a wash out, but it was perfect weather for playing hook-a-duck or on of the other kid’s games on offer.

As well as the Shelter’s own charity shop tent we had stallholders offering bottle art, garden plants and ornaments, pet photography, handmade jewelry and much more.

The giant Stoker with his tiny handler and Best In Show prizes.

Of course the biggest draw of the day was the fun dog show, with lots of soggy doggies still looking fantastic as our judges – including Miss Cheltenham Katy Hemelryk and Mayor Bernard Fisher – picked out waggiest tails and prettiest eyes as well as most handsome male and best puppy. With seven classes in all the winners were reunited for Best In Show judging with the top prize going to Stoker, the gentlest giant we’ve ever met!

Mayor Bernard Fisher (with Shelter Manager Pete) judged one of the dog show classes

There’s no escaping this police officer!

The main arena was also the site of a fantastic display by Gloucestershire Constabulary’s dog handlers, with a demonstration of a drug search and also the take down of an angry criminal. It was great to learn more about their work and see the dogs in action.

The poor weather meant our tea room was busy, with cakes and drinks in high demand, and the BBQ kept everyone fed through the afternoon. (Although we didn’t sell many ice creams!)

We’re hugely grateful to all the supporters, stallholders, volunteers and staff who braved the elements to make the event such a success and really pleased to have raised over £5,000 in such challenging circumstances.

It wasn’t a great day using a camera unfortunately, but here’s just a few photos from the day…

Summer Half-Term Animal Days Available To Book

Summer half-term Animal Days are now available for booking. CLICK HERE and find your session in the list.

Click on your preferred session and follow the instructions and please have your payment method to hand. Please remember to put your child’s first name and last name on the form where requested, as we require these details.

For a reminder of the dates and sessions, as well as for more details of what is covered in the ‘Dog Session’ and ‘Small Animals and Cats Session’ please look at our ANIMAL DAYS page.

For parents booking children on to two consecutive sessions (morning and afternoon) please note that there will be no lunch break, due to sessions running back to back. Instead there will be two 15 minute breaks (one during the morning session and one during the afternoon session) where we recommend your child brings a snack and a drink.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch either email or telephone 01242 548772.

We look forward to seeing you all very soon!