Our People: Finding homes for huskies

For more than 10 years Michelle Attwood has been rescuing and rehoming huskies through her charity Husky Rescue NZ. The Rolleston resident talks to Devon Bolger about how the dogs have shaped her life.

What started it all for you?

It all began when I rescued a crossbreed dog for myself about a decade ago and I was just shocked at how many dogs were there and needing homes. I went and spoke with some of my friends and asked why isn’t there a rescue? I couldn’t understand why somebody wasn’t doing anything. They said it’s too hard, it takes too much money and is too time-consuming and I stupidly thought, well it can’t be that hard and started up a rescue.

What is your favourite memory you have with a husky?

We picked up a dog from the West Coast and he had an anal gland blockage. We were driving along and my friend and I sort of heard this funny noise and I turned around and said: “Is he peeing in my car?” My friend then turned toward me very slowly and said that’s not pee. The dog had released his anal gland blockage right throughout my car and there was liquid diarrhoea everywhere. You could say it was a long drive after that. Another funny moment I can recall is when I was catching puppies halfway down a hallway on a Monday morning. The mother had decided she was going to give birth on the couch so she tottled up the hallway and was dropping puppies as she went and I was literally having to catch them.

What is the hardest part about what you do?

The most frustrating part is seeing the dogs that are abandoned because people didn’t think through what they were signing up for. The reality is it’s now just easy come, easy go. Programmes such as Game of Thrones have made the breed very popular and the number of dogs we are having to rehome is increasing all the time. Any show with anything wolf-looking increases the popularity of huskies. The problem is, it all tied in with social media advertising and so instead of people having to go on a wait list with a registered breeder, wait six months to a year and in that time get all the relevant information about care of the dog, now people just have to click ‘ I want.’

What exactly does your charity do?

We take in surrendered or abandoned huskies, check them out for health issues, suitability for re-homing, and arrange for them to be de-sexed, vaccinated and micro-chipped. We then care for them until they find a home. We have also set up foster homes in Christchurch, Wellington and Te Puke where the dogs can go. A huge part of what we try to do is education and law change. It’s important people know what is required to enjoy this wonderful breed and that would really help the problem, but at the moment it is a real uphill battle.

Why do you think people should care about huskies?

People should care because they’re animals and they can’t just speak up for themselves. We should care because New Zealand has a real ambulance at the bottom of the cliff mentality about a lot of things and we need to start being more proactive about our laws and social responsibilities. Everything in our lifestyle has just become so disposable and our pets have too, we need to care more about things outside of ourselves.

Do you have any dogs yourself?

Yes, I have five of my own. Three are huskies, Samurai is seven-and-a-half and we rescued him. Apache is five and we also rescued him. Both of them came to me at six-months-old. Magnum is a NZ Kennel Club registered pup and he is a one-year-old. Then I have two other rescues that are our little farm protection animals because huskies don’t bark. I have a blue heeler called Tasmania and Bishop who is from another awesome rescue charity based in Otaki and he’s a kelpie.

Wow, is it difficult looking after all those dogs?

I would say I’m lucky with the set up we have here. There’s tons of space to run about and I even have concrete floors. You find ways to make life easier. I am just very lucky, but most of the time these guys just run around like a bat out of hell all day anyway. They get to run around and play all day and I get so much joy from seeing that.

Can you tell me about your family?

Well, that’s easy, it’s just me, full stop. The pups are my family and someone needs to be based on-site 24/7 to care for them, so we are very close.

What are your hopes for the future of Husky Rescue NZ?

I have just leased 4ha of land between Templeton and Rolleston because we have a desperate need to expand. There wasn’t enough room at our West Melton site and we really want to move the charity forward and for the public to be able to come on-site and meet the pups. The issue is, to get the property I have had to take out quite a significant personal loan and now we’re trying to fundraise for the infrastructure we need to open next year. The amount of funding that we need to get it up-and-running is five times the amount we typically get in a year, so it’s a big ask. We are also going to apply for a funding grant for the first time, we’ve done it on our own the whole time but we think now it’s time to ask for help. I’m hoping the new space will mean the charity continues to expand and the community can get involved.

•Donate to Husky Rescue NZ at www.givealittle.co.nz/org/huskyrescuenz or attend the fundraising cabaret show Rescue Queens on October 12. Tickets can be purchased online.







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