I am helping my friend to look for a new dog. Her previous, much-loved pet died in October last year and she has really been noticing the void that was left. Dogs provide real companionship for some people, and Suzy misses the unconditional love which is offered by a pooch. Although she loves her cat, Midnight, she knows that cats can be more independent and aloof at times.

Suzy has been very clear that she wants to get a rescue dog, rather than getting a new puppy from a breeder. She previously worked for an animal charity, so she knows how bad puppy farms can be. Some unscrupulous breeders treat their bitches with such contempt that it is a surprise that they even manage to breed at all. Many of the puppies that are sold by breeders are weak and sickly animals which are inclined to develop painful afflictions within a few years. The worst “puppy farm” breeders will even use fake health documents and vaccine certificates to trick unsuspecting buyers into thinking that their new puppy has been given a 10/10 for health.

Suzy also thinks that it is important to consider rescue dogs, because they may end up being put down if nobody decides to take them home. Many rescue centres are overcrowded and some underfunded animal charities are forced to put down animals with minor medical concerns if they cannot continue looking after them. This is heartbreaking for everyone who was been working with the dog in question.

This is how Suzy and I came to be scouring the internet for rescue dogs. Big animal charities like the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust have great websites which allow you to narrow down your results until you find the perfect pet. Although “rescue dog” is Suzy’s number one criteria, she also has a long list of other “wants”. It is kind of like an advert in a lonely hearts column; small dog, must enjoy long walks, can be left alone for periods of time, housetrained and can live with a cat.

I love seeing all of the names that rescue centres have picked for unnamed animals that have arrived with them. Each centre clearly has its own naming convention, so that each new arrival can become a member of the rescue family as soon as possible. One centre was choosing the names of Lord of the Rings characters, whereas another seemed to have chosen Wind in the Willows names. Who has ever heard of a dog called Toad? But the names usually seem to fit the faces. These names also help to bring out the dog’s personality in their web profile.  We often found ourselves clicking on the dogs with the most unusual names.

I am taking Suzy to see a dog next weekend. Most rescue centres will not let you take a dog home straight away. You will usually have to meet the dog a few times to check compatibility and they may also do a home visit to check your suitability.