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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
A tranquil setting for retiring pets
Val Hounsell and Sadie
The residents enjoy human attention

You really could be walking in to granny's sitting room.

Pictures adorn the walls, chintzy floral cream curtains line the windows, while comfy armchairs and sofas point towards the ever running television, which is currently showing cartoons.

These oldies have normally been an old person's much loved pampered pet

Val Hounsell
For most elderly ladies or gentlemen, this would be the perfect place to see out their remaining days - a peaceful location in the heart of the countryside, nestled neatly on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.

But Trindledown Farm is no ordinary retirement home. It is the UK's only sanctuary for elderly pets.

Tender loving care

Set in 10 acres of fields, near the village of Great Shefford, the one-time equestrian centre and livery yard has enough purpose built space to be home to 25 dogs and 10 cats, kept alone or together in comfy quarters, each with radiators, colourful mats and an exercise yard.

Centre manager Val Hounsell says she and her staff try to give the often arthritic, blind or just plain old animals a bit of tender loving care in a home from home setting.

"When you are getting old, you want a bit of peace and quiet and while old people have their nursing homes, up until now there has been nothing for elderly animals," said Mrs Hounsell.

"These oldies have normally been an old person's much loved pampered pet. They are the reason for them to get up in the morning.

Daisy, a Shi-zu cross
Daisy takes a break from TV
"But when their owner has died, or had to go into a nursing home, the only place they could go was into normal kennel accommodation, which is noisy and really hard on them.

"They are used to a lot of attention.

"What we have tried to do is give them something better, to recreate what they have been used to in a home from home environment.

"Dogs belonging to older people are used to it being very warm, to sleeping on 'Mum's' lap, so all the rooms have central heating, armchairs, sofas and beds.

"Trindledown is a very peaceful, tranquil, unpressured and a happy place."

Vases of flowers

The centre has a no-destruction policy, unless on the grounds of ill-health, and tries to rehome the pets.

The room occupied by Daisy, a 12-year-old Shi-zu cross whose owner had died, is typical of the scene at Trindledown.

Sniffing out a lampost
The farm is equipped with every luxury - including the essential lampost
Amid framed pictures of dogs, someone has pinned up a card drawn by a recent visitor - a little girl called Stephanie.

A vase of flowers and a beanbag dog sit on top of a colour TV that is switched to the Flintstones.

As she lolls on her bed watching the cartoon, Daisy's companions compete for attention.

Rehoming hopes

Sitting quietly an armchair is Ronnie, a cute little Pomeranian-cross who is just crying out for a lap to sit on.

The 13-year-old was brought down to the farm from Scotland after his female owner went into a nursing home.

"He was very nervous when he arrived, but we are hoping to rehome him because he can't wait to sit on a lap again," Mrs Hounsell said.

Lucky, the Irish Red Setter
Lucky chills out before teatime
Other room-mates include a 14-year-old collie called Cindy and Daisy's companion, Sadie, a blind 15-year-old spaniel cross.

Feline antics

The dogs' next door neighbour is Lucky, a gorgeous Irish Red Setter, whose soulful eyes could break the hardest heart and Glen, a huge German Shepherd.

Along the way is a cat room, occupied by felines sitting in snugly baskets in front of pink striped curtains, on a hammock, behind armchairs and even under the TV.

The dogs and cats' day begins with an 8am wake-up call. They are let out, their rooms are cleaned, TVs are turned on and breakfast is served at 9.30am.

Dogs are walked around the fields or are taken out for trips by volunteers.

One woman makes a three hour pilgrimage from London every other week to visit her favourite dog.

Tea arrives at 4pm and they have titbits before lights out a few hours later.

Bubble, the goat
Bubble enjoys roaming Trindledown's grounds
During BBC News Online's visit to the centre, Mrs Hounsell said goodbye to Sophie a 10-year-old Labrador cross and Thomas, a black long-haired cat. The pair are going to live with a middle-aged couple with no children.

"We are always delighted when the animals go because it doesn't matter what we do for them here, it is still no substitute for a real home," said Mrs Hounsell.

TVs are standard

Grazing in the fields outside are Trindledown's other residents: seven horses and ponies, including Bailey - a dwarf Shetland pony and the centre's mascot - cows, sheep, goats, pigmy goats and birds.

Trindledown Farm was bought by the National Animal Welfare Trust four years ago as a retirement centre for elderly pets.

Kim, a Persian cross cat
Kim needed sedation for her fur to be dematted
Making the trappings of "an old person's sitting room" standard in all units was the brainchild of executive director Patricia Fraser.

Trindledown's development was beset by planning delays, winter floods and foot and mouth, but it was finally opened for business in June, 2001, by DJ Bruno Brooks.

The National Animal Welfare Trust is desperately trying to raise 150,000 to double the centre's size, through barn sales, an antique fair, a Halloween party, and an evening with The Dog Whisperer on 3 October.

The centre is open every day for visitors between 11am and 4pm.

Click here to go to Oxford

Click here to go to BBC Berkshire Online
See also:

24 May 02 | Wales
20 Dec 01 | Wales
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