Kids are great, but raising a pet with a fellow animal lover is all the rage these days. Relationships that are centered on a mutual love for an animal are incredibly fulfilling and finding that one special person willing to give as much love to a furry friend as they are to you is a rarity. But for those who aren’t as lucky, owning a pet can sometimes fracture a relationship instead of strengthening it.
For one British woman, the fate of her marriage was put in jeopardy when she was forced to choose between her husband and her beloved dogs. Animal lover or not, most people would agree that, in the end, she made the right choice.
People dream of finding the love of their life at an early age, and that’s exactly what happened for Liz and Mike Haslam of Suffolk, England. The couple first got together in the late ’80s, when Mike was 20 and Liz (below) was just 16 years old.
Things began to move quickly, and in 1991 the couple married and welcomed a son just a few years later. With the size of their family growing steadily, Mike and Liz opted to move into a two-bedroom farmhouse on a plot of land in the English countryside.
As they settled into their new home, the excess space provided Liz with the perfect opportunity to start a boarding kennel business. For Liz, loving animals was something she was practically born into.
From a young age, Liz found herself constantly surrounded by wet noses and wagging tails, as her mother was an avid breeder of West Highland terriers. Even her father–the owner of an animal food company–had a hand in shaping Liz’s love for all things furry and fluffy.
Eventually, Liz founded BedsforBullies, an animal rescue organization that rehabilitates and re-homes bull breeds that other shelters won’t take. But as the number of dogs in the Haslam household grew, Mike’s patience began to wear thin.
“It just got to the point where he was fed up with the dogs and wanted to slow down,” Liz recalled, “but that wasn’t my intention.”
Then, on one fateful day, Mike presented Liz with an ultimatum: either the dogs went, or he did. So, what did this lifelong animal lover and dog nanny do? The logical thing, of course: she filed for divorce!
“I thought after 25 years, he should know giving up the dogs was not what my intentions were,” said Liz. “My husband said ‘it is me or the dogs.’ I haven’t seen or heard from him since.”
Over the years, the Haslam house had seen over 200 hundred dog come through the doors, either for a short stay or, for those Liz simply couldn’t part with, a lifetime. While Mike claimed the sheer number of dogs were more than he had bargained for, Liz says he knew exactly what he was getting into.
“He knew from the moment that we got together what I was all about,” Liz believed. “[But] my passion for dogs was far too great for Mike.”
Since letting her husband walk out 18 months ago, Liz’s sanctuary has grown to nearly 40 bull terriers. But despite donations from fellow animal lovers, caring for three-dozen dogs by oneself is no easy task.
@bedsforbullies / Twitter
“It is a very deliberating job, you can’t have a day off,” Liz said. “I don’t sit down till 11:30 pm at night, so you can’t just go on holiday.” If only the dogs could just take care of themselves…
Of the many dogs Liz cares for, a majority of them suffer from complex needs and require around-the-clock attention. According to Liz, five of the dogs are completely deaf, and two of them (below) only have one eye.
Most of Liz’s dogs were involved in dog-fighting rings, so many of their injuries came from their time spent in these violent situations. One poor pup even suffered permanent brain damage.
On an average day, Liz spends up to 18 hours making sure her dogs are fed, groomed, and loved. Though the job takes a toll on her, Liz feels that it is her duty to care for these animals.
“I can’t just turn around and say I am not going to do it anymore, it is my responsibility,” insisted Liz. “I took the dogs in, I can’t just stop”
Despite the success of Liz’s kennel, her profits don’t always cover the costs of running her business. Because she keeps so many dogs of her own, Liz only has seven boarding spaces to rent out to cover vet bills and rent payments of over $6,000 a month.
What’s more? The number of dogs Liz has fostered over the years has angered her landlord to the point that they are now looking to develop her property. As a result, Liz received an eviction notice and has one year to vacate the premises.
At the moment, Liz is searching for a forever home for herself and the animals she cares for. But even in the face of adversary, Liz wouldn’t trade her job for the world.
The sacrifices some people are willing to make for the animals they care about are truly remarkable. “I have chosen to do this,” Liz said with a smile. “I love it.”