Now dogs belonging to the city’s homeless people are to receive special Christmas stocking treats – including warm coats, blankets, toys and tasty snacks – in memory of a black Labrador who was himself saved from a lonely old age by a loving owner.
Lesley Winton resolved to keep her black lab Mr T’s memory alive after his health faded a fortnight ago. Sadly the 14-year-old pet passed away in her arms.
Within days she had launched a fundraising campaign in his memory, to help buy treats for homeless dogs around the Capital.
In just a few days she has raised hundreds of pounds for gifts which will now be distributed as little Christmas presents to dogs attending a clinic set up specially to help keep homeless people’s pets healthy.
The move has echoes of hit film of the year A Street Cat Named Bob, the real-life story of how a pet provided a lifeline to its adopted homeless owner.
“Homeless people who have pets can’t afford to buy anything special for them but they still want to be able to give them a little treat – especially at this time of year,” said Lesley, 51, of Tranent.
“And Mr T was such a special dog that I wanted to do something to show how much he meant.”
It’s not known exactly how many “street” dogs there are in the Edinburgh area, either living rough with their owners, in homeless accommodation or in hostels.
However many are given vital healthcare at a free monthly pop-up clinic, All4Paws, run at various locations by veterinary students at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
The gifts and treats from Mr T’s Christmas Appeal will be distributed at the clinic over the coming weeks.
Lesley, who took in the Labrador three years ago after his owner had to give him up, said she was inspired by the close bond between pets and their homeless owners.
“It’s easy for people to be judgemental and say that they shouldn’t have dogs in the first place. But a lot of homeless people care for their dogs more than they care for themselves.”
Some of the funds will also go to help The Oldies Club – which finds homes for elderly dogs – Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Service and Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland.
She added: “You can often see street dogs with their owners in Princes Street, Rose Street and parts of Leith, but it’s very hard to figure out how many there are.
“Quite often a pet can give a homeless person a reason to just keep going and keep living.
“It’s nice to be able to give them something in return.”