Honestly, I can see your face right now… What on gods earth has an Animal Sanctuary got to do with mental health in Cumbria.






Hear me out… all shall become apparent.



In 2014 my fella tried to commit suicide. I came home from work one day to find him a bit dazed and confused and off he went upstairs to have a lie down. I went upstairs to find him and as I walked through the bedroom door, he looked at me, his eyes rolled back in head and he started foaming at the mouth. He was having a seizure.

He stopped breathing.

The adrenalin kicked in and I went into work mode (thankfully because of my real job I am fully trained in CPR and first aid) and I started compressions on his chest.

It’s one thing to be trained in CPR and quite another to actually have to do it for real. But to do it on the one person you love most in world….. that’s a whole other experience.

He was dying in front of my eyes.

Not on my watch…..

All I can remember thinking was “Who on earth do you think you are, thinking you can leave me alone in this world, not a chance”

The ambulance turned up and took him to hospital and he recovered. But it was the conversation we had the next day that absolutely floored me.

He had been suffering with really bad depression for 3 months and I knew he was struggling but I didn’t fully understand just how bad it had got. I was working 50hours a week, and leaving him in the house with our friend’s dog. And he said to me

“If it hadn’t been for that dog, I’d have done it sooner. The dog knew something was wrong and I would sit with him and talk to him when you weren’t here, I’m so sorry my love I never meant for any of this to happen”

My friends dog knew more about my fellas issues than I did.

That was 3 years ago, and I’m pleased to say that my fella is doing a hell of a lot better and he now has an official diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder and we’re getting through life together…..

But he’s been torturing my life to get a dog ever since! Now we go away a lot so we can’t really look after a dog properly and he knows that, but after the incident and hearing the way he talks about my friend’s dog…If we had the space and time I’d get one tomorrow.

It’s something I’ve really looked into and in the USA welfare dogs for people with mental health issues is a common sight, something I think here in the UK we are years behind on.

And that brings us to Oak Tree Farm.

Me and my fella spend the afternoon with Holly Parkinson who is the Partnership Manager for Oak Tree Animal’s Charity

And I’ve got to say, I went up there expecting a line of kennels with dogs in. And I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried!

Oak tree farm is a massive site, a café, a shop a la’al park for kids to play on. It can house up to 45 horses across their site at Oak Tree Farm with additional paddocks near by. It’s got massive kennels for both dogs and cats and a new conservation area with a walk through the woods to a gorgeous view at the top with some decking (which Holly tells me is made from recycled bottles). There’s new buildings available to rent in the form of artist craft studios and some holiday cottages on site. It really is really impressive. Definitely worth a look if you’re out that way!

But it wasn’t until I sat down with Holly and had a crack about what Oak Tree had to deal with in the community that I realised the charity as a whole was so much more than I thought it would be.

Holly explained to me that they have a lot of issues in the Carlisle area with hoarding. And homes that are full of cats, extreme stuff and often this goes unnoticed until there is an issue raised about the animals. The Community engagement  team are often the first ones on site to investigate. Which then presents safeguarding issues, mental health issues and often people who need a great deal of support. Holly told me that all of her team up at Oak Tree farm are trained in safeguarding and that they are are in talks with Mind and would like to build a working relationship with them, Carlisle keys and other agencies to ensure that any house they visit with pet owners who need support get put in touch with the right people.

The team at Oak Tree work tirelessly delivering animal welfare training to pet owners in the community advising them on getting pets neutered, wormed and offer discounted or even free food to pet owners that are struggling financially. They also have a couple of sheds onsite that houses second hand pet accessories if people are struggling to buy new.

My fella and Holly then had a conversation about pets and mental health and he explained his relationship with my friends dog 3 years ago and dya know what, she completely got it. She said its something that comes up time and time again. Animals can be a great support to those with mental health issues and at Oak Tree farm they firmly believe in it, they have been looking at work they could do with Edenn Valley Hospice with the possibility of taking animals into Eden Valley Hospice so the residents there can have time with the animals which when you’re faced with a life threatening illness must be some time away from the crap that’s going on elsewhere in your life. So if anyone reading this has connections at Eden Valley please let them know that Oak Tree would love to work with yous.

My fella explained that we had been looking into welfare dogs and is it something that Oak Tree would look into and he firm answer was yes. They absolutely intend to make the right connections and look at pioneering something in the way of welfare dogs.

Talking to Holly about our collective mental health issues and the incident with my fella, brought it all raging back and I shed a couple of tear, and so did my fella.

To a lot of people pets are pets, but as my fella said unless you’ve had a close relationship with an animal, you never really understand just how important they can be in pet owner’s lives.

Now, I’m a blunt person; Why would I give to charity that looks after animals when there are so many humans in need of help.

And Oak Tree Animal’s Charity has an answer. Animals need looking after, of course they do, but Oak Tree Farm is so much more than an animal sanctuary, they care about pet owners, they understand how important animals are to people, and here in Cumbria we need places like Oak Tree to help those in our community look after the critters that are often their only life line.

A small part of our afternoon was spent with Locksley, one of the dogs being rehomed at Oak Tree and he’s got a message for you.


Locksley would like to invite you to the Oak Tree Farm Autumn Ball in Carlisle this Saturday. Me and my fella will be attending where there is a 3 course meal on offer, drinks on entry and some superb entertainment from The Covers and Chasing Springtime, special appearance by comedian Dicky Dippinson and a entertainment from Circus acts, Astral Cirus. Not bad for 42quid. But I’ve been told if you ring up or email and mention this article Holly can do yer a deal on tickets. HollyP@oaktreeanimals.org.uk or 01228 560082


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If you get down to the Hallmark on Saturday….mines a G&T!


Much Love

CL xx