My name is Stef
My name is Stef and I started Stretch Their Legs with my partner Ben following conversations with fellow dog owners, friends and animal lovers. I had been working in offices as an administrator / office manager for the last 16 years and felt it was time to do what I wanted to do. I have always been an animal lover and have owned dogs, horses, mice, degus, hamsters, cats, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits and a pygmy hedgehog.
We currently own two Romanian rescue dogs, named Waffles and Molly; four degus, called Fern, Eve, Lorina and Tufts and an African Pygmy Hedgehog named Mr Pricklesworth.
I began house sitting when working for an environmental consultancy. My boss at the time asked if I would look after his smallholding while the family were on holiday. This involved looking after 2 cats, a tortoise, 2 horses, up to 4 ponies and either sheep or pigs depending on what they had at the time for up to 2 weeks at a time. I slept at the property and spent my weekends there - normally poo picking! I also hacked out the horses and monitored their anaerobic digester.
For another colleague I looked after their elderly Staffordshire Bull Terrier, cats and gerbils. This involved staying overnight at the property, feeding and administering medication as required. They also rehomed a Rottweiler that I looked after as well.
Before I adopted my two Romanian rescue dogs I home boarded a friend’s deaf Springer Spaniel for a few days. This included walking her and taking her to work with me at the time.
I am fully insured, CRB checked and qualified in Canine First Aid. I can provide references from previous customers.
I am also a Trustee for SOS Romanian Rescue South West, a charity that rescues and rehomes dogs from Romania. This cause is close to my heart as the charity rescued my two dogs. I maintain their website, help at adoptions and fundraisers and organised and ran the calendar competition.
I also currently work part time at the new trampoline park in Wellington and Ben is a software programmer/web developer/all round computer genius. He designed and built my website and my upcoming app that will allow you to have real time updates.
My extended family
Waffles was our first rescue dog. We adopted her in October 2015 as a skinny, dirty 9kg puppy from Romania. She is a beautiful, funny creature and is also the loudest, most demanding dog I have ever met. We wouldn’t change her though. Her favourite thing in the world is walking up on Blackdown and Sampford Commons/Culmstock Beacon and Culm Davy woods. She adores running through woods and snuffling through the gorse and bracken. Like a true street dog she sleeps on our bed and cries if we don’t give her a spot on the sofa. All of our walks are Waffle approved, we only walk where there is limited to no contact with livestock and preferably where they can run off lead safely.
Molly is Waffles’ sister. She came over at the same time as Waffles but went to another family. The family was not a good match for Molly and she came back to the rescue. When we saw she had been given up we adopted her so she could be reunited with her sister. Molly is very different to Waffles in personality and looks, she is incredibly playful and loving at home but is a nervous dog outside. She was very afraid of men when we adopted her and it took a long time for her to trust Ben, she now loves him and goes crazy when he gets home from work. She can still be very wary of men she doesn’t know and does not like to be touched by people she doesn’t know. She is very vocal and does tend to run up to other dogs barking as she is excited but this is improving. She has come so far from the traumatised dog that came back to the rescue. Molly is my soul mate, she loves lie ins and is happy to have a pyjama day when the weather is miserable!
We have four degus now, having lost two earlier in the year. Fern, Eve and Tufts are rescues and possibly sisters and Lorina we have had for almost 5 years now. Tufts lives in a separate cage with Lorina as she was badly beaten by the others about 3 years ago, despite this she is the happiest little creature around. Lorina is very self contained and does not want any human interaction beyond treat time, we accept this and she is pretty much left to her own devices. Fern and Eve live together in the big cage, they love to run in their wheels, make their bed and throw poo out of the cage! We like to think the degus are plotting to take over the world, and after joining some online forums it turn out we aren’t the only degu owners convinced their pets are criminal masterminds. Degus are diurnal and make great pets for children, they can be trained and are very intelligent. They all have very different personalities and are very funny to watch. They do require a strict diet as they cannot process sugar and are prone to diabetes. Please research degus and either adopt or buy from a breeder rather than from a pet shop.
Mr P as he is affectionately known is an African Pygmy Hedgehog (APH). He is now 3 years old and we’ve owned him since he was 8 weeks old. There are many images of cute and cuddly APHs on the internet, Mr P is not one of these! He is very grumpy and doesn't really want cuddles or contact despite being well socialised. As with all humans and animals hedgehogs have their own personalities, some are friendly and seek out interaction and others are solitary. APHs are not easy pets to look after and many are given up each year after being bought with no research. They require a proper setup with a wheel and heating, a diet of dry cat food is recommended and a blend of foods with the right protein and fat content should be found. They can also have some fruits and vegetables and of course insects. Cutting a hedgehog's nails is an experience in itself as is scrubbing off the poop boots and getting the poo off their quills - not for the fainthearted! Their quills hurt and can cause a mild skin reaction and they can bite so they are not a suitable pet for children. If you are considering a hedgehog as a pet please contact a rescue and don’t buy from an unregistered breeder.