Everyone at Hope Rescue was deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Roly, an ex-puppy farm Labrador who inspired our campaigning journey and the first documentary we took part in. In 2011, the BBC Wales Week In Week Out documentary “It’s a Dog’s Life” looked at conditions inside licensed breeding kennels and included undercover footage from our friends at Puppy Love Campaigns. This footage featured Gracie and Roly, two dogs who later came into our care with a long list of health problems. Since then, we have campaigned relentlessly for improved breeding legislation and we owe Roly so much for opening our eyes to the horrors of commercial puppy farming.

Our thoughts are very much his owner, Paula, who gave him the most wonderful life and has written this lovely tribute.     

In 2011 I fostered a small, chocolate Labrador puppy with a multitude of health issues. Roly was born on a puppy farm in West Wales and had the worst possible start to life. The runt of the litter, he had elbow and hip dysplasia, a deformed jaw and had contracted lungworm and kennel cough. He was rescued along with a basset hound called Gracie and appeared in a BBC Wales Investigates expose of puppy farms.

In those days, Hope Rescue relied on volunteer transporters to help move dogs to other rescues and foster homes, and so I met Roly’s lift, Jo and John, near Taunton. As I pulled up, they were busy cleaning out their van as Roly had broken into a bag of dog food early that morning which resulted in a ‘puppy poonami’ en route. He definitely had a Labrador’s appetite for food!

Roly came to live with me in rural Cornwall where his fortitude and determination to survive were evident from the start. He settled in well, although with the occasional ‘nibble’ on remote controls, sunglasses and books, but I loved his cheeky and mischievous personality. It soon became clear that Roly was not going anywhere else and so he became a permanent member of my little family. He loved everyone and everything, never demanded attention and was content to take a back seat to my very energetic spaniels. He loved nothing more than lazing in the garden, soaking up the sunshine. There’s many a time when he left a Roly-shaped patch on my lawn as I’d had to mow around him! In the house he claimed the armchair as his own, always with one eye on what I was doing, especially if there was the chance of food, but happy to spend evenings watching TV.

Over the years Roly was my very best friend, always my shadow and really content in the home he loved. He was the first to greet me when I came home, whether I’d been working away or just popped out for 10 minutes, his joy at seeing me again was the same. Roly’s ‘happy dance’ was a wiggle, shake of his head and a play bow with a present for me, usually a toy or slipper, in his mouth. My neighbours all adored him and he made regular visits to say hello, have a ‘butt scratch’ and scrounge a biscuit. When I adopted an anxious young springer, he provided that steady presence and was always on hand to comfort him. It was almost as if he was saying “you’re OK now my boy, you’re safe.”

He became a mascot for an organisation for injured Royal Marines, even climbing Snowdon with them, just one of his many adventures in which he exceeded all expectations. A runner up in ITV’s British Animal Honours competition, he also appeared in magazines, as a case study for a pharmaceutical company and was a finalist in the Daily Mirror and RSPCA Animal Hero Awards, gaining several celebrity fans. Wherever he went, he raised awareness of the cruelty of puppy farms and low welfare breeding. But to me he was simply my little chocolate Roly bear, my adorable wonky boy who was with me through good times and bad.

As he got older Roly started to suffer from progressive osteoarthritis in all four limbs, as well as the onset of kidney disease. Being his usual brave and happy self, he adapted and became a regular at hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physiotherapy sessions, never complaining and always smiling. He was a firm favourite at the vets, enjoying a fuss and saying hello to everyone he met, both staff and patients alike. Over the winter he started to slow down and show his age, becoming unwell in early February. It was such a cruel blow to learn that he had very aggressive cancer, which had already spread throughout his little body, but he’d managed to keep the pain hidden in his typically stoic way.

Just two weeks later, I made the hardest decision of my life when I knew the time had come to let him go. It’s the most painful but kindest thing we can ever do for our faithful friends and so he took his last breath in my arms, in the home he loved so much.

Roly was the kindest, most loyal and gentle little soul who enriched my life beyond measure and I am so grateful for the time we had together. There is now a Roly-shaped space at the end of my bed and in my heart.

Gone from my sight, but never my memories. Gone from my touch, but never my heart.


Even though you left me earlier than I’d hoped, you were my sunshine and blessed me with a lifetime of wonderful memories to cherish. Sleep tight my Roly bear, love you always.