Phoebe's full story

"My dog was the only support that I had - for comfort, for affection, for warmth. I’d talk to her because I had no one else. She’d seen some pretty heavy stuff.

She was just such a loyal dog, with that unconditional love. She was a massive support, and I think probably stopped me from going insane a few times.

My partner was a lot older than me, and really controlling. The dog was used manipulatively on me. He’d get jealous that I had this bond with the dog, because of everything she’d been through with me. I wasn’t allowed to have comfort.

He knew I couldn’t take her with me if I wanted to leave. Finding a rental with an animal was really hard. I felt like as a decent human being I needed to stay there to protect her, so I was the one who suffered. If I did leave, I just kept going back to the dog, and this really toxic relationship.

I still remember the day when I left her for good. She was at the gate, crying. It was horrible. I remember driving off thinking ‘this is it, I’m not coming back.’ And the dog knew that. For years and years, I wondered if she was thinking ‘is Mum coming home?’ I found out later she’d died. I still feel massive guilt for that.

Even though it sucks I’m lucky to have got out of it, and to be able to use my experience as a positive, because there are so many people that can’t.

It’s so incredible what Pet Refuge is doing. Not only is it helping women and children - and some men - get out of violent relationships, but it’s also giving pets rights. They don’t have a voice of their own.

Dogs are family and I think people don’t realise the therapeutic benefits that dogs have, especially for children. For families going through domestic violence, the dog is the place of comfort.

I feel like I have given my dog a voice and somehow healed that part of my life by sharing my story. I’ve cried tears of joy for the people who have the courage, drive and heart to give animals a safe place to go. Finally, there’s the relief of knowing there are people out there making a change."