When Abbey van der Plas picks her 5-year-old son Zack up from school, he asks her how many dogs she has rescued that day.
The 29-year-old director of Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue has been foster mum to more than 200 rescued pooches since its inception in 2011. And her mission is to educate people on bull breeds to prove that they aren't the "devil".
"What you put into a dog is what you get out of a dog. Train them up and socialise them and you will get the perfect dog."
"My whole point is to show people that they are family orientated dogs."
Van der Plas runs her not-for-profit organisation from her home in New Brighton. She takes in any bull-breed dog or litter that has been surrendered, abandoned or saved from the streets, red-zone and pound.
"Most of them are bred in back yards and not really cared about."
The dogs are then neutered, vaccinated and socialised, either by van der Plas or one of her foster carers.
Many dogs have been "absolutely traumatised" and have never had mums, but they are soon taught how to become dogs again with the help of van der Plas' own dogs, Keila, Lynx and 2 year-old pitbull Papa - described by van der Plas as an "ambassador for the breed".
"They do learn a lot from the other dogs and with the kids they learn what it's like to be loved."
Once they are deemed ready, van der Plas finds permanent family homes for the rescued dogs.
She pays for all of this care out of her own pocket and with donations sent directly to her vet's account. In one nine-month period, she raked up a whopping $15,000 vet bill.
"But I feel like I've taken this responsibility on so I find it hard to ask for help."
The Christchurch Bull Breed Facebook page has jumped from 1500 to over 3000 likes in the past six months. Donations are coming in to cover vet bills, and crates and blankets are left on her doorstep. But emails, texts and phone calls come daily from owners wanting to "fob" their dogs off.
"I find it hard looking at the bigger picture but you can't help everyone and the ones you're helping, you're changing their lives.
"I couldn't stop doing it because I love it and I think ‘where would these dogs be if I gave up?'"
In another five years, van der Plas hopes to purchase land and build a boarding kennel to accommodate bull breeds, which will help fund the rescue.
- The Press
Would you consider using your retirement savings to buy a home?Related story: Retirement savings used for first home