Hello everybody, a happy Tuesday to you.
A while ago I wrote about the challenges of leaving college/generally moving between life stages and the problems encountered as part of the process. Such problems include feeling purposeless, at a loose end, and, in my case, downright batty. Suddenly all the energy you’ve been drilling into study and reading and thinking and so forth isn’t needed for that any more and it ends up going into other such exciting activities as questioning what’s wrong with you and shouting at people who ask you what the next step is.
You might be pleased to note that I’ve recently discovered something more fruitful into which I can merrily blast this energy. Something which leaves me covered in dribble and mud and sometimes wee at the end of the day but it doesn’t matter, because it also makes me feel content, purposeful and able to just enjoy things again. That something is volunteering at the local dog shelter, the DSPCA.
Everyone who knows me will know that in my first year in college my housemate and I went to the DSPCA (the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to foster a dog as a “surprise” for the other members of the household (I say “surprise” because we fully knew the others did not want a dog but we really did and we thought they’d change their mind if we landed a delightful little pooch on them. In hindsight this was not a good idea but it worked out in the end.) When we got there somebody had just dropped in a little black bull terrier puppy who was destined for the pound. We took him home, and we have the little blighter, Kuma, ever since.
Since becoming proud parents to a “restricted breed” (all four of us – we knew the others would come round!) we’ve encountered many a filthy glare or such helpful tidbits of advice as “That thing should be wearing a muzzle!” Once Kuma got a good kick to his side in the park after attempting to lick a little girl (said kick resulted in fisticuffs between housemates and kicking man, who ironically was far more dangerous and aggressive than our dog). We became aware of the stigma attached to bull breeds, which are often considered killing machines despite a decidedly baby-like temperament. Henceforth I became determined to try and smash the stigma and help people realise what excellent pets bull breeds make, given the opportunity to live their life as a family pet and not a toy to fight with, as many of the dogs that wind up in shelters are used as. I also really just really wanted to hang out with them. It’s not often you get to spend a day in a building full of dogs all waiting for their turn to cuddle with you and take you exploring in the countryside.
So at the beginning of summer I decided, in a fit of determination to love as many dogs as possible, to enroll as a volunteer at the DSPCA. I began last Tuesday and have been three times since. There are different sections you can choose to work in – the Cattery, as you’d imagine, is where the cats reside. I have been there once and liked the older cats best because they’re more wizened than the kittens and have all already developed their own peculiar and charming personalities. Gillie, for example, is white and deaf, so in an attempt to be heard she absolutely shouts every time she talks. And she is very very chatty. Then there’s the Rehabilitation Centre for dogs who have recently arrived at the shelter and need some TLC before heading to the Rehoming Centre, where they are found and taken home by their Forever Families.
Some people have said, when I’ve told them I’ve taken this activity up on my days off from work, “Oh I couldn’t do that. That must be a very sad place to be, with all those abandoned and abused animals.” They aren’t wrong. It’s appalling sometimes what the animals have been through before finding solace at the DSPCA. But it’s also an extremely happy place to be. The grounds are extensive and beautiful, and there are countless treks, playgrounds and pens for the animals to bound about in and play together. In the evenings it is ensured that each animal has enough toys, blankets and snacks to get them through the night, and in the morning they are woken for their first of four daily outings. The best part, though, is that the centre is almost always chock with visitors, excited to take home a new friend. Tuesdays and Thursdays are pick-up days, so I’ve had the amazing experience of delivering dogs to their new families. It’s hard to know who’s more excited – the children or the dogs they’re taking home (though in fairness the children don’t wee themselves with excitement as much as the dogs, in my experience).
Today two Lurcher boys, Magnum and Spencer, who have been in the care of the DSPCA for about 6 months, got their Forever Homes. They were the only two “long-termers” left in the shelter; now the longest serving resident is Ruby, an English bull-terrier with gorgeous over-sized bat-ears and a penchant for getting distracted on walks and rushing haphazardly in different directions, who has been there 3 months. It is shocking to think that anyone could find her threatening in any way – the only potential threat to you is that she will abruptly shoot off while you are trying to pick up her poo whilst still holding the other end of her lead, thus pulling you into it. But that almost never happens.
Sorry that I’ve just written “poo” on this blog. I hadn’t intended it to be that sort of place, but I suppose it was always going to go in that direction at some stage, wasn’t it? I’ll try not to talk about it again.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I am having a blast with those hairy chaps at the shelter. My only sadness is that sometimes they get rehomed on a day that I’m not in and when I am next in I am met with an empty enclosure, such was the way with Shiloh the Lurcher and Mr. Darcy the Pitbull. But it is a happy sadness, all the same. Mr. Darcy is doubtless enjoying a “Friends” marathon and a belly rub somewhere, and Shiloh belting blissfully through a flowery meadow, his days of loneliness and abuse far behind him.
I am not attaching images of all these dogs, and I tell you for why: Jack and I are currently in the throes of putting together a Film project entitled “Take Me Home”, which involves various Irish shelters and focuses on the importance of adopting instead of buying from breeders. This will be posted soon on this site as well as on Jack’s website (The Balti Club – link here for fabulous photography projects of all kinds) as soon as the photos are developed and interviews are acquired. Do look out for it, but beware of falling in love with every dog you see. You might have to make space in your house for some of them.
And now I had better go, for I am still wearing my clothes from the shelter today, and whilst I have avoided wee and all the other less-than-attractive animal creations, I could probably do with a wash (and an episode of Jane the Virgin. I am not ashamed).
Thank you for reading, as always, and keep an eye out for new updates as I shall try to be more prompt in posting them.
‘Til then, God bless you and all who sail in you,