A Dog's Life

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There are lots of voluntary roles at Dogs Trust Manchester, based in Denton, from welcoming visitors to visiting the homes of families who want to adopt a dog. On Saturday morning I helped out as a Canine Assistant. The shift began at 8.30am and I arrived slightly earlier to meet Claire the Volunteer Co-ordinator. I had already had a tour of the complex and had been very impressed by the kennels and exercise areas. It is quite obvious how much everyone who works there love dogs and care about their welfare. The day started with a staff briefing about the dogs that were being re-homed and the new dogs arriving. This handover reminded me of the hospital which was an odd thought to have. It might have been because I was volunteering for the hospital so it was fresh on my mind but it was something about the care and consideration of the dogs and the logistics of ensuring that kennels were full and the animals were well cared for. Just like the logistics of patients leaving hospital and freeing up beds for the new patients while providing the best care in hospital. I went with Claire to a section of the complex called ‘booked’ where the dogs were getting ready to go home. Staff members feed the dogs and administer medication if necessary. I think this was partly why I had hospitals on my mind. I washed the bowls that were coming back and met a volunteer called Michelle. Michelle was extremely friendly and had volunteered for Dogs Trust with the first set of volunteers when it opened. She was very passionate about volunteering for Dogs Trust and told me how much she loved it. We worked together to clean some of the kennels. The staff put the dogs in the back of the kennel and we checked their bedding, mopped the floor and refreshed the water. I asked Michelle if she had volunteered anywhere else and she said no but her father who lived in the South volunteered. Michelle felt that now her children were older that this was a time for her and usually volunteered all day Saturday.

After cleaning the kennels and saying hello to the dogs it was coffee time to allow the dogs to digest their food. As we had coffee in the staff room Michelle told me how friendly the staff were and how they made you feel part of Dogs Trust. Claire explained how important volunteers were to Dogs Trust and how much staff value them. After coffee it was time for what Michelle described as the “fun bit”. We went into the exercise areas with toys and treats and played with each of the dogs for a while. Each area had boxes, ramps, sand and fake grass. I made the mistake of sitting on the green turf forgetting it had been raining and getting my trousers wet in the process.

As the dogs spent time in the area they were happy to run about and do that thing that dogs do on the fake grass. With some treats the dogs are happy to do tricks like shake a paw and sit. They like playing with the toys and generally being fussed. The dogs love life. Some of them came from the dog pound as ‘8th day’ dogs (many dogs are put to sleep if their owners don’t collect them from the dog pound after 7 days). The dogs I played with had all been ‘booked’ to go to what Dogs Trust calls their forever homes, to a loving family either today or sometime in the near future.

I was playing with one of the dogs Theo when I asked Michelle what breed he was. Michelle told me he was a Staffordshire bull terrier. I was surprised. He seemed a lovely dog and Michelle said that we can have a preconceived idea about a breed that might turn out to be untrue. When I had visited Dogs Trust in the past I had been surprised by how much I like Greyhounds and I had a very different idea of them once I had spent time with a few. Michelle said after her first day of volunteering she had felt exhausted but now had got used to it. Many volunteers don’t do a full day like Michelle but a morning or afternoon shift. I also did just a morning but I felt a sense of accomplishment of spending some time with these dogs that are so happy and full of life.

To find the dog of your dreams or learn more about volunteering you can go to www.dogstrust.org.uk/our-centres/manchester/