Tameside Animal Shelter houses cats, dogs and even some chickens in Hyde. Volunteers help out there to walk the dogs, feed and clean the animals and keep the cats company among other things. I met Gareth the manager who said they have many volunteers who sign up but few that stay long term. This is a downside to needing volunteers because they are voluntary and can chose to move on if they wish. The shelter was very busy during my time there. People were dropping in to look for a pet. Others came in to drop off bedding and blankets because they were moving house. One man came on the search for his dog that had gone missing three weeks ago. I felt very sorry for the man as he left and hoped he could be reunited with his pet. I met Jonathan from Canada who was a volunteer at the shelter as he was taking out a dog to walk. He volunteered when he first arrived in the UK because he didn’t have a job. He now works part time and drops in to help walk the dogs when he can. A pair of kittens was dropped off by a lady who was working with someone who couldn’t care for them. The kittens were extremely sweet but very frightened. Gareth said they would be taken into an isolation area first to settle in and then would be taken to the cat room to hopefully find new owners.

I visited the cat room to meet the cats and they looked at me from their cages with interest. They seemed happy and each had toys and food. Each cat had a description pinned to their cage if someone took an interest in having one. One black one caught my eye; it was there because its owner had to go into a care home. I felt sorry for the owner, and for the cat, that they had to be separated. I was worried for a moment that my family would suddenly find I had brought home ten cats. Maybe it would just be best to visit the cats here at the shelter for the time being. That would be a good thing about volunteering here; time with animals without having a chewed up sofa.

I came back the next day and helped with the cats who were boarding at the shelter. I checked their bedding, cleaned the litter tray, and mopped where they were kept. I carefully followed the feeding instructions for each cat. There were several gates to stop the cats from escaping which was handy because one of the cats sneaked past me to get at its food which I had left just outside the gate while I wrestled with a mop and bucket. An important lesson learnt; animals will follow food. It was the first time I had ever fed cats or cleaned out litter trays. I am not the biggest fan of clearing up litter trays I felt happy to do it for the cats as they were lovely and it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to look after them. I guess it’s a bit like being a mum. Messy at first but you soon get the hang of it.

In the office a bat had been brought in from a nearby garden. The man who brought it to the shelter didn’t know whether it was dead or hibernating. A group of people were staring at it when I left. They were pretty sure that it had already died. When I returned a couple of days later it turned out the bat was dead after all. It had looked pretty small. I went to see the cats again and it felt really lovely to see them and give them a stroke. One of the cats had been taken home. There were lots of volunteers today including Andy who was volunteering for the first time. I asked him why he was volunteering and he said it was to do something different to his day job and get more satisfaction. He had come in on his holidays which he rarely takes. Andy was cleaning out the dogs when I left. Lots of the other volunteers were laughing and getting stuck in even though the weather was terrible and snow was falling. Many of them were young and seemed to really love the animals. It is important to remember how many animals are left abandoned and how important it is to have shelters willing to take them in. Helping at the shelter may be messy at times but the animals make it worthwhile and are extremely happy to see you.