Our dog ‘Indie’ is a rescue. She had a tough life and it got tougher in rescue. If we were to ask her how she was cared for in rescue, she would say she wasn’t. She was left in a crate in her own urine and faeces. Her nails grew so long she could barely walk. She was just one of many, piled up in the crates above, underneath and around her. She got no exercise. She got no love. Thankfully GalwaySPCA fought and won to have that rescue closed down.
Today we are left with some very good rescue centres. What follows is a behind-the-scenes account of an average day at MADRA – as told to me by one of their amazing staff members. The staff there work tirelessly to do things well, to give the animals that pass through their gates the time, the love and the healing which they need. It’s not all pretty, fluffy puppies and cuddles, long walks on the beach and snuggles on the couch. It’s not all happy endings. It comes with heartbreak and hard work. But to know they are helping those animals that in many cases have been given up on, have been forgotten through no fault of their own, or have ended up in a rescue centre through just plain unfortunate circumstances, is what makes it all worthwhile. The account begins:
The silence of the sea air is broken by the barking of between 35-50 dogs at the sound of the arrival of the two rostered staff members at 8am.
Once their wet weather gear and other protective clothing is on, toilet time begins. First to the cleanest kennels, these dogs have held on all night and will be dying to go out, they are first for their bathroom break. Onto the next cleanest kennels, there might be the odd pee or poo in them, and out go these guys.
Once back in, it is the turn of the kennels with the nervy dogs. These might be the dogs who have never been toilet trained, who are very nervous in kennels, or for some reason just can’t hold on through the night, out they come for their bathroom break. Once everyone has been toileted, it is onto breakfast time (don’t worry, cleaning will come soon enough, but no doggy likes to start their day on an empty belly).
By now it is around nine o’clock and if the staff are lucky they have time for a quick coffee before heading into feeding, cleaning and walking.
After this the two members of staff divide – one of them removing all the layers of wet weather and protective gear, putting on a new pair of gloves and going to tend to any mothers and pups there may be in. These dogs are, where possible, kept in isolation for the safety of both mother and puppy – should any illness hit the kennels as the pups have no vaccination.
Just like the main kennels, mum needs a quick walk if possible, the bedding will need to be changed and the area will need to be scrubbed down and dried and of course the all-important food. If the mother and/or pups are due any medication this will be done now as well.
The other member of staff will go through and feed the others (often with the help of volunteers). In the main area of the kennels the bowls are all filled with a dry kibble, water bowls freshly filled, special diets served and placed in the kennels.
The dogs are assessed when they come in and staff are aware of any dog aggression/food aggression etc, (this is constantly monitored for any changes in behaviour) so there are measures in place for this, keeping dogs separated when needed, but we still keep an eye out in case.
In the two external pens, every dog is fed separately with dogs being penned while eating and dogs living on their own being fed at this time as well. In multi-dog pens, the dogs are walked by volunteers at this stage so that the dogs being fed can be rotated.
In an average day MADRA goes through 20-25 kilos of dry dog food when feeding the dogs, and a small amount of cat food feeding Monkey the Kennel cat.
On a good day there are volunteers out to walk the dogs so that cleaning can be done with less dogs in the kennel area. Everything is removed from the kennel, all toilet waste is removed, Staff are always on the look-out for anything strange in the faeces, worms, blood etc, so that it can be noted and either monitored or treated. Walls and floor are scrubbed and hosed down, beds are cleaned and dried, bedding is changed and old bedding is put out to wash. The food and water bowls are washed and returned.
The washing machine is on the go all day and washing can be seen anywhere it will dry, with a dryer being used when really needed. Once the kennels are done, the aisles and the kitchen are done as well.
All going well a quick bite to eat can be squeezed in around one o’clock, but the phone is never off. The calls are always coming in. People wanting to surrender their dog, people seeing a dog wandering and they don’t know what to do, that person who picked up that dog, one which is well known, always wandering, no collar, not chipped, but it lives at such and such house – spoken to them several times with polite advice, but no luck.
Or the days when a car pulls up the driveway, someone pulls a dog out of the boot of their car, by a piece of rope which is tied tightly around their neck. They ‘found’ it at the end of their road, if we can’t take it they will drop it down at the bog. Even though we are full we know we have to find a space, as they drive off, they say farewell to the dog by name, so much for ‘finding’ the dog. Once this dog is sorted, it is into the afternoon tasks, all dogs need to be exercised again, so between staff and volunteers they are taken out and some quality time spent with them, cuddles, chat and love. The things they need, while they wait for their home.
More cleaning and more feeding, extra feeds to those underweight, sick or mothers feeding pups, and of course the evening feed. More cleaning so that the kennels are tidy for the dogs. Medication given if needed.
Heading toward the end of the day the MADRA van pulls up the driveway, it had been called to make an emergency pickup from another pound, an extra ten dogs. This is on top of the dogs scheduled to come in from the routine pickups from Mayo and Loughrea pounds every week with between 1 and 10 dogs each time.
The driver’s day has been busy too. In between going to the pound, he had vet visits, drop-offs for neutering/speying, collections afterwards, two people to take foster dogs in, one person to take their forever dog and sadly, bringing back a dog who just didn’t work out in the family who took her.
Beds need to be found for these new dogs, the dogs who have been speyed and neutered need to be put in our isolation area as, unfortunately, foster places couldn’t be found for these two, and food needs to be sorted for all.
All of the comings and goings of the dogs need to be written into the log so that each and every little heartbeat that comes and goes through these gates can be accounted for.
This is a day in the kennels, one that goes well, you never know when you are going to have the dog warden arrive with a litter of pups found dumped, a dog injure itself on a fence, a virus run through the kennels, arrive at work to find an emaciated animal with mange and serious injuries tied to the gate and left for dead.
I would love to say that gets easier, that you switch off to it, the longer you are here, but you don’t, there is always that one. Each and every time.
What they say is true, they really do leave tiny paw prints on your heart, and if l had a euro for each and every paw print l had on my heart now, I would have billions to pour into animal welfare.
No one day in rescue is ever the same as another and every rescue needs help.
One thing is for certain, it all starts again the next day. The toileting, the cleaning, the feeding, the need for more help, the stories, the sadness, the cruelty – and it is only getting worse!
To make a €4 donation to GSPCA text PACO to 50300
To make a €4 donation to MADRA text MADRA to 50300