Helping dogs to find their forever homes can be hugely rewarding. Joanne Bednall talks to Rosemary Salter, a volunteer for 23 years at the UK’s largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust, to find out more.
In 1999 we saw the launch of the Euro, the non-stop circumnavigation of the world by a hot air balloon, the opening of the London Eye and Millennium Dome, and Irish Setter Caspians Intrepid winning Crufts.
But for retired housing association chief executive Rosemary Salter the last year of the 20th century marked the beginning of her connection with a rehoming centre that has endured for more than two decades, and become a major part of her life. A lot has happened at Dogs Trust Shrewsbury over the past 23 years, including a name change and a complete revamp of the centre’s facilities in rural Shropshire. Yet the dedication of staff and volunteers remains the same. Here, Rosemary, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, explains what she loves about being part of the Dogs Trust team, why anyone can volunteer, and the satisfaction she gets from helping hundreds of dogs to find their forever families.
Q) What made you decide to volunteer?
A) “In 1999, I saw an advert in my local paper for dog socialisers at Dogs Trust Roden (as it was then). I had a high-pressure job but had time at the weekends to do something useful and a bit different. I went along for a training session, was given an easy dog to walk, and passed the test. Before I knew it, I was volunteering!”
Q) Do you remember much about your first day?
A) “I was given two dogs to walk who weren’t so easy! One, a collie called Sorcha, was friendly with people but a bit of a wild child and pulled on her lead when she saw other dogs. “The second dog, Max, also a collie, was big, black, and handsome. He distrusted people so I would sit with him until he deigned to come for a walk. When, one day, he greeted me with a big wag of his tail, I was ridiculously pleased.”
Q) What does your current role entail?
A) “I volunteer for two hours, usually on Sundays and Wednesdays. My role enables me to help dogs who are nervous or lacking in confidence to overcome their fears and boost their self-esteem. That includes walking them on-site and sometimes off -site in quiet places, getting them used to being in a car, and brushing them. I am like a cross between a member of the public and staff .”
Q) What might a typical day involve?
A) “I get to the centre at about 1.45pm and walk the dogs currently under my wing. I often take one off -site for an hour or so, perhaps to the local woods or along the canal. “At the moment, I am walking Bichon Frise Toby; Jack, a lovely 14-year-old Jack Russell with health issues who just wants a retirement home; and another, much younger, Jack Russell called Benji, who I’m just getting to know. The last of ‘my’ dogs has recently gone home so I’m waiting to see who’s going to be my new friend!”
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