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Are you all volunteers ?

Are you all volunteers ?

Rambings of a crazy dog lady

I often get asked if all the people working at dogtown are volunteers. How awesome would it be if we could find enough people that could give their time freely everyday. Our staff bill is one of our biggest costs along with food and vet care, so having people who could work for free every day would be awesome for the bank balance, but sadly the reality is, in South Africa very few people can afford to commit consistently to a full time job with no pay. When you are working with animals consistency is important for their learning and a rehabilitation centre like Dogtown could not survive with just part time volunteers.

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The truth of the matter is it takes a lot of dedicated people to make a shelter run smoothly. If most of the staff here could work for the love of a dog they would but to find 30 people who can work for free and within a set time frame is virtually impossible or it has been for us. We also require our staff to be well versed in scientific based animal behaviour and training and not everyone is up to study another 2 years to learn all this valuable information. The only way we have been able to create the enrichment and training programmes and to put them in place is to have someone employed in that position to make sure that happens when it is supposed to happen.
Dogs thrive on consistency, just run a few minutes late with breakfast and dinner and they will let you know about it. When dogs know what to expect it helps them relax and reduces anxiety. If you think about it, sitting there in limbo not knowing what’s going on would not be fun for us either. Although we don’t realise it our own lives pretty much thrive on consistency to. We like to know when the alarm goes off we get up, eat brekkie and head to work, we head home spend time with the family and sleep. It’s not that different for a shelter dog.
What’s important is to make their day full of fun and learning expereinces, every day. They wake up, have a little chat with their neighbours, await room service enjoy breakfast, then its off to gym to walk about the mountain then to school to learn new stuff and to play with friends. A little siesta then some more school and then dinner time, night time biscuit and sleep. Although their school lessons are different every day they know that come 08h30 its time for school and they are thrilled to pack their snacks and head to class. You see this schedule helps them enjoy their day knowing only fun things will be happening and they don’t need to worry what the day will bring. That alone for a dog in a shelter makes their lives so much happier.

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Now with 179 dogs, thats a lot of staff needed to give this kind of care. We limit 10 dogs per caregiver that way we know every dog can go out and have a one on one session with their caregiver, either in the play area, a walk or training class, each and every day.  At Dogtown our areas are called octagons and each octagon takes up an acre where roughly 20 dogs live. Each octagon has 2 full time caregivers whose job it is to make sure, their enrichment and training schedules are kept and all their needs are met each and every day. At Dogtown we currently have 7 octagons and an area built specifically for doggies scared of thunder called Thunderville. Each of these areas have 2 dedicated caregivers and 4 assistants work between the octagons. There’s 3 behaviourists, who work alongside the caregivers each day helping them work through any issues the dogs maybe having, then there’s some maintenance staff a farm of 50 acres sure is a lot of work. Then of course there are our precious admin, adoption, fundraising team that take your calls and emails and generally take all the none dog care related work away from the caregivers, so they can focus on what they do best.
Then apart from Dogtown we have dedicated staff that run the barkingmad website loading dogs from all over the country looking for loving homes, helping network, arrange home checks and sterilisations and arrange the click to feed food to be distributed. Before you know it thats 30 people and I personally fall into every category at sometime or another along with making our little videos. What’s a little concerning is people never want to support staff initiatives they are happy to give for the dogs but not so much for the humans who dedicate their lives to helping those very dogs and I totally understand we often forget there is a human taking care of the dog. People begrudge them having a salary and think they should do the job for free, yet they themselves couldn’t do it for free. These magical free full time staff are just that a magical fantasy dream that would be awesome if it came true. Its quite sad to see how happy they all get when someone sends a little spoil for the staff, something simple like a cake or rusks can make them all feel so appreciated. Of course being the lone vegan here at Dogtown Im always just grateful for the thought he he.

Well that my ramblings for the week. I just wanted you to know that we have the most dedicated and woofderful staff who work for very little but give it their all. Thank you for helping us save more lives.