So two weeks ago on the 5th, I rocked up to the RSPCA for my first day of volunteering at the kennels. I wouldn’t say I’m not a dog person, but I am a little awkward about their 24/7 lingering expectation of affection which tends to be amplified by every sudden tilt of their head and every bewildered blink in their gawking eyes. Granted, my cousins, aunts and uncles had dogs by the dozens and I, too, did have a dog at some point in my life but it was before the age of 3 so I doubt it counts really. Dogs never really get tired of hanging around you.
That’s what I like about cats – they’ll come to check you out, get a little loving from you, purr like you’re the God of massage but eventually, they’ll up and announce they’re exit. They’ll thank you with a final sniff, throw a parting glance at you with their squinty Humphrey Bogart eyes as if to say, “Here’s looking at you, kid – keep ’em claws clean” before they saunter slowly into the sunset to lick their butt or something.
Anyway, I went for the RSPCA dog kennel volunteering course, watched every single episode of Dog Whisperer, read two books on dog behaviour, thinking maybe that’s more than enough for me to be able to teach these unruly canines some manners. You would think walking a dog and having a bit of playtime in the yard would be the simplest thing in the world. I mean, how hard could it be? I was sorely proven wrong. Literally. My hands were red from hanging on to that darn purple leash.
The day began, bright and early at 8:30am, with this boy.
He was the epitome of an eager beaver.
Meet Wombat. So named, for his resemblance to his namesake. He had no tail; not even a little stump…nothing…just butt. If I hadn’t read his background, I would’ve sworn that he wagged his own tail off. He was such a happy dog. He made a point to sniff everything in sight. He even found the ziplock bag of cheese I had in my jacket pocket. He was VERY friendly after that.
Next up was Tassie. I met her during my volunteering training and she was the one dog I was most looking forward to seeing again. She was an absolute doll. Has an issue with jumping while you’re in the kennel with her but as soon as you get her out the door, she’s an image of perfection. Doesn’t pull on the lead, walks calmly beside your knees, lies on the floor and rolls over for a tummy rub when you sit on the bench. *swoon*
I know the picture looks exactly like Wombat but she’s a totally different dog. She’s the kind that would wait patiently on the other side of your front door until you come home. He would be the dog that chewed off the door frame just to get to you when he heard your car in the drive way. Very loving, but just not the same. Besides, she has a tail.
I figured by this point that it was almost time for lunch but I could do another dog…I thought, hey, that little guy next to Tassie would probably be a piece of cake. Enter Aiden. He was slightly older than the 2 collie mixes that I’d walked earlier so I assumed it’d be a more relaxed walked and I wouldn’t have to run a bit to tire him out. But that’s the thing with Jack Russell Terriers…
Turns out you can’t judge a dog by it’s size or age. He was feisty as ever. Fortunately, he had far more manners than the 2 before him. He’d take it slow on the walks but when you sat down with him, he’d go beserk – he’d jump onto the chair, snuggle under your arm for a cuddle, and then in a schizo-alert frenzy, he’d jump off to have a stare down with a nearby crow before jumping back onto your lap for more cuddles.
So then, after 3 nearly hyperactive dogs and 4 hours of walking/playing in the yard, it was my turn to go back to my kennel for some food and water.
I was going to eat in the volunteers room but it was too close to the kennels and you could still hear the dogs barking for their lives. I proceeded to the car park, opened my boot and sat inside it; looking over the open field used for public dog training. *aaahh* The peace and quiet. 🙂
I felt so reenergized from the quiet boot-picnic, that I got a bit gutsy and went straight for Jerry-lee. He was a massive German Shepard (when he was standing on all fours, his shoulders came up to my waist…o.m.g. huge). On the chart outside his kennel, they wrote that he was apprehensive about the collar and pulled on the leash. They didn’t quite express the severity of it all.
Took me a good 10 mintues to get him to let me put the collar on and while I did the Caesar Milan thing – to wait until he settled a bit before going out – he was quite the handful to put it nicely. He dragged me out to the walking trail and I could feel the blood being squeezed out of my hand by the leash. I promptly wrapped the leash around one arm, round my back and over my other shoulder (very Rambo like…I was just missing the bullets) just to stop him from dragging me. He may have outweighed me but by the power of physics, I wasn’t going to be a pushover. Obviously, I was very preoccupied with hanging on to the leash so I couldn’t take any photos of Jerry.
Utterly exhausted from a half hour walk with that bull of a dog, I thought, let’s go with a puppy next. Something not so determined to dislodge all my bones. Enter Bullet. The happiest bull mastiff puppy ever. He was so calm and sweet in the kennel; I figured again, how hard could it be? Famous last words indeed. He was a bundle of nerves on the walk; jumped at every bird, freaked at every crack of branch under my feet, but he had boundless energy. I took him for a bit of a run, hoping that he’d tire out a bit. But after Jerry-lee, I didn’t have enough energy to outrun Bullet.
We sat down in the yard and I put the long lead on him and let him run-freely. He sniffed everything with fervour and after a few failed attempts at playing fetch with him, he finally settled down next to me; his chin on my lap and his body weight leaning against the giant exercise ball I was sitting on. It seemed like he really liked the timeout from being in the kennel. I let him enjoy the quiet for another half hour as he sat lazily next to me watching the other dog walkers and their dogs. At one point, he’d even managed to catch a short nap in our sunny spot in the yard. Definitely a keeper if I was interested in a dog…but he’d grow into a slobbering beast of a dog though…
I decided I wasn’t going to pick and choose a dog anymore because it’s failed all day long. So in the kennel next to Bullet was Zeke, a young male Border Collie/Jack Russell Terrier Mix. He had a similar aura as Bullet; a buzzing furball of energy and pure happiness. I couldn’t get him to sit still for anything (especially since I’d run out of cheese treats) but he loved playing in the yard and I had finally found a dog that knew how to fetch. We played with that tennis ball till he punctured it out of excitement in an epic jump and flip and he caught it in mid-air.
Here was a perfect example of the excellent pedigree that you can find in any shelter. He was so attentive to what we needed to do rather than sniffing the entire world as fast a possible. He was more interested in where we were going on the walk than all the birds that walked by us. He looked up at me to check my response whenever another dog nearby started barking. All he wanted to do was sit in my lap like a little puppy. So he continued with jumping all over me, in every attempt to lie down and fit both his butt and front legs on my lap. Good try buddy; yes you may not be much bigger than a Jack Russell but you’re still a little bit too big. Just as cute as a puppy though.
It’s refreshing to be with animals because all they really care about is you. Not your work, not your status, not your money and certainly not your flaws. All they really care for is some food, a pat and to be near you. If only we could be so nice to the people around us, the world would be such a loving place.
I am not your dog, but if every time you saw me, you gave me a backrub, I would run to greet you too. ~Robert Brault