K9 FRIENDS

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How of­ten do healthy, happy an­i­mals fit into our def­i­ni­tion of a well-rounded, func­tional so­ci­ety or com­mu­nity? Not of­ten enough, we learn dur­ing a trip to the K9 Friends dog shel­ter in Jebel Ali, Dubai that is cur­rently home to 140 dogs.

The fa­cil­ity’s man­age­ment di­rec­tor Alis­ter Milne told us about the acute need for vol­un­teers at the shel­ter: ‘Last Satur­day there was only one per­son in the of­fice and they had to an­swer 57 phone calls, which meant they couldn’t do any­thing else.’

There’s plenty to be done at the 28-yearold es­tab­lish­ment, from res­cu­ing aban­doned and abused pooches to frontlin­ing (treat­ing them for flea and ticks) to de-worm­ing them and dis­pens­ing med­i­ca­tions to the ca­nines that need them, to hom­ing them – match­ing them to suit­able adop­tive fam­i­lies. That’s just the ken­nels. In the of­fice, work ranges from an­swer­ing phone calls to vet­ting po­ten­tial adopters.

‘These are just our main daily chores, but if we’ve got quite a few vol­un­teers we then have enough peo­ple who can get them [the dogs] out of the ken­nels and so­cialise with them, give them a good brush and bathing,’ says Jake Men­zies, a vol­un­teer. ‘It’s amaz­ingly help­ful to have more vol­un­teers be­cause we can get so much done.’

Jake, 22, has been vol­un­teer­ing at the ken­nels for over three years now and like ev­ery K9 vol­un­teer, started out shad­ow­ing ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers. He makes no bones about how tough and of­ten heart-break­ing vol­un­teer­ing at the shel­ter can be due to short­age of man­power and the ter­ri­ble cases of abused an­i­mals that come in. Sha­nia Klokone, an 18-year-old gap year stu­dent who has been vol­un­teer­ing with K9 for 10 months, tells us the heart-rend­ing story of a dog who came in a metal cage in the back of a truck in the hot heat of sum­mer: ‘There was only this one vol­un­teer who worked re­lent­lessly with her and trans­formed that dog into a happy wag-a-tail an­i­mal.’

Peo­ple de­velop bonds with dogs all the time, says Alis­ter: ‘but it’s strange be­cause the more you like and love a dog, the more you hope you never see them again. We had a dog, Si­mon the Saluki, that had been with us for three years af­ter he was found in an ac­ci­dent with a bro­ken leg. He was homed four months ago and I had two vol­un­teers who were in tears.’

Says Jake: ‘An­i­mals don’t have a voice so they can’t shout for help, which makes it even more im­por­tant that we find time to help them.’

How to vol­un­teer at K9 Friends

K9 hosts vol­un­teer cof­fee morn­ings on the sec­ond Sun­day of each month open to every­one over 18. Ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers ex­plain what they’re look­ing for and those in­ter­ested can sign up. Peo­ple keen to work in the ken­nel have to at­tend a two-hour train­ing ses­sion the fol­low­ing week and shadow ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers un­til they’re sure-footed. ‘We get peo­ple who have grown up with dogs and peo­ple who’ve never han­dled an­i­mals,’ Alis­ter ex­plains. If rough­ing it out and get­ting dirty in the ken­nels isn’t your cup of tea, then there’s plenty other things you can do. ‘We’ve got vol­un­teers who only do vet runs for us: they come in, pick a dog up, take it to the vet get it neutered or treated for bruises.’

Start­ing Oc­to­ber, the shel­ter will restart their dog-walk­ing pro­gramme: make an ap­point­ment, pick up a dog, take it for a walk (the shel­ter will give you a list of places dogs can be walked), and bring it back by 5.30pm. ‘It’s a bril­liant way for us to get our dogs out, es­pe­cially high-en­ergy breeds that re­ally need ex­er­cise,’ Alis­ter ex­plains.

‘The big­gest prob­lem is the hours we’re open – 9am-1pm – and try­ing to find peo­ple who are free to come in dur­ing the week. Sum­mer is dif­fi­cult as our vol­un­teers are trav­el­ling and there aren’t enough vol­un­teers to train new ones.’

Call 04 8878739 or visit k9friends.com.

Sha­nia, 18, has vol­un­teered with K9 for 10 months; 22-year-old Jake is a reg­u­lar – he’s been help­ing out at the Jebel Ali shel­ter for three years

Sum­mer is one of the shel­ter’s most chal­leng­ing times since many reg­u­lar vol­un­teers travel, says di­rec­tor Alis­ter Milne

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