Kitty O’Brien has de­voted her life to mak­ing bet­ter lives for an­i­mals

Noosa Life and Style - - NEWS - ALAN LAN­DER

MEET Kitty O’Brien from Noosa’s RSPCA an­i­mal shel­ter. But with a name like Kitty, do the dogs miss out? Not at all – in fact, they’re bet­ter off than ever.

KITTY is a dog per­son.

Yep, de­spite the name, long-time RSPCA Noosa shel­ter staffer Kitty O’Brien’s fam­ily be­stowed her with a fe­line name, but a great love and un­der­stand­ing of dogs.

“My first pref­er­ence is dogs, but I’ve learned so much about cats here, too. They’re amaz­ing and mis­un­der­stood a lot of the time,” she said.

But Kitty is a tra­di­tional name in her once Mel­bourne-based, for­merly Dutch fam­ily.

“Mum’s sis­ter is Kitty and Mum’s mother is Kitty. “To this day all the girls (at RSPCA) laugh when I

It’s so im­por­tant to ed­u­cate peo­ple about an­i­mals. — KITTY O’BRIEN

an­swer the phone and say ‘Kitty speak­ing’. In­vari­ably the per­son makes a joke about it and the girls will be laugh­ing in the back­ground.”

Kitty is the con­sum­mate an­i­mal carer, hav­ing vowed to work with them while still at school, then achiev­ing and main­tain­ing that goal with a Mel­bourne RSPCA shel­ter, Guide Dogs and work­ing in vet­eri­nary prac­tices, un­til age 25.

“Dad and I al­ways had a thing for dogs, horses, and any an­i­mal I would see I would have to meet ... I just had an affin­ity with them,” Kitty said.

“Even as a kid, we had a huge back­yard and my first birth­day present was a golden re­triever. When­ever Mum couldn’t find me she didn’t worry as she knew I was with the dog.”

The move to Noosa Shire was the re­sult of a 1980s hol­i­day.

“I loved it here – and I met my hus­band here so moved up and have stayed ever since.

They’ve since brought a child into the world – Alec, now 16 – af­ter win­ning a 10-year IVF bat­tle.

“I never thought I could (give birth) but I did. “Now he’s a good golfer and he’s al­ways had an­i­mals around him.

“He’s been used to me bring­ing home every­thing from kit­tens to pup­pies. He loves pup­pies. He picks up things with other peo­ple; you can tell he’s lis­tened to me over the years on how to look af­ter an­i­mals.

“It’s so im­por­tant to ed­u­cate peo­ple about an­i­mals.” That’s a re­cur­ring theme with Kitty, who is pas­sion­ate about help­ing peo­ple to bet­ter un­der­stand an­i­mals’ needs not only for love, but train­ing, so­cial­i­sa­tion with peo­ple and other an­i­mals, and reg­u­lar ex­er­cise.

And she wishes that one day the Noosav­ille shel­ter would be able to ex­pand so the team could hold ed­u­ca­tional classes on an­i­mal train­ing, and be able to add a qual­ity vet­eri­nary clinic to the shel­ter’s ser­vices.

Eigh­teen years from when she started as a vol­un­teer, and now a key part of the shel­ter’s core team, Kitty said she had de­vel­oped a great work­ing re­la­tion­ship with man­ager Nicole Cleary, who has been on board for 20 years.

“Nic and I have worked to­gether for so long we un­der­stand each other well; we wanted the same things.”

And dur­ing that time, the shel­ter has turned from a fairly dingy set of hold­ing pens to a spe­cial place.

“There was an old house at the front, a di­lap­i­dated old place; I think Nic might have been liv­ing in it back then. “Then we did up the cat­tery and ken­nels.

“Just do­ing the place up, mak­ing it more invit­ing, tend­ing to the prop­erty as well as an­i­mals has made all the dif­fer­ence.

“Peo­ple some­times find it re­ally dif­fi­cult to visit places like this, but we en­cour­age them to; it’s great so­cial­i­sa­tion for the an­i­mals.

“Even for kids who have prob­lems with fear (of an­i­mals), hav­ing been bit­ten, we can bring them slowly through so they get used to them.”

The work is hard, but the re­wards are huge, such as when a dog or cat finds a new home.

“I’ve fos­tered a lot, taken a lot home.

“We al­ways have two dogs, and I can’t help get­ting at­tached to them, but re­al­is­ti­cally you can’t take ev­ery one of them home, so you pre­pare them for adop­tion. “When they are, it’s a big cel­e­bra­tion.

“Years ago it took a lot longer to re-home them – with some it might have taken six months, and there’s ex­cite­ment and ela­tion with ev­ery one.

“When it hap­pens we ring those (staff) on their day off and say ‘guess who got re-homed to­day’, and to us that’s huge be­cause it’s not just a job – you ded­i­cate your life to this.

“You go home think­ing about them, you just ded­i­cate your life to them.”

RSPCA Noosa shel­ter staffer Kitty O’Brien gives some spe­cial at­ten­tion to long-time “guest” Mar­cella.


Kitty O'Brien with shel­ter guest, shorthair cat Felix.

Kitty O'Brien at the gates of RSPCA Noosa shel­ter. PHOTO: ALAN LAN­DER

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