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Volunteering at Dogs Trust is a really rewarding experience

Shauna Loughran

Reporter:

Shauna Loughran

THEY say a dog is man's best friend and there is no place more evident of this than at Dogs Trust Ballymena.

With a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, who all have a real passion for the welfare of each dog that passes through their doors, they work tirelessly to ensure each dog is fed, walked and given all the playtime and attention they need.

The Guardian visited the rehoming centre recently where we met Stephanie Scott,  Home from Home Co-Ordinator and Aimee Bird, Volunteer Co-ordinator.

We also had a chat with a couple who are the proud foster parents to Tasha, a sweet tempered 11 year old Springer Spaniel.

Stephanie and Aimee have similar backgrounds.

They share a love for animals with both undertaking animal related degrees at university.

Aimee also travelled to a cat and dog rescue centre in Thailand.

They both said that working for Dogs Trust is "a dream job".

Stephanie and Aimee stress the importance of volunteers and the generosity of the public in aiding the successful operation of Dogs Trust.

They said: "We welcome volunteers all year round and there are a range of different roles you can help out with - from fundraising to taking the dogs for a walk.

"There are roles such as Canine Assistant where you can help clean out the kennels and engage in puppy socialising.

"There is a range of other volunteering opportunities too, including media support positions and maintenance roles.

"The minimum age for volunteers is 18.

"We have around 50 volunteers at the minute and they come from all over, including Belfast and Portadown.

"We had quite a lot of volunteers during the summer but still need volunteers over the winter period.

"Many people worry that it will be a sad experience but it's the opposite, it's extremely rewarding to watch the dogs flourish and develop personalities as they interact with other animals and people.

"Dogs Trust is open from 12pm-4pm, Monday to Thursday, and Saturday and Sunday.

"We welcome donations from the public and always find a use for duvets, bedding, curtains and towels.

"We also accept tinned meat."

Stephanie said: "As well as volunteering, you can also apply to foster one of our dogs; this will involve a home visit to match you with a suitable dog until they find their forever home.

"Foster carers can also apply to adopt their dog."

The Guardian met two such foster carers, Aimee and Tom, from Banbridge.

They have quickly fallen in love with a Springer Spaniel called Tasha who suffers from Arthritis.

Aimee and Tom recently returned to Northern Ireland after a period living in England.

Both dog lovers, they enquired about fostering a dog from Dogs Trust and their living circumstances were a match for Tasha.

Tasha has proved the perfect match for the pair and Aimee said: "It's such a flexible way of having a dog."

Tom added: "We would eventually love to adopt a dog and this is a great insight to see how well you get on with a particular type or breed of dog.

"You also get all food and vets bills paid."

Aimee said: "It is really rewarding. When we first took Tasha home, she was a wee bit shy but now her personality has come through.

"I think I am going to cry when she has to go, it will definitely be a real wrench. On the other hand though, it will make me happy to know she's off to the loving home she deserves."

Stephanie said: "Fostering is a great way of experiencing the rewards of being a dog owner temporarily if you aren’t in a position to adopt a dog permanently.

"The difference a fosterer can make to a dog is huge.

"They need that human interaction and human contact can make such a big impact.

"It enables us to access the dogs' personalities, continue to improve their overall wellbeing; and find out what would suit them best from their forever home so we can match them up with the most suitable families."

For further information on Dogs Trust, please visit the centre at 60 Teeshan Rd, Fairview, Ballymena BT43 5PN or contact 028 2565 2977.

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