Shelter 22 – 04.08.2018 – Java, Lourinha, Portugal
There’s about 170 dogs, but the main thing for me was the kennels were outside and there was WATER! Powerful, pressure hosepipes! I couldn’t believe how something so simple could make me so happy. Initially the weather was still boiling hot, so the going was tough and at the end of the first day our faces were purple as plums.
I didn’t care though. I just got stuck in with some deep cleaning, via the power of the hose. I moved and cleaned EVERYTHING – walls, ceilings, beds, houses. If it could be hosed, I hosed it! It was nice being in the fresh air again, especially after the previous two shelters. I was left to tackle two big yard areas with about 8 dogs roaming in each. One yard had a row of kennels off, housing two or more dogs. They all had an outside area and enclosed ‘bedroom’ zone. The hosed wet walls kept the ‘bedrooms’ cool while the scorching sun dried everything else within minutes.
We varied the areas we cleaned and when I did the yards again I received help from another volunteer. The weather wasn’t as hot and when I was blasting with my hosepipe she said not to get any water in one bedroom because that dog was ‘dying’. I looked and sure enough there was a black dog slumped in a plastic bed, motionless and covered in flies. Clumps of winter fur clung to his frail body and he looked a sorry state. As instructed, I didn’t get the ‘bedroom’ wet and tried to leave him in peace. I’ve limited experience with older dogs, so in my opinion they were best left alone to sleep.
I was told the same about the old girl in the next kennel. Again she was lying in her bed ‘dying’. She had a large tumour hanging below her stomach and her kennel mate, a young black Lab, was pawing at her, whimpering. I thought he knew she was about to die and he was going to lose his best friend. Instantly I was in tears. I knelt down to comfort her and offered a piece of Rich Tea biscuit, which she ate. She seemed to like it and perked up. Then she got to her feet.
Within seconds the black Lab was having sex with her?! Freaked – yes I was – totally! I said ‘No’ and sprayed him with the hose until he stopped. I moved on to the next kennel, but every time I turned around the Lab was having sex with her. She could barely stand up. I told the volunteer to get someone and eventually the she was moved to a kennel with the other old ‘dying’ dog – much to the torment of the amorous Lab.
There were a few other Oldies dotted around the shelter, so on my last day I decided to give them all a pampering. They got brushed, fed lots of wet food, given blankets and a generous dose of TLC. I made sure our black Lab also got the same, plus a towel toy! Me and Catarina cut up blankets and put them in as many kennels as we could, much to the delight of the dogs. Our Golden Oldies looked great and seemed to gain a new lease of life. When I left the ‘dying’ couple, Concha and Shell, they were both walking around and looked 10 years younger.
It’s easy to overlook the Oldies, in shelters and in life. They are slow and don’t have that youthful glow, but there was a time when they did. They were once young, exuberant and playful. We don’t know what they have seen, or accomplished. The least we can do is give them our time and look kindly on them.
I felt sad and guilty when I thought how many Oldies I must have failed to notice throughout my journey. Yet they are the ones so easily pleased. A little walk and sniff, a brush, a blanket and a biscuit, or two seems to work wonders. Oh yeah, and half a tin of wet food! Just making them feel special for a while, then allowing them to drift back to sleep in a cosy bed. Hopefully they at least won’t shred their blankets!