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Please tell us a little bit about yourself

We are Martin and Gerry, originally from The Netherlands. We’re a retired couple and moved to Ireland nine years ago, together with our Belgian shepherd Benji and our ginger cat Chester. My husband Martin worked here when he was a student almost 50 years ago, during summer in a hotel, met some wonderful people and came back ever since. We renovated an old farmhouse, started a vegetable garden, and we have two collies now, cats and hens. We are enjoying life in South-West Kerry very much.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer with an animal rescue charity and how do you volunteer with KLAWS?

During the pandemic, when we had no trips abroad planned and no family coming over, we started fostering dogs. Because we had the time, our daily walks on the beach, and enough space around the house. It was a positive experience for us, as dog lovers. But our oldest collie, now 10 years old, wasn’t very happy with our initiative… With every new foster dog entering the house I saw this text balloon over his head “Oh no! Not another one!” Now we foster only occasionally, short-term and if there are no other options available for the dog.

Gradually we became more involved. We help with transporting dogs, and I’m co-ordinating the dog fostering and together with team members Julia and Kaetie I am responsible for rehoming the adult dogs.

What have you learnt from volunteering?

What I learned…. That volunteering is not so very different from having a responsible job! Sometimes responsibilities can weigh heavily on you, and then it’s just not possible to turn your back on animals in distress. Or people.

Is there anything about volunteering that you didn’t expect?

I didn’t expect the complexity and challenges of the whole organisation. Rescuing and knowing that we can’t rescue every animal. Transport. Food. Vet care. Kennels. Lots of paperwork. Money (never enough). Transparency. Working together.

When there are difficulties, I fortunately have my husband who always listens and says sensible things. If something has gone wrong, I take some time to think over all the steps that were taken and try to learn from it. Or I conclude that it was just a matter of bad luck. I’m fortunate to be in the dog team with two great teammates who always find the time to discuss a problem.

We know that working with rescue animals can be challenging — it can be stressful and heart-breaking at times. How do you cope with difficulties?

There are many rewarding aspects in our work. Seeing a dog come to life, gradually becoming a happy and confident dog. The hard work a fosterer puts in, and then the joy (and the tears!) when a dog finds a great home. The posts on the KLAWS happy ever after Facebook page, always a great pleasure to read. And especially the happiness of an elderly adopter, who sees their life transformed with a well-matched dog.

What have been the high and low points of your time as a volunteer? Maybe you have some standout (foster) stories to tell?

I would like to mention one very special dog: Sam. Sam was rescued from a farm. We brought him to his first foster home and during the whole trip he laid like frozen on the back seat. He hid under the desk for several weeks. His foster mom was endlessly patient with him and finally he had enough courage to ask for a cuddle. But he kept running away as soon as he was outside. Very stressful. After a second long period in another great foster home a wonderful couple in the North adopted him. And after almost a year in KLAWS’ care he finally found his forever home. That is six months ago now and Sam is thriving. He can run in the woods for hours, but always comes back, knows his family and his companion dog. He is a free spirit, happy at last.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about volunteering?

If you are thinking about volunteering for KLAWS, do! There are so many different tasks. There’s always something that appeals to you. And when you have started and it seems chaotic, just ask for help and advice! Every one of us started as a volunteer once, we all had to learn, and we all made (and make) mistakes.

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