This week we chatted to our AMAZING volunteers Emily & Paudi. Together they have fostered, rehabilitated and rehomed over 60 dogs. They truly are a gift to KLAWS. This is what they had to say about their experiences with KLAWS so far.
1. Name and a little about yourselves
Emily Turner and Paudie O Keeffe from Caherdaniel and Waterville. Emily is an Irish teacher and Paudie is a mechanic. We ran a garage for years in Kenmare and we live in Sneem.
2. How do you both volunteer with KLAWS?
We adopted a dog from Klaws years ago, a little guy called Fred. He was quite traumatised due to his history, but it was amazing to see him come out of his shell and enjoy life again. We decided about 4 years ago to foster dogs. I mentioned it to Dee at the time and a few days later ended up with Pepper. He was our first foster! Now we still foster, and Emily has become secretary. We also help with transport; collecting or dropping off cats, kittens and dogs. It’s a lot!
3. Why did you become volunteers?
We both love animals, especially dogs and I guess we just wanted to do something to help. Living in rural Ireland we have seen a lot of neglect and abuse of animals over the years, and we wanted to try to help. Working with Klaws just kind of happened but it is now a huge part of our lives. As I write this ,we have just arrived back from dropping a dog to a new home in Fermoy and an update has just come through on Whatsapp of a happy smiley fella chasing a ball!
4. What have you learned from volunteering?
Animals are amazing. They can endure horrible things and still come out the other side wagging their tails. It is incredible just how far a little patience and understanding will go to fixing things. It works with people too. Animal rescue volunteers are also amazing! They go above and beyond to help all the animals in their care, and we couldn’t operate without each other – foster carers, shop volunteers, transporters, admin, social media. Everyone plays a really important role. No matter how small you think the help you can offer is, do it anyway, it means so much more than you can imagine. Volunteering in animal welfare is stressful and hard and energy sapping but totally worth it. You do see the worst of some people, but you also see the absolute best of others.
5. Anything you didn’t expect about volunteering?
The support system from Klaws is great. If you need to vent or cry on someone’s shoulder, there’s always someone there. We have made some amazing friends through the whole process. On the less positive side, the waiting lists are endless, there are always more animals to come in. It can be overwhelming; we really need more fosterers. Also, the training and experience we have in dealing with difficult, troubled, traumatised animals has been hard-earned but is a huge asset to us now.
6. What would you describe as a high point and a low point of your time volunteering?
The high points come with every dog that comes into the house. There’s all the excitement of
collecting him or her from the vet, the pound or the farm. It’s like getting a new dog every few
weeks. Then washing them, cleaning them up, feeding them and working with them. There’s a moment with each of them where they let go of all the horror they have been through and decide that life is good again. You can actually see the moment they “turn into a happy dog” as we say. This makes it worth it. Also, the moment they find their person and head off to a new life. The feedback we get is really great and the happy ending stories keep you going.
The low points that bother me the most is the criticism. People are so quick to judge. If we don’t take a dog or cat immediately that someone wants rid of it, they can be very hostile. We have waiting lists; all animals are waiting in poor conditions, but we are full and we are doing our best. The lack of a sense of responsibility towards animals also upsets us. In this day and age, there should be no unlicensed breeding. Rescues and pounds are full because people suddenly decide the dog is inconvenient, yet people are still breeding dogs. It beggars’ belief. There needs to be a serious move towards educating farmers also. There are some great farmers out there who take care of their dogs but there are many who still believe in locking dogs up in dark dirty sheds, leaving them in their own muck and then expecting them to come out and work once a week. This shows no understanding of a working dog breed or basic animal care. There are also too many who still believe in drowning, hanging and shooting surplus dogs. This should be unacceptable to all of us and the veil of silence surrounding these issues needs to be broken.
7. Any stand out fosters or foster stories?
We have had over 60 dogs pass through our care, some for a short time, some stayed for months. Each and every one of them has a story and has touched us in a different way. As I said before there is a moment with each one where they turn a corner and decide that it’s ok to trust in good things again. The stand-out ones are often the failures. This summer, for the first time, we gave up on a dog. Alfie is in kennels at the moment, he is very nervous and has a lot of issues. We felt we couldn’t help him and there was a big waiting list at the time, so we made the decision to let him go for a while and bring some other less difficult dogs in. It was not a decision made lightly and still bothers us. All going well he’ll be back to us for round two in a few weeks! Paudie often has a tough time with the foster dogs. Unfortunately, it is often men who mistreat them, so they are nervous of men. Anyone considering fostering should bear this in mind. It takes patience and kindness to earn their trust.
8. What would you say to someone considering volunteering?
Do it! You will help animals no matter what aspect of volunteering with Klaws you undertake and you will definitely help ease the pressure on stressed out volunteers. The smallest thing can help. Driving a cat to the vets, a few hours in the shop, helping post on social media, it all adds up. The biggest issue we have at the moment is a lack of fosterers. If anyone could commit to taking a dog or cat even just for a few weeks or one animal per year at a time that suits you, it would make a huge difference. We try to match dogs to fosterers and all they need is a little basic training and some love. My 10-year-old niece once said that is what fosterers do. All the love the dog hasn’t got before, the fosterer takes them in and fills them up with that love they missed out on. Wise words!
The question I get asked most often is how we give them up when they go their new homes. It’s always a bit sad but you reach a point with each dog where your job is done, they are ready for a new life. Once they reach that point it is better for them to move on. And there is always another dog sitting in a cold dirty shed waiting for a space. That’s why we do it – for the next one, and the next one and the one after that!
Previous Volunteer Interviews
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