We meet Margaret, who volunteers everywhere!
Please tell us a little bit about your life outside of BCDH
My life is quite busy, as I lead a twice monthly Craft and Chat group at my local church, preparing the activities and finding all the resources, usually linked to special events, or a random piece of crafting material, i.e. National Pet Week involved drawing and watercolour painting, and zip brooches.
I am also a volunteer at a local residential home for the elderly, where I am often seen leading craft activities with the residents, or even just chatting to them (especially about my volunteering at BCDH as so many elderly people have to give up their pets when they enter residential homes).
How long have you been volunteering at BCDH?
Since my retirement about 7 years ago.
What do you do here?
Apart from getting in the way, or walking with muddy boots on the newly washed floors?
Tuesday Mornings: Puppy socialising (if there are any puppies) or socialising other dogs resident in Roy Hulbert kennels. Some dogs are extremely scared or have had little positive experience of the outside world, others may have come from overseas with unknown history. Accompanied by my friend Andrea we try to gain the confidence of all the dogs, either in the paddocks or the Assessment Room (real-life room) exposing them to everyday experiences or equipment, noting our actions and animal observations which we feed back to the Behaviour Assessors.
Afternoons: Cat socialising in Hurle Cattery, from trying to befriend extremely scared cats, especially new arrivals, to handling kittens in the presence of their mums to help them gain confidence in humans. Some of the cats in Hurle have had challenging lives in the outside world and have little confidence in humans, or may have suffered significant injuries – my role is to try and help them heal physically and mentally, getting used to people who care about them.
When time permits: gardening in the Roy Hulbert kennel gardens. This garden is planted up with dog friendly plants specifically chosen to help the dogs in the kennels around the garden. We also do Open Paw with dogs in RH so that they get used to us being around whilst we’re gardening.
Pets at Home collections: promoting BCDH whilst doing a bucket collection in the local store. Meeting members of the public, their (usually) canine friends (some former residents of BCDH), and getting to know the store staff and how they encourage donations via the till within their store.
Bath Half Marathon: volunteering for the Bath Half means BCDH receive money for all the volunteers they are able to supply to help with the smooth running of the Bath Half. Previous years’ areas of support at the Bath Half have been in the de-chipping area (removing the microchips from the runners’ shoes when they come over the finish line), and the baggage area (receiving runners bags before the start and returning them to them once they have completed the run). This is a great way of sharing the work of BCDH with volunteers from other organisations such as Bath University.
Wag Walk: I can usually be found in the Registration tent at the start of the Wag Walk, meeting well behaved dogs and their owners, checking them in for the walk against their pre-registered booking. At the end of the Wag Walk I am usually at the other end of the field welcoming and checking them back in (making sure everyone is checked in before the walk is closed).
Shining the light on BCDH through stalls such as Kelston Vets 1st Anniversary celebration.
Crafting: Not officially on my volunteering list, but I sometimes make things for the Bath Fundraising Group to sell on their pop-up stalls. This combines my two big passions.
Why did you want to volunteer for BCDH?
I was asked by my friend Andrea who I met through the Weston Village Gardening Club when we were involved in designing a garden for a local school. She had just enquired about volunteering in the Small Animals section of BCDH and wondered if I fancied doing it too. Having a love of animals, but no pets of my own, it seemed a great opportunity.
Whilst volunteering with the small animals we were asked if we would also like to work with some cats in the nearby cattery and it really grew from there. Initially we worked with rabbits and guinea pigs, but were introduced to chinchillas and ferrets! Sadly the small animals unit closed but we were then asked if we would like to work with dogs as well as cats.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
Seeing the transformation of some of the more challenging cases that come through the doors.
To be accepted by a scared dog, so much that she wants to sit on your lap where once she was scared to even come into the paddock because she had to walk past your bag near the entrance. Or the cat that has been so scared or shut-down that it would only hiss or growl at you initially, to gradually come out of its bed and eventually accept strokes from you, purring loudly expressing its pleasure.
It’s not only working with animals that is satisfying, it’s knowing that you feel appreciated by the staff too. I feel blessed to be a part of the BCDH team, albeit unpaid, but then no money can reward me for the way I feel when a small step is made by a dog or cat I have worked with.
What would you like to say to anyone considering volunteering for BCDH?
Go for it! You may not necessarily feel comfortable working directly with a dog or a cat, but there are so many opportunities in which you can make a difference to the lives of these animals. Some people may have allergies to animals, but they can support the Home in different ways perhaps by volunteering in the Shops. They may not be able to commit to a regular day each week, but perhaps they can support at a bucket collection fundraiser in the City centre, or help at the Bath Half.
» Go see our current volunteer vacancies available