Portuguese Volunteers

Over the years that Aanifeira has been operating, many Portuguese volunteers have passed through and given a much needed helping hand in very difficult times.  Volunteers have helped out not only at the shelter itself but also in many other fields of work i.e. accounting, architecture, internet site, publicity, fundraising, nursing, veterinary, etc.

For the volunteers of today working at the shelter, the conditions are a far cry from the old days when there were no changing rooms, toilets or even a place to have lunch!   They would arrive in groups in cars changing into old overalls, long sleeved shirts and put on gum boots to brave the sometimes muddy and wet conditions.  With hair tied back from the face, a hat would be donned and with a deep sigh the day’s work would get underway, braving the strong smell of cleaning boxes, mopping floors, washing out bowls, filling water bowls and feeding as well as generally trying to control 800 or so barking and happy dogs the best way possible.

The old cattle boxes in the main pavilion had rough floors which were totally unfit for dog’s paws and quite often extra water would catch in the crevices making the floors extremely damp and wet in the winter time.  Volunteers would often pass several hours mopping up floors very slowly to ensure that as much water as possible was seeped up.

Old wooden pallets were used as bedding – some dogs only had a pallet to sleep on whilst others had plastic beds on tops of pallets – times were indeed tough.  Campaigns for donating plastic beds were done a regular basis to try and solve this problem and eventually enough plastic beds were arranged.  A total of 80 boxes, always with 3, 4 or even 5 dogs in them, had to be cleaned in one day with more work to be done in cleaning and treating the animals that were kept in the outside part of the shelter.  These dogs had a kennel and over this a corregated iron roof to protect them from the bad weather but this was our worst enemy as flooding was frequent and everything turned to mud.

Dogs were also occupying the main corridors of the pavilion so care had to be taken in not letting them escape whilst moving in and out the gates of boxes.  I remember many a time running after a dog(s) that escaped into the corredor – free at last – catching it and, very sadly, having to put it back into its box.

Lunch – well lunch for me is always important and a sandwich outside in the sunshine was eaten in a short but pleasurable break!  Other volunteers quite often couldn’t eat as the smell on their clothing was so strong so a cigarette and a drink of bottled water was sufficient and then it was all back to work to finish the job before the end of the day.

Before going home, everyone changed back into clean clothes, dumping their dirty ones into plastic bags and pulled out large bottles of water from the boots of their cars to wash hands and faces to freshen up.

This was only one day in a week – Saturday, when Aanifeira had the majority of their Portuguese volunteers to help out so after we had left to go home, our thoughts would ALWAYS go out to the animals for the rest of the week thinking of them in these terrible conditions.  The work for these other days was handled by only 2 people doing the best possible job they could at the time.

The first groups of volunteers that passed through Aanifeira gave their time unselfishly and generously to help the animals and we are extremely grateful to them all.  Many of them, although now unable to do volunteer work due to other committments, have remained good friends and we deeply appreciate all they have done over the years.

Over the years that Aanifeira has been operating, many Portuguese volunteers have passed through and given a much needed helping hand in very difficult times. Volunteers have helped out not only at the shelter itself but also in many other fields of work i.e. accounting, architecture, internet site, publicity, fundraising, nursing, veterinary, etc.

For the volunteers of today, conditions in those days were a far cry from the old days when there were no changing rooms, toilets or even a place to have lunch! Volunteers would arrive in groups in cars, change into old overalls, long sleeved shirts and put on gum boots to brave the sometimes muddy and wet conditions. With hair tied back from the face, a hat would be donned and with a deep sigh the day’s work would get underway, braving the strong smell of cleaning boxes, mopping floors, washing out bowls, filling water bowls and feeding as well as generally trying to control 800 or so barking and happy dogs the best way possible.

The old cattle boxes in the main pavilion had rough floors which were totally unfit for dog’s paws and quite often extra water would catch in the crevices making the floors extremely damp and wet in the winter time. Volunteers would spend several hours mopping up floors very slowly to ensure that as much water as possible was seeped up.

Old wooden pallets were used as bedding – some dogs only had a pallet to sleep on whilst others had plastic beds on tops of pallets – times were indeed tough. Campaigns for donating plastic beds were done a regular basis to try and solve this problem and eventually enough plastic beds were arranged. A total of 92 boxes, always with 3, 4 or even 5 dogs in them, had to be cleaned in one day with more work to be done in cleaning and treating the animals that were kept in the outside part of the shelter. These dogs had a kennel and over this a corrugated iron roof to protect them from the bad weather but this was our worst enemy as flooding was frequent and everything turned to mud.

Dogs were also occupying the main corridors of the pavilion so care had to be taken in not letting them escape whilst moving in and out the gates of boxes. I remember many a time running after a dog(s) that escaped into the corridor – free at last – catching it and, very sadly, having to put it back into its box.

Lunch – well lunch for me is always important and a sandwich outside in the sunshine was eaten in a short but pleasurable break!  Other volunteers quite often couldn’t eat as the smell on their clothing was so strong so a cigarette and a drink of bottled water was sufficient and then it was all back to work to finish the job before the end of the day.

Before going home, everyone changed back into clean clothes, dumping their dirty ones into plastic bags and pulled out large 5 lt. bottles of water from the boots of their cars to wash hands and freshen up faces.

This was only one day in a week – Saturday, when Aanifeira had the majority of their Portuguese volunteers to help out so after we had left to go home, our thoughts would ALWAYS go out to the animals for the rest of the week thinking of them in these terrible conditions. The work for these other days was handled by only 2 people doing the best possible job they could at the time.

The first groups of volunteers that passed through Aanifeira gave their time unselfishly and generously to help the animals and we are extremely grateful to them all.  Many of them, although now unable to do volunteer work due to other commitments, have remained good friends and we deeply appreciate all they have done over the years.

Today’s volunteers at Aanifeira are a new generation and they come from close by to far afield. They are keen to work with the animals and help wherever possible.  With a reduced number of animals, cleaning and feeding is now handled by two full time staff leaving extra time for the volunteers to exercise animals, do basic health check-ups, attend to the cats in the cattery, bath dogs and do general duties such as cleaning and sorting clothing donations, helping out at local fairs, manning the Aanifeira Christmas stand, etc.

We enjoy their company and very much appreciate their work and you can view some of them in the photo gallery below.

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