By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times
UBUD ~ No, absolutely not. I could never volunteer at an animal refuge.”
These are the words I hear so often and truly, I do understand. I know you are an animal lover and because of that you just can’t allow your heart to be broken. You would just HAVE to bring all those cute, lovable, needy little puppies and kittens home and it would tear your insides out if you had to leave without them. After all, they don’t know that you will be back. NO, no, no! Just can’t do it.
But volunteers will tell you a very different story and it is simply this: they love it. However, it wasn’t always easy and many of them went through the same dilemma.
During my trip home in February, I accompanied my friend Niki Selig to the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge Shelter, SCARS. Niki could easily be gracing any of the Sunshine Coast beaches of a Sunday but she and her sister, Monika, choose to arrive at SCARS at 6:30am, without fail, every Sunday unless they are out of the country and that is their only excuse. They are particularly careful not to have a hangover as exuberant dogs could make it feel like a jackhammer in one’s head.
Niki and a group of approximately 11 other volunteers feed, clean out the cat and dog runs, walk the dogs, wash and hang out a hundred-zillion towels and fold the dry ones, get everything prepared for the caretaker who comes in the afternoon and they leave around 11:30am. And it’s not all hard slog; they have morning tea about 10am. This was the time for me to find out who these people really are and what could prompt them to give up their Sunday sleep-in.
Many of them work in the coast’s hospitals but then within the hospitals their jobs are diverse, ranging from administration to rehabilitation nursing. There is also an IT manager and Niki and Monika are jewelers in their father’s successful business.
The conversation during morning tea was about individual dog and cat’s needs. Black Betty’s adoption brought joy to all at the table. Black in colour, as her name suggests, Black Betty is an older dog and that’s why they were most happy. Older dogs and cats are harder to adopt out and that can break your heart. (Agh! I am trying to sell you the idea that volunteering at the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) won’t break your heart.)
But the really great part of the day – the part that everyone works towards – is when all the jobs are finished and you can go to your favorite area – are you a cat person or do you love dogs the best? Whatever, these volunteers now spend 30 to 40 minutes with their favorites. It’s bliss. I went back the following week, too, and photographed them enjoying their Sunday morning.
SCARS is not a small shelter and it’s not government-funded, but by grants from various organizations and the residents of the Sunshine Coast. There are bins in Coles, a big supermarket chain, and some vet surgeries where you can drop off a can or two or 10 of cat or dog food or toys or brushes. Any donation is gladly received and nothing is wasted.
The coast vets all take it in turns of working at SCARS, which like BAWA has a sterilization policy in order to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats. (Not their fun, as some really dumb men would suggest!)
And each week the SCARS manager, one of the only paid positions, goes to the local council pound and retrieves dogs and cats that are on death row and brings them back for adoption. They assess them first and there are rarely any dogs (or cats) that don’t pass the stringent testing, and SCARS has a “NO euthanize” policy, so if the animal is not adopted out for any reason, it will live there in comfort in its old age. This is rare with the dogs but not uncommon with cats.
The volunteers I met at SCARS were remarkable for their dedication to seeing these animals had a voice. Their collective voice, their collective hands and the time they spent with the inmates at SCARS is what gave me hope that the same can be achieved at BAWA in Lodtunduh, Bali.
Last Sunday at BAWA, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival’s new manager, Sarah Tooth, bought her daughter Lily along with my two students, Putu and Putu, to help out. Dr. Yogi gave us a list of jobs that needed to be done and a few instructions regarding our health and that of the puppies and kittens.
Lily is also helping Putu and Putu with their English and they in turn will help Lily with her Bahasa Indonesia (I could do with some help in that area). But they all loved working with the puppies and kittens and we are meeting again next Sunday. Want to join us?
The truth is BAWA is desperate for volunteers but there are so many ways you can help. Financial assistance, of course, but with so many puppies and kittens being dropped off in the past month, there is an urgent need of old towels and newspapers. Donations of washing powder, dish washing liquid, good-quality cleaning products, puppy and kitten food and your extra pair of hands. We really need YOU.
Oh and yes, the dog in the photo with Niki is Amber, who Niki adopted from SCARS. Doesn’t she look just like a Bali dog?
So join me in celebrating Bali’s own treasures and volunteer at BAWA. www.bawabali.com for further information about the invaluable foundation.Filed under: Instinct