Lend A Paw For GreyhoundsPosted on: 31 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Volunteering can benefit dogs and you.
Are you a dog-lover who wishes you could own a dog, but circumstances dictate you can't fulfil your dream? Do you want to gain new skills, try something different, get more involved in your community, or meet new people? Becoming a volunteer could be the answer you are looking for.
Volunteering for a dog rehoming charity like the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) involves activities like taking dogs out for walks, playing with them, helping them learn to socialise, and raising money for their welfare. The rewards are endless, and it's the next best thing to owning a pet.
Mandy Reid heads up the Isle of Skye branch of the RGT, and does this on a voluntary basis. "I just love dogs, and greyhounds in particular. They're the unsung heroes of the dog world - loyal, calm and beautiful to look at - and I find it very rewarding to work for a cause I believe in. There's nothing more satisfying than to see one of our dogs adopted into a happy home, it makes all the work worthwhile!"
Many people may believe that volunteering involves a great deal of personal time, but in fact, in the RGT's case, nothing could be further from the truth. Volunteers can help out on an ad hoc basis, whenever they can manage it.
"Volunteering for the RGT is totally flexible," explains Sue Markham, head of the RGT's Hull branch. "We are really grateful for any time that our volunteers can spare, whether it be an hour a week, an hour a month, or just attending the occasional event."
"People can fit their volunteering in and around their normal lives - it never need become a challenge, simply a great thing to do when time allows."
At the RGT, everyone's contribution, no matter what it involves, is needed and valued.
Take Your Pick!
As an RGT volunteer, you could:
- Take the greyhounds for walks
- Help transport dogs to their new homes
- Help out with fundraising or community events
- Spread the word that greyhounds make wonderful pets
So, what's actually involved in volunteering at the RGT?
"One of the most popular ways to get involves is by volunteering as a dog-walker," explains Amanda Ainsworth, RGT Office Manager. "Other ways in which people help out include conducting home checks, or by transporting dogs - we don't have our own Trust vehicles, so all help we get in this area is always appreciated."
The RGT's Sheffield branch, whose kennels are based in nearby Barnsley, cares for around 15 delightful greyhounds at any one time, who all need to be taken for walks like any other dogs.
"For those dog-lovers who can't provide a home for a greyhound, becoming a volunteer greyhound-walker is the best alternative!" says Chairman of the Sheffield branch, John Carter.
"The dogs just love people visiting them and taking them out and about," John explains. "When out on a walk, greyhounds get the chance to meet other dogs and people, which helps them greatly in learning to socialise. They also get the chance to explore the world beyond the familiarity of their kennels."
The concept of 'taking the dog for a walk' hits a whole new scale in Surrey each year when the Hersham branch of the RGT runs its annual sponsored walk. Around 50 of the greyhounds kennelled at the branch are taken out by volunteers to explore the countryside in a big group.
"Our sponsored walk is fantastic for the greyhounds," says Denise Dubarbier, head of the RGT's branch in Hersham. "They get a chance to socialise with each other away from the kennels, and also gets them used to meeting new people. Local businesses and individuals sponsor the event, and the funds go towards helping us care for the dogs."
Sponsored walks like these, along with normal daily walks, are especially valuable for the RGT's long-term resident greyhounds, such as Daisy-Annie, Jim and Bridget of the Wimbledon branch, who live in the kennels permanently and love the interaction and affection they receive from volunteers.
Liz Murphy is a volunteer at the Manchester branch of the RGT, and one way she helps out is by conducting home checks for people considering adopting a greyhound. "It may sound like an onerous task, but not that much time is required. By following a set criteria we assess the home environment to ensure it is suitable for a greyhound to live. I really enjoy meeting the prospective new owners, and talking to them about caring for greyhounds."
Getting involved in fundraising, or helping out at local community events are other opportunities for potential volunteers to consider.
Head of the Hull branch, Sue Markham says, "The community in and around Hull gets involved in fundraising for the branch, and helping us out at local events. We have fun dog days, and bric-a-brac sales - you name it! Volunteers come down and get behind the stalls selling merchandise, introducing greyhounds who need homes to potential new owners, and generally getting out there and spreading the word that greyhounds make great pets."
"Some people who don't have a great deal of time make up batches of jam for us to sell at community events - this is a really helpful source of income for us," she says.
John Carter of Sheffield says that the branch would really welcome people to join their committee - helping to decide on and organise events, and coordinate fundraising.
Become An RGT Volunteer!
- Improve your well-being, health and fitness
- Meet new people
- Learn some new skills
- Increase your employment prospects
Of course, the RGT's volunteers do a world of good for each individual greyhound. However, what is not always so commonly recognised is that volunteering - for any charity or worthy cause - can generate great benefits for the volunteers themselves.
For example, people who can list they are a volunteer on their CV demonstrate that they are well-rounded and community minded, and thereby impress prospective employers.
Volunteers at the RGT also have wonderful opportunities to meet new people and make friends.
"You might even meet the love of your life!" says Director of the RGT, Ivor Stocker, "People out walking their dogs often chat to each other - having a dog by your side is a great ice-breaker."
Because it exposes them to new situations and experiences, volunteering for the RGT also gives people the opportunity to learn something new. This can help increase confidence, and even work and social skills.
Take John Hegney, of Giffock in Glasgow, for example. John volunteers at his local branch in Shawfield, regularly walking and caring for the greyhounds. He has Down's Syndrome, and his mother, Janie, says the contact with the greyhounds has helped John improve his confidence and social interaction skills.
"Greyhounds are not nervous or jumpy like some other dogs can be. We have really noticed the incredible bond that John shares with them," Janie says.
Volunteering is also very good for your health. It is well-recognised that helping out a worthy cause carries with it a 'feel-good factor' - which lifts spirits and gives a heightened sense of well-being.
Walking the dogs is also a great way to get fit!
So, what types of people can volunteer to work with retired greyhounds?
"The short answer is - anyone and everyone!" says Amanda Ainsworth. "We have volunteers working with us from all walks of life. Young people through to the elderly - individuals, couples, groups of friends, and of course families can volunteer."
Greyhounds are not selective - they love meeting and getting attention from any new friend!
Even people that are poorly can volunteer their services. Ivor Stocker says that the calm nature of greyhounds makes them the ideal breed for dog-lovers who may suffer from an illness to get involved with.
"Greyhounds can be just what the doctor ordered. They're a very undemanding breed - they only need a small amount of walking. They're also very sensitive and respond to different moods - so people with an illness could well benefit from volunteering at their local branch."
One of the most pertinent things new volunteers at the RGT learn is why retired greyhounds make such wonderful pets, and that helping them find happy homes is a very worthy cause to be involved in.
"Beware however," warns Ivor Stocker, "that once you meet a greyhound at one of our branches it's likely to be love at first sight, and you won't want to leave!"
The Retired Greyhound Trust has 60 branches around the UK, so there's likely to be one near you. Contact the RGT's national office on 0870 444 0673 to out more about volunteering at your local branch. For more information on the RGT and retired greyhounds as pets, log on to: www.retiredgreyhounds.co.uk
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