Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Kennels

So, I have pretensions on becoming some kind of Greyhound whisperer. Well I wish, anyway. I am far from. This blog is one little step in the right direction, recording and sharing my experiences. The other major thing I have decided to do in order to learn more about dogs and greys, is to volunteer at a greyhound rehoming kennel. I thought, if I can’t hack shoveling the shit, I should probably not pretend that I could work with animals in any other capacity than a pet owner.

Today was my first day at the Croftview Kennels in Kent, U.K. For the moment I will do a day a week to get to know their dogs and routines. Then I hope to help out a day at the weekend as well, when most adoption queries come in. My oh my. I am shattered. I’m not used to so much physical labour, and I expect I will ache tomorrow, but it is good for me.

So the day starts at 8am. Between 8am and 11am all the kennels have to be cleaned and the dogs fed, as the kennels open to the public at 11. There are forty dogs at Croftview Kennels, and they live in pairs (usually boy and girl) in twenty kennels. First they have to be taken out to the outside kennels at the back, in batches (there are only eight kennels out the back). Once a batch is out, the shit-shovel comes out. Bedding is fluffed and checked, and any wet or dirty bedding discarded. Then the kennel floors are cleared of any bedding debris, scrubbed with disinfectant, and squeegeed dry.

At the same time a member of staff is preparing the food, taking into account any dietary needs and medication. For feeding the bitches are tied to the outside of the holding kennels and the dogs left inside. This way there is minimal trouble. Once the dogs have eaten they are taken back to their kennels, and another batch of dogs come out to the outside kennels and the process of cleaning and feeding is repeated. As they come back to their sleeping kennels the dogs' coats are removed, as are some muzzles, depending on the dog. Once all dogs have been fed outside, and their kennels cleaned, the outside kennels have to be poop-a-scooped and disinfected. All of this takes a good couple of hours. Then the staff gets a break for breakfast.

Then, while the kennel is open to the public from 11am until 3pm, the dogs are rotated in the outside kennels at the back and three larger paddocks, which include larger grassy areas, at the front. At the moment not all the grassy areas are used as they are either too wet or frozen hard. However, the dogs get a couple changes of scenery and even a run-about in the field. If there are any volunteers or people interested in adopting a lucky few also get a walk.

At 2pm the “evening” routine is begun. The dogs are again taken outside to the back in batches. Some dogs get a second meal, if they don’t eat well or need extra food or medication. Their bedding is fluffed again, and the kennel floors swept. They are then returned to their kennels for the night, coated and muzzled if necessary. That, really, is the end of the dogs’ interaction with people for the day. Although there are people living on site, the kennel as such is not manned. A radio is left on all night as “company” for them.

So how did I get on? Well, the cleaning and shit-shovelling went well. Dealing with over-excited squirming dogs was harder: I was concentrating too on practicalities to use any "whispering" skills I may posses! To take the dogs from the sleeping kennels to the back ones, the experienced staff just held them by their house collars, but mine kept slipping away, bolting down the middle passage for the door (which wasn’t always closed). I’m going to use slip leads, which are used for taking the dogs outside, inside too, at least until I get used to the dogs (and figure out which ones are the escape-artists).

It was lovely working with the dogs, and I managed to learn some of their names. Of course they were all gorgeous and tugged at my heart-strings. Especially hard was the coating up at the end of the day. You have to get in the kennels with the dogs to put their coats on and most of them just wanted to play or cuddle, all excited that you were in there, but of course you can’t too spend much time with any one dog.

It is made easier as Croftview Kennels have good adoption record. Several of the dogs were reserved, a whole batch to go to homes in Italy. So just as I start learning their names, a whole lot of dogs will be replaced with new ones! Although I am interested in finding out how a racing kennel is run, and how the dogs are trained, just to know what greyhounds have been through, I am happier working in a kennel where I know the dogs are not too far away from a forever home (hopefully).

Eddie and Cassie came with me, and spent some of the day in one of the kennels at the back, that had a sheltered area with bedding for them to lie in. Cassie, being Cassie, took it in her stride. Eddie, the worrier, worried a bit, although he did eventually settle down. It felt good, though, to take them home to their warm and cozy beds and indulge them in cuddles. 

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