No, not oldest in age (although age is no barrier when you see the energy and strength of some of our volunteers!) My claim is, I understand, to be one of the longest serving volunteers at Holbrook.
My name is Claire, and I’ve been volunteering for a little over ten years now. I found myself with some time to spare and thought what better way to use it than to try and find somewhere local to help out. Having been denied a dog when I was a child (Dad, I have forgiven you – just about!) I thought being involved in a rescue would be a great way to get a “fix” of animals as my circumstances weren’t right for having my own dog.
I got in touch with Holbrook Animal Rescue and Laura invited me to visit one Saturday morning in March 2010 to meet her and the animals. We got on really well, and so I started to go along once a week to lend a hand.
Holbrook, back in those days, was a somewhat smaller affair. I would be the only volunteer in helping on my morning! If I cast my mind back, I can remember that we would have approximately a dozen dogs at a time. This would include a few of Laura’s own dogs. We would think it was really busy if we got 14 or 15 dogs there to look after (there are 25+ now). There were also a fair few cats and a lot of rabbits being looked after too as Laura’s Mother was still active in doing this. Oh, and of course there would be various other animals – rescued wild birds being fed with a pipette, hedgehogs, a deer as well as a few horses.
The rescue was mainly funded by Laura and through a few donations and support from their family business. I don’t know how she managed really, but where there is a will there is a way! The animals were always loved, fed and cared for and were able to live within the home and have free range of the large paddock.
Over the years there have been many changes, the addition of a “dog’s kitchen” rather than various dogs camping out in the house kitchen, the sensory garden so quieter dogs can have their own area, much better organised storage space... The biggest change has been the need for a large band of loyal volunteers to enable the increasing number of dogs to be cared for, exercised and to be able to have the extra time to help the more nervous or troubled souls. Several dedicated volunteers put in even more with all the organisation that goes on “behind the scenes”, but will still be seen doing their shifts too.
The amount of poo to be cleared up has probably doubled! One thing that stays the same is the amount of mud in the winter. I have learnt from experience not to stand still for too long in it! Sinking down in it years ago as I waited for the final dogs to be ready to return from the group walk, a few dogs I had on lead decided to pull in different directions. Unable to move my feet as they were stuck in the mud, the only way was to fall backwards making a mud angel!!
In another blog I’ll tell you a little about a few of the dogs I met in my first few years. I am pleased to say that one is still at Holbrook now, for those who follow our social media you have probably seen the lovely Tan!
Read part 2 tomorrow.