The soft brown eyes are beseeching, irresistible, and the wet nose sniffs cautiously through the fence, at the hand I proffer. Behind the eager eyes, I discern a sad wariness, and I wonder what befell her, before she ended up here.
Daisy – that’s the name I gave her for the short time we were together – is a rescue dog at the Animal Welfare Society Stellenbosch (AWSS), and like so many others, she is desperate for a walk.
It is a Saturday morning, and my wife, Eppie, and I, have joined Jonkershoek residents, Andrew and Hayley Hagen, on one of their regular weekend undertakings – walking rescue dogs at AWSS.
We’ve been through the formalities of signing the indemnity forms, have been issued with leads, and we collect our ebullient charges – six between us – and head off on the 2.5km walking circuit across the road from AWSS.
The footing is wet – it’s been raining a great deal – but the dogs are undeterred, and they tow us happily along. We deal with the inevitable tangling of leads as they stop to sniff here, or lift a leg there, and their enjoyment of being out in the open, away from their enclosures, is palpable.
The route encompasses a large vineyard block, and once we have topped the rise, we turn and amble along next to the vines, stopping periodically so that Andrew can photograph each dog. The pictures are used on AWSS social media channels to show them off, in the hope they will, as AWSS head of fundraising and communication, Jessica Perrins, puts it, “find their forever homes”.
Hayley produces an ice cream box of doggie treats she has prepared, and as we walk along, each dog gets their fair share. There is no squabbling over the treats, and each treat is taken from your hand with surprising gentleness.
All too soon, we arrive back at the shelter, and return or charges to their wonderful carers, knowing that we will be back another day.
“Volunteers are welcome daily between 10am and 3.30pm,” says Jessica. “If it is their first time attending, they will need to complete an indemnity form at reception and after that they are welcome to come and go as they please.”
Animal lovers of all ages are welcome, however, if a volunteer is under the age of 18 years they will need to be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers can either visit and socialise with the dogs, or take them for a walk in the vineyards across from the shelter.
“We always have members of the public saying our dogs are so friendly and happy, and that is a direct result of them having one-on-one interaction with staff and volunteers, and the ability to play and exercise. They are healthier and happier and so enjoy interacting with the various volunteers who walk them. It is always heartwarming to see their tails wag – some even smile – with excitement when the volunteers and staff come up to the camps with a lead,” says Jessica.
“We encourage volunteers to take photographs of the dog they walk and post it to our social media pages with a few lines about the dogs personality, that way it allows our dogs to be advertised even further and hopefully result in them finding their forever home. We look forward to welcoming volunteers at the shelter, and guarantee they will love taking our ‘braks for a trap’.”
For more information contact AWSS on 021 883 9129 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Large groups are requested to call beforehand so the AWSS team can prepare ahead of time.