It’s now two years since LAARF was created. Two years since that Birthday Celebration that led to a group of English animal lovers gathering at a noisy French refuge in the woods around Mornac to walk dogs, that opened our eyes to the lives of the abandoned and made many of us cry at the sheer scale of the problem.
It’s two years since a sprinkling of that group were bitten by the volunteering bug: a bug that takes you on a roller coaster of joy and sadness, enough joy for each of those animals who’s lives we’re improving to make the sadness of the one’s we can’t help worth the pain, and that pushes you to do more.
Actually, that’s two very strong emotions. I don’t feel either of them most of the time when I’m volunteering. Most of the time I just feel happy to be with dogs and cats and with friends who are happy to be there too.
I enjoy walking all of the dogs, even the ones that practically pull my arm off, because I know it’s the best part of their day, week or month. Sometimes I walk one that breaks my heart. Only yesterday I helped move one from the fourriere (pound) to the refuge as his holding period was over. He is big and black, with the most fabulous wide head and sad brown eyes, and he was scared. I spent about twenty minutes with him. It probably took me about one of those minutes to fall in love with him, and I admit that happens with great regularity. Every time it happens I go through the same argument with myself: can I have him?, would he get on with my dog/cat?, would I be able to work if we have another one?, would I still be able to foster?… and each time I decide I can’t. I don’t doubt that one day I will take one of them home, but when I look back at the number of dogs I have previously fallen for, I can see that most of them have been adopted in to a new loving home, probably a million times better than the life they came from. I realise that it doesn’t have to be me that gives the dogs the life they crave, as most of them will find someone else who can, but what I can do is care about them while they’re there, walk and cuddle them while they’re waiting.
If you love animals, helping out at a refuge is probably one of the most satisfying things you can do. If you think it will be too upsetting to see them behind bars, please, please, please think about giving it a go. Your local refuge is a never ending source of exercise and cuddles. Yes, there will probably be a few tears, but I think 99% of those of us who have tried it will agree that the positives far outway any sadness.
Hopefully, if you are reading this, you know how to find us. We would be delighted to try and help you find somewhere to volunteer. Please get in touch and help us improve the lives of the dogs and cats living in our French refuges.