Denise is our longest-serving Animal Care Assistant and has gained a lot of wisdom in her 12 years at the centre! She is a whizz with the dogs, and knows just how to gain their trust and settle them into the kennels. Denise likes a challenge and will happily volunteer to get to know any new residents at the centre - she'll even be the first to see how much training they've had in the past and take them on their first walk to see what sort of equipment they'll need. She also has a very busy household with all her pets! With 2 dogs, 3 cats and ferrets, Denise always has something to do. You'll usually find her socialising the cats and rabbits, or doing some training in the yard.
Denise with Bella the Miniature Pinscher
What does your job involve on a daily basis?
"As an Animal Care Assistant, I do everything the animals need! In the morning I clean out the cat pods and give them their breakfast, and any medication they require. Then I move onto the cat runs, to make sure all their litter trays are clean and they're ready for the day! After this, it's time to clean out the small animals and rabbits and give them fresh food and water. When I get time in the morning I'll try and fit in some training or routine treatments, such as providing flea and worm treatment, and recording this on their paperwork. In the afternoons I'll do some more detailed training and start exercising the dogs, or getting the cats out to play - all whilst making sure any visitors can ask questions if they need to. There are also treatments to provide in the afternoon too: vaccinating, microchipping, claw clipping. It's always busy!"
How did you get into the role?
"I started at the centre as a volunteer, helping out with the animals when I could and assisting staff members. After a while, a position for an Animal Care Assistant was advertised, so I applied and made it. The rest is history - I've been here ever since."
What is the best part of the job?
"I really enjoy training the dogs, and getting them ready to find new homes. It's interesting working out what sort of base training they have for us to work on, so we go through their basic commands first and see what they need to learn. Some dogs settle quickly and are able to pick up new tricks quite quickly. It's just a case of finding out what techniques work for an individual so we can continue to work with them in the future. I like building up their confidence, as it's great to see an animal that was incredibly nervous on arrival and has been turned around and come out of their shell. Knowing we've given them a second chance and made them feel better is really rewarding."
Mikey the American Bulldog x Staffie
What is the hardest part of the job?
"The hardest part of the job is definitely trying to juggle so many things and knowing ultimately that we cannot save every animal that needs help. Unfortunately, we face the difficulty of working in a very small centre and it's just not possible to accommodate every single unwanted pet along with the abused and neglected animals from Inspectors. Some cases are also brought to us in such a terrible state that they are past saving, as their welfare has been breached to such a horrific extent. It's also difficult seeing old and long-stay animals at the centre, knowing this just isn't the right environment for them. It really breaks your heart seeing a dog being passed by for no reason, or an older animal struggling to settle down."
Tell us about your most memorable moment at work
"A moment that meant a lot to me was seeing Mikey the American Bulldog x Staffie going home, after spending around a year in our care. He was brought to the centre by an RSPCA Inspector and unfortunately was not allowed to be adopted due to legal reasons with the case he was a part of. Finally he was signed over into our care and we could start looking for a home for him! It took a while but he was adopted by the perfect people and is still enjoying life with them, and they've sent us photos of him settled in at home. It was amazing seeing him going home and being a part of his journey."
Who was the most memorable animal at the centre?
"An animal that really sticks in my mind is Rocket the Staffie. He was an 11 year old looking for a new home when his owner simply couldn't cope anymore and gave him to an Inspector. Rocket seemed so depressed in the kennel and had such sad eyes, he used to stare up at us and made us feel so bad for him so we thought he could use a break and put him in reception for the day. That was a mistake! He tore the place up and ate everything he could get his paws on! Turns out he was stringing us along! Rocket had a huge personality and was such a cheeky old boy, always getting into trouble and eating things he shouldn't! He was lucky enough to find a home and had a good few months with a wonderful adopter, and sadly passed away of old age. I can still remember him so well!"
Rocket the Staffie
And finally, have you ever adopted an animal from the RSPCA?
"I've adopted 2 dogs and 3 cats from the centre. Maisie is an American Bulldog crossbreed, who came to the centre via an RSPCA Inspector after being mistreated, and Rain is Staffie cross also from an Inspector. I took Rain home to foster, as he arrived as an emaciated and very shy puppy with his mum Sophie and dad Daddy (later renamed to Buster by his adopters). As you can tell, Rain never came back and he's been with us ever since! He is doing very well and recovered from his difficult start in life. My cats are called Elvis, Sassy and Connie and they're also from the centre. I hand reared Elvis from a tiny kitten and ended up keeping him as I was just too attached! For the most part, the cats and dogs get on well so I'm lucky with that. No more pets now though! We've definitely got enough!"
Thank you Denise!