Sian joined the animal care team in 2013 and has always been happiest when working with the dogs - the bigger the dog, the better (although her own dog is a tiny Jack Russell!). She is especially interested in canine behaviour and enjoys grooming the dogs, so if you see any of them with a smart haircut you know Sian's usually behind it. You'll often find her out and about walking them, or in the yard doing some training to get them up to scratch with their commands.
Sian with Logan the Staffie cross
What does your job involve on a daily basis?
"As an Animal Care Assistant, I spend my day looking after the animals. This usually starts with me cleaning the kennels - all of the dogs are locked in their runs so we can hose out their kennel and give it a good clean to get all of the fur and dirt out, and then replace their blankets and water. After this I prepare their breakfast and hand it out, so they can eat in the kennel whilst I clean the runs. Alongside the cleaning, I rotate dogs into the yard and get them ready to go out on walks with the dog walking volunteers. In the afternoon I speak to people who are interested in adopting animals to help them find the right pet, and get the dogs out in the yard for one-to-one time - this gives me a chance to play with them and keep up their training. I like spending time with them in the yard, as we're all they have and I enjoy giving them the love and fuss that they deserve. I also walk them when I get the chance to keep them in good physical condition, and give them a bath and haircut when they need it. I've got my own clippers that I keep here to make them look and smell lovely for their new homes!"
How did you get into the role?
"I studied Animal Care at Rodbaston College, and I knew I wanted to work with animals so I started volunteering at Burton RSPCA. This allowed me to gain practical experience alongside my college course, which really helped when I applied for a weekend position at Abbey Street. I worked at the centre at weekends whilst I finished college, and then my hours increased and I've been lucky enough to study behaviour and training here to increase my knowledge and skills."
Sian's dog Ruby with Mildred the kitten
What is the best part of the job?
"I like working with the animals, particularly the dogs. Training is a big part of the job for me, because I find it really interesting and I like continuing it over the period of time the dogs spend with us. I particularly enjoy special cases, such as deaf dogs, as it challenges me and I like looking at new techniques to help individual dogs. It's really important so we can observe how they behave and find the best home for them based on that."
What is the hardest part of the job?
"It can be hard when an animal is still going downhill health-wise, before they start to pick up. The medical treatments can cause them to become stressed and upset, and they don't understand that they need a tablet or eye drops or medicated baths for a reason - they can't get better without that treatment but they hate it so much, I feel guilty! It would be so much easier if we could explain to them that things will get better eventually, but it will take time."
Tell us about your most memorable moment at work
"At the end of 2013, we had a very memorable Christmas! I popped into work on my day off and found out we'd had 22 cats in all from the same home as their owner had died and they had bred uncontrollably. It was crazy, there were cats absolutely everywhere - we had to transfer some to another centre because they were stressed here and we were so short on space. That was an eye-opening moment for me, because it showed what we're up against and the importance of neutering animals so these sort of cases can't happen. Two cats can very quickly turn into 6, and so on, until the situation has spiralled out of control. Thankfully these cats did very well, and found homes once they'd put weight on and had some medical treatment. I particularly liked Malcolm, who was a huge ginger and white boy. He had a really grumpy face but he was a sweetheart really."
Zac the Rottweiler
Who was the most memorable animal at the centre?
"The most memorable dog for me was Zac, who was an elderly Rottweiler. He had terrible arthritis and really struggled to walk - we tried to improve his health but he was in so much pain that we thought it would be kinder to let him go. It was so hard saying goodbye to Zac, but I know it was for the best, as he was uncomfortable and suffering. He was such a gentle boy, I loved playing with him and giving him lots of love and quiet time to cheer him up. Albert was another memorable animal for me - a long haired black and white cat who seemed to have the worst luck in the world! He had trouble with his litter habits and was returned twice (for different reasons) before he finally found his forever home. It seemed like he'd be living here forever, he was almost like the centre mascot! It was odd when he got rehomed and his fluffy face wasn't peering out at us in the cattery anymore, he was great. However, Mildred was probably the most memorable animal for me. She was the first kitten that I helped to hand rear. Mildred was such a beautiful little kitten and she was so well behaved! She's gone to a lovely home, I was really pleased for her."
And finally, have you ever adopted an animal from the RSPCA?
"So far I've only adopted a hamster from work: a Syrian called Charlotte. She's a nice little thing. I'm always begging my mum for another dog but she's resisted so far! In the future I'd like another dog to keep my Jack Russell - Ruby - company."