Gimme shelter

This summer I was honoured to be selected to participate in The Winnipeg Foundation’s Summer Internship Program. I was placed at theĀ Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, which is Manitoba’s first registered charity no-kill animal shelter.

This article is a document of my first full week of work at the shelter.

My first week started with the walking of dogs down Country Club Blvd. beside the shelter. I was responsible for walking three dogs, each with their own unique personality and story.

I first walked Bud, a terrier. She was a little scared of me at first, but soon enough we were walking down the street with ease.

Next was Hudson, a dark coloured, medium sized mix. He loves going for walks and eagerly tugged on the leash as we were heading outside.

From left to right: Bud, Hudson, Marley.

Finally, I walked Marley, a dog rescued from Northern Manitoba. He is still young and learning to walk with the leash, but still enjoyed being outside as much as his fellow dogs.

After walking the dogs, it was time to clean up the shelter before it opened to the public. This included sweeping, mopping and tidying up the pens. After that, it was time to start on the cats.

After everything is removed, the cage is swept and wiped down. The dishes are refilled with fresh food and water, and then everything is put back in the cage. Finally, the cat is moved back in.

I enjoy moving the cats and cleaning their cages because it gives me an opportunity to meet them and learn their personalities.

Like people, no two cats are alike; some are affectionate, some more passive, and some are so timid you cannot even remove them from the cage.

Some cats are very playful; when I was wiping down the middle row of cages, a cat from the top row reached down and began pawing at my hair!

While I clean the cat cages, I also have to be communicating with customers and helping to train volunteers. I learned very quickly that my job requires a lot of multitasking!

After the cat cages are cleaned, I clean the bird cage, and the turtle tank. Both animals like to eat veggies, so I have to prepare those as well.

4 p.m. is feeding time, which means the puppies, dogs, and kittens get fed. The puppies usually get food first because by this time they are hungry and start to bark.

After the animals are given their dinner, it is time to top up the water dishes and re-scoop litter boxes before the end of the day. It is actually quite difficult to dodge the kittens while trying to scoop their litter boxes.

Every day at the shelter is a routine; the feeding, cleaning and walking for example. Animals, however, can be unexpected. Each day brings new surprises and learning opportunities, and it is only still the beginning.

There are many things I still have to learn this summer; vet visits, medicating, office work, and sales to name a few.

The shelter staff who have been training me are wonderful mentors and have been very helpful and patient when answering my many questions. I cannot thank them enough for the work experience they are providing me with.

When you think of an animal shelter, you probably think of cute little puppies and kittens. While animals are in the job description, one might not realize how many other factors are included in this type of work.

The puppies!

The staff at this shelter are not only animal caregivers, they are chefs, dishwashers, customer service reps, accountants, waitresses, cashiers, cleaners, organizers, and volunteer coordinators. Going into this job I wasn’t sure what kind of work I would be doing, but was very surprised when I found out how extensive the knowledge and expertise required for the job was.

The variety of skills I have been taught in only a week is amazing, and I still have so much more to learn.

There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes of a shelter to keep it running.

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