Dog Walking at HULA
by Karina Collins
If you like walking and enjoy the company of dogs then why not apply to become a dog walking volunteer at HULA. After a long week at work it’s great to go up to HULA and meet some of the wonderful dogs, they are always pleased to see you and never say no to a walk!
I started dog walking in October 2005, with the firm idea that I was going to be strong and not get too attached to any particular dog... just walk them. However, at about the same time as I started a beautiful, though somewhat aloof, Staffy X by the name of Phod was taken into the care of HULA. On my first visit to HULA she was the only dog that had not been walked that day and it was suggested that I try to take her out. When I entered her kennel she glared at me and followed me out of the kennels, once outside she then sat in the car park and would not budge – clearly I had picked a challenge for my first dog walk. No amount of coaxing would move her, she simply eyed me suspiciously, I took her back to her kennel and without a backward glance she returned to her bed.
I couldn’t get her out of my mind she seemed so hurt and let down. Over the following few weeks I tried again and again – until finally one day she agreed to walk around the field with me! Progress I thought, over the next couple of months we began our journey of shared Saturday and Sunday mornings, we began to build up a bit of a bond and I like to think she began to trust me. Phod and I spent an increasing amount of time in the caravan which HULA has designated to be used as a calming room to get the dogs accustomed to the TV and normal life. Our first visits to the caravan were uneventful she ignored me and sat as far away as me from possible. Suddenly, one day, I received a lick on the side of my face and from that moment on we were firm friends and I like to think I had won her approval – one of my proudest moments I don’t mind admitting.
I can only try to describe my affection for Phod, as she continued her stay at HULA she battled illness with incredible courage and showed so much love and affection to those that she trusted. We were walking buddies for just over a year, during this time we played games together, sat & relaxed together & just enjoyed each others company - I have some wonderful memories of the times I was fortunate enough to spend with her.
Phod has now happily been adopted & is enjoying life as she should be. I have been fortunate enough to see her occasionally and will never ever forget her! You meet some wonderful characters at HULA some, like Phod, stay for a long time, waiting under HULA’s care to find that all important right home for them - others come in and are rehomed quite quickly, either way dog walking provides you with a great opportunity to play a part in the dog’s lives.
Phod was a testament to the love, care, attention & commitment provided by the staff to the animals at HULA, never once did I sense that she was unhappy at HULA – she adored the staff & appreciated all the special care and attention they gave her during her stay.
My first year as a volunteer dog walker at HULA
by Di Self
When I lost my little dog in November 2007, I was, as you can imagine, devastated. She had been my soul mate for nearly 12 years and I missed her terribly. A friend of mine who had adopted a cat from HULA that same year suggested I go and walked their dogs so that I could still have some doggy contact.
To be quite frank, I wasn’t hugely keen on the idea as no dog could come close to my little one but thought that at least it would get me out and about again and yes, it was doggy contact so I completed the forms and went along for the induction.
The very first dog I saw sitting in her kennel reminded me so much of the one I’d lost, same eyes everything but we went further along the line of dogs and took out a lovely young Boxer who was a joy to walk. I must have been quite naive in thinking that all dogs would walk nicely on their leads, as mine had done and the boxer did on that day!
This experience of dog walking was just what I’d needed to get me back into the dog world. For the first 10 visits, the ruling is that you walk the Level 1 dogs or those that are quite gentle, friendly and have no real issues. This was fine by me. I enjoyed it so much I emailed my closest friends telling what a fantastic time I was having although I think those emails were all a bit rambling because I was just so excited with my new hobby and the new canine loves of my life.
I was soon to discover that not all dogs walk nicely. One day another volunteer and I counted the number of times I’d been to HULA – 12 – that meant I could walk the Level 2 dogs. These are dogs that may be a bit stronger, pull, or be a little wary of new people. Oh boy did I find out how much they pull, too! I think my right arm is now about 6” longer than the left! Dogs only do what dogs do until they’re trained otherwise so it’s not their fault if they pull so although there have been some very challenging dogs they are all wonderful in their own ways.
Other than being walked around the field by the stronger dogs, I’ve had some strangely amusing times trying to get dogs either in or out of their kennels. Some want to get out before the door is even half way open and I have been sighted hurtling along behind some giant hound down kennel corridor! Similarly there have been dogs that for whatever reason just don’t want to go back to their kennel and no amount of treats or soft talk and encouragement could get them back – until staff come along, take their lead and they toddle along happy as Larry just to make a fool out of me.
Dogs have to go out in all weathers, so in all weathers we volunteers are there walking the dogs but what’s a bit of rain anyway. So we get wet, so we can dry off when we’re back home, no problem. It can be cold, very cold so we wrap up warm or it can be pretty hot and what’s better than walking or playing with a dog in the sunshine?
I have had an excellent time in my first year of walking dogs at HULA. I’ve learnt a bit about dog behaviour, walked some wonderfully placid ones, some very strong ones and ones with so much character they just make you smile – or laugh out loud. The friendly staff have done nothing but made me feel very welcome and a much valued volunteer. One year on and I love being a volunteer dog walker just as much as I did at the beginning – if not more so.
All volunteers who work at HULA either at the animal centre or at the shop have a desire to help the charity and ultimately help the animals that we care for until they find their new homes. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please print off the application form below
, complete it in full and return it to the volunteer co-ordinator at HULA.
Alternatively visit HULA between 10-4 Sunday to Thursday and pick up a form from staff. Applications can take a little while to process so please be patient and you will be contacted for your induction if your application is successful. All applicants must be over 16 years of age.