... a KAR Rescue Centre Volunteer
High in the Besparmak Mountains of Northern Cyprus, is Kyrenia Animal Rescue. It's a rescue centre very dear to H&H Publisher, Jude, as it's where she met and adopted Immie, the resident H&H hound, 14 years ago. The centre is run for the most part by hard-working volunteers, and we would like to take a moment to salute these dedicated people who make the lives of Northern Cyprus' stray dogs and cats a lot brighter.
Over the next few months, we'll be getting to know some of these volunteers as they take us through a typical day working with the animals in their care. In this instalment, we're joining Caroline as she gets cooking ...
"Up at 6.00am – an early start. A hasty snack for breakfast before I pack my bag with the requisite items: sandwich for lunch, water and a pair of appropriate shoes. It looks as if, yet again, it will be hot. Very hot. I swap my small bottle of water for a larger one that has been in the freezer.
"I join two of the team who live nearby, and we pile into the car, heading through the early morning traffic to Girne, all of us chuntering about the state of the roads. We manage to negotiate the worst of the traffic and roadworks, and join more of our fellow workers at the KAR van. A well-worn but trusty vehicle, it stands high off the ground, and we short ladies with a larger waistline have a bit of an undignified scramble to climb in the front. Those who can’t fit next to the driver sit on old cushions on the floor in the rear for the trip up to the Arapkoy Centre. In all there are six of us today.
"The combined choir of three hundred-plus dogs in the compounds greets our arrival. The cats yawn, stretch and peer sleepily out of their beds and boxes. On this particular morning, there are no animals abandoned at the top of the track leading to the Centre – an all too common occurrence. The team are allocated specific tasks, and today I am on ‘The House’ – responsible for the animals staying in the main building (two puppies and two adult dogs), cleaning up the kitchens, loo and prep rooms, cooking a vast amount of pasta, and subsequently feeding the fourteen dogs in the adjacent compounds. A busy day lies ahead ...
"KAR depends solely on the donations of the public, its voluntary workers and the kindness of a variety of benefactors to keep it going. Some hotels kindly supply us with leftover food from their kitchens to help feed the animals – and the results can be fairly interesting. As we are slopping out today’s mush of bread, gravy and veg to feed the four dogs in the back room of The House, I come across a rather odd-shaped lump of flesh. I am wondering quite what this is when one of the lads informs me that it’s a sheep testicle. We dig around in the slop (rubber gloves a must) and find several more, so we chuck them in a pan ready to cook later for the puppies. I casually mention that I shall have to chop them up into very small pieces, at which there is a concerted wince from the chaps. Concealing a smirk, I take the items out to be boiled and put on two huge vats of pasta to cook.
"In the back rooms of our building we have treatment pens for small, sick animals, or those undergoing treatment. Larger dogs who need to be isolated are accommodated with their beds in the two rooms available. Today, I have two small Pointer pups in one of the pens – siblings who are being given preventative treatment for Parvo. A pretty Golden Spaniel and a black-and-tan Lurcher make up the remainder of the group.
"I set to with the poop scoop, mops and buckets to clear up the night’s detritus, cleaning out the pups and moving them into a fresh, clean pen with a plastic bottle to play with whilst I get their food ready. It is not a job for the squeamish, or those with a sensitive stomach!
"The main office holds the Centre administrative functions, and is where we greet visitors. A different mop and bucket is hauled out (another load of pasta is put on to cook) and I dust, polish and mop to make the place look nice and tidy. Through the door, I can see my team-mates trundling their equipment around, hosing out the pens, filling bowls with fresh water, and making sure that any medication is administered. The ‘cat people’ move a group of cats out of their pen into the play area, and do the same.
"Next I clean the kitchen areas, and I decide to boil the testicles while I am working in there. The resultant pong is truly horrendous, and every fly in the neighbourhood drops in to see what this delicious concoction might be. I beat a hasty retreat, leaving the noisome mess bubbling on the stove whilst we break for coffee.
"A family turns up with cans of dog food. They tour the pens and fuss the dogs, then bath two pups. One takes exception, making a bid to escape and causing mayhem as he runs around the yard with us in hot (literally) pursuit. The bath may not be popular, but the strokes and cuddles while being rubbed down and dried make it all worthwhile.
"After lunch, another four packs of pasta are boiled up. The preparation room now holds dustbins full of food, and it is time to feed the dogs. Bowls (many well chewed) are filled and taken out. I stand in the pens that I am working on as the occupants eat to make sure that war doesn’t break out, also giving the animals some fuss – and a once over for ticks and fleas. Some dogs like to have their food placed up on top of their kennels, others cheerfully amble from dish to dish, sampling everyone else’s as well as their own. There is no animosity; everyone gets enough to eat. The bowls are washed up and the residue of gravy, bread and vegetables cleaned off the prep room floor. Empty food bins are hosed out and the testicles, now cooked and cooled, are chopped up and gleefully welcomed by the puppies as their second meal of the day. Yummy!
"I clean up behind the pups and dogs in the back room again, then head outside to watch a puppy out in the main run. She is racing round, nipping her mates and jumping on them. The others join in, and a mad five minutes of silliness ensue before they all suddenly collapse and go to sleep in the shade, piled up together in a furry heap.
"Last job – clean the loo so it’s fresh and nice for the staff and visitors the following day. The team have closed up the pens, made sure that the security cameras are on and the gates to the walks are locked. We have had people breaking in, vandalising the compounds and upsetting the animals. I put all my mops in water and disinfectant, then do a last-minute water bowl check, pat a head and rub a proffered tummy.
"Back on the van, the return journey is a mirror image of the morning. As I get home, my own three dogs race around the corner of the house to greet me, three lucky little animals who all came to us from the Centre. I throw my clothes in for washing, shower and sit down to a peaceful evening. One dog hops up beside me on the settee and puts her nose on my knee. It has been a busy day – ten hours from end to end – but worth every moment for the pleasure of seeing vulnerable animals well cared for."
To learn more about the work of KAR and the animals in its care, visit the website.