What do our fieldworkers actually achieve on a weekly basis?
Updated: Nov 30, 2019
A priority list is made in advance which is infinite! This rolls over from the previous week and any calls we receive via the public or on our group are added. There are approximately 25 households that need attention which are on a database for our convenience. We never get to all of them but we try! We try to focus on these priorities, however this is extremely hard when we are either stopped in the street to help an owner, we see an animal that is in trouble or we get an emergency call out.
We work in pairs, for approximately three hours when the owners are home so we can discuss issues such as sterilising, feeding the correct food from our clinic, educating on various subjects like tick and flea treatments and chain maintenance including building runs. Sometimes we get home at dusk if we need to attend to an emergency.
On this particular day I was training a new volunteer and we had quite a varied list which was good so she could get a feel for what is needed.
We stocked up the bakkie with de-flea and tick medications, de-wormers, food packs for desperate cases, blankets, checked we have enough chain, swivels and petrol!
Our first household was to check on a dog with a tail issue, the owner was home and explained that he had been chewing it after possibly being bitten by fleas. The dog appeared agitated, his tail was bald and red raw, covered in sand, and needed attention. We asked the owner to wash the wound carefully and we fitted a cone to stop him from gnawing it. We asked them to sign a consent form for treatment at the vets. His tail was amputated the day after as it was dead tissue, which was successful and given de-flea treatments and TLC! His area was cleaned, the owner was involved and came to the vet with us and advised to keep us updated as the bandage will need changing and the stitches removed.
Our next stop was a possible mange case, we had been informed that the dog was bald and needed attention. We found that the dog was suffering from extreme fleas and tick problem and needed a strong medication to rectify this. As he was scared, the owner helped us to get him to swallow this as it doesn't taste very nice! This will take a week to act and we will add him to the checklist for next week. We advised the owner that she must keep the area clean and ask us for help when this happens.
Our next stop was to fix a run that had broken where the dog was left on a one metre chain. The owner was home so he helped us to discard the old cable and fitted a new one which was a car tow cable. These need to be strong to hold the dogs. The metal stakes were already there so he just needed to refit this and check the swivel which ensures the chain is free from being twisted. The dog could then move freely again, he was so much happier! Unfortunately this is the best solution as the yard is open. You really need to be all hands on for this role which I love!
We were then stopped in the street by an owner who said her cat had three kittens and she wanted to sterilise the mother which was great news! The kittens have homes to go to, so we asked her to check where they were going so we can monitor them for sterilising at 6 months. We booked the mother cat in with our next sterilising day with the community vet, she signed the form and we were on our way.
Then we were stopped again to chat to another owner who wanted us to check his dog as he had cancer and had stopped eating, so we went to the dog, which we were already aware of and advised him to bring him to the clinic where the community vet can check him. We will monitor this case.
Next stop is to another dog with cancer growths on his neck which need attention. For the community vet to treat any animal it is compulsory to have the animal sterilised to reduce overpopulation which is a HUGE problem. This owner wasn't prepared to sign at this time so we left him to process this. If he refuses treatment he will be breaking the law therefore we would report him to the SPCA. After much persuasion and time to think he agreed! Negotiation skills are a must! The dog was booked in immediately.
Then another owner asked if he could buy a kennel from us which we supply to people on low income, ‘Houses 4 Hounds’ is a project we run. He said he can pay at the end of the month and we can supply him with a donated temporary plastic one in the mean time, to make sure the dog is ok. We have supplied over 100 kennels so far and always need pallets to source the wood needed for construction.
By this time we were getting tired and the sun was setting. It is surprising how much this takes out of you emotionally and physically, seeing the dogs so needy on chains barking for attention, knowing that the bakkie smells so good and we will help them! We continued to fix a few other runs / chains and did water and food checks, educating owners regarding keeping clean water available all day, feeding the correct food - not PAP, bones and potato peelings! Following the 5 animals rights as seen in our poster.
We also have a food list where owners struggle to feed their dogs. Mainly due to individual reasons such as being disabled, are in hospital and need their dog for protection. We help particular people for a certain time then encourage them to come to our clinic every week to buy food and monitor this.
Our last call is to apply de-fly ointment to three dogs ears, where the flies actually attack the skin causing open wounds. They really need to trust us as it is sore and the ointment smells bad! With the weather heating up now this is a huge problem and can cause discomfort and infection. We apply sulphur and Vaseline which works well!
All the households we attend to, we try to give the dogs as much attention as possible to gain their trust and work alongside the owner in harmony. At times this can be difficult as the owners refuse to sterilise and we disagree on certain welfare issues. However over time it we can come together and we get along for the animals sake.
I think we are ready for a good rest now to process our day, especially for our new volunteer and our list looks complete until next week! This role gives you a real sense of achievement knowing that we have helped an animal in the smallest of ways, to make their day a little happier.
All the products we used today from food, de-flea treatments to running cables are paid for by our kind donators. Without these we cannot help the animals in need. We always need more products weekly which can be bought from the local pet shops. We also need new volunteers in this role, as this is a one of the more difficult but rewarding areas. We offer an emergency call out as well. If you like it in the fast lane please get in touch. It’s our adrenaline and passion that keeps us going!
I hope you enjoyed reading about one of the aspects of what we do in our community and go to our Facebook page and website to see how you can help. Please note that all our volunteers are unpaid.
Written by Tracy Mistry