Good deeds unite caring people

Minsk Times reporter visits shelter for homeless dogs and shares impressions

Minsk Times reporter visits shelter for homeless dogs and shares impressions

It’s 6pm. We pass yellow fields and woodland in the car. There are five of us: two guys and three girls. Vika, my guide, left work some half an hour ago and won’t be home until midnight.

Vika and one of her pets

Volunteering is rarely easy, provoking the question as to why people do it. What satisfaction do they really gain? Those who volunteer at the Hope Dog’s Home tend to post a great deal on social networks, to raise awareness of what they do and why.

Nastya tells me, “When I first came here, I saw how happy the animals became to see people; I realised that they waited for us, not only because we feed them and walk them, but because they want love. Every visit is a small feast. After that, I can’t help but go regularly.”

Anya adds, “Perhaps, some wonder why we spend our free time on a shift at the shelter instead of going with friends to a café. It’s lovely to relax and have fun but, sometimes, you want to do something which matters beyond yourself. Volunteering gives the opportunity to do so.”

It’s a 50km drive but doesn’t take long at a speed of 100 km/h on the motorway. In half an hour, we reach our destination: an isolated farmstead surrounded by a green, ribbed fence, from which we hear loud, excited barking. Vika opens the gate and enters first. I follow the girls. Behind the fence is a building and several enclosures of dogs, jumping, roaring and staring at the arrivals. The girls are laughing and stroking the faces of those pressing their faces to the fence.

They’ve become real friends

We enter the building, inside of which are various posters giving detailed instructions. Even the most inexperienced, like myself, can become useful helpers if they follow the guidelines. There’s protective footwear to put on and torches for the dark, as well as dozens of leashes hanging from hooks.

Two of the girls head for the kitchen, to prepare medicines for sick animals, clean cages, prepare foods and wash the dogs’ dishes. We’re going to be busy, and won’t see each other again until towards the end of the shift. Meanwhile, Vika gives me a couple of leashes and I head to the cages.

Each dog reacts in its own way, some being delighted to see a new person yet to be licked, others cautious, some indifferent. Vika enters the enclosure with the leashes while I hold the door to prevent the dogs from escaping. Then, I take the leashes and go out to walk the dogs. It’s the best way to get to know them. Bari is naughty and stubborn, while Silva is full of energy, and Chernushka is dignified and unhurried. Each needs an individual approach, so handling two dogs with absolutely opposite characters is quite a challenge.

Yet, I’m not complaining. As we walk, I begin to understand what makes the volunteers return. Standing here, by a small pond, with a couple of adorable animals, I’m thinking that kind deeds unite people. It’s such a special feeling. Here, you’re showing love for animals in a special way.

Later, we let the dogs run in the inner courtyard, to let off more steam before going to sleep. I chat with Vika and learn more about the shelter’s inhabitants. There are so many sad and terrifying stories; some dogs were thrown out, some were beaten, and the masters of some attempted to get rid of their pets in radical ways. It’s a hot summer evening, yet I’m feeling chills all over my skin.

When it’s dark, we sit at the table with a cup of tea. It’s unusually quiet outside; no barking can be heard. All are resting, on warm dry bedding, after a generous portion of fresh air and food. We discuss the events of the day, dress to leave, and take our seats in the car.

Once the engine starts, a multi-voiced choir breaks the silence. “They’re asking us to stay,” our driver explains.

But we have to go, as most of us are busy tomorrow. However, we know that the animals will be all right, because there are always people to look after them.

By Anton Mardilovich
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