“Can you hear them?” I asked Pepe one Sunday in early June. He stopped and listened for a moment, and grinned in response. We had taken the bus to the far north of the city, past Ciudad Jardín, and were making our way up the hill to our destination. It immediately became obvious why this place was located on the outskirts of the town, almost into the montes de Málaga. Where else could you house upwards of 500 dogs without disturbing the neighbors?We were on our way to the Animal Protection Society of Málaga for a paella benefit they were hosting. Beer and paella in support of homeless dogs and cats? No one had to twist my arm to get me to go.
To give the understatement of the year, Pepe and I are both animals lovers. We’re the type who can’t pass a stray dog on the street without doing anything. Who instead of killing a spider in the house, will catch it and release it outside. Both of us have always adopted our pets from animal shelters or taken them in directly from the street. So when we decided to become volunteers at the Animal Protection Society, it came as no surprise to either of our families, but with warnings to not bring
any many home.We go once or twice a week now, and let me tell you, this place is one of the most organized and well-run groups of its kind. A quick glance at their Facebook pages (dogs and cats) will give you in idea as to how much movement the society has. They have approximately 400 animals on site and about 100 more in foster homes.Our job as volunteers is, essentially, to play with dogs. Rough, I know. But of course there’s a bit more. We are assigned to Module C, which is principally big dogs, but with some smaller ones thrown in. We take out one cage of dogs at a time, which can range from two to eight or so. We take them to a big enclosure we have and let them loose to play. We throw tennis balls, we run around, and we give and receive lots of kisses. In the summer heat we hose down as many of the dogs as will tolerate it. We have treatment lists and we take anyone to the on-site clinic who needs a quick visit to the vet. When new dogs enter we help the employees of the shelter do introductions to see who gets along well and who doesn’t. And best of all, we often bring hot dogs or other goodies from home that make us very popular with the canine population.
It is a no-kill shelter and only euthanizes for medical purposes. They even have a contract to take a certain number of animals per month from the more traditional “pound” or Zoosanitario Municipal that otherwise would have been put to sleep. The shelter’s funding comes partly from the Ayuntamiento, or city government, and partly from donations. All volunteers, for example, are rerquired to become socios, or members, and make a minimum monthly donation of 7€.
The shelter has a team of about 50 volunteers divided between all the different modules (Dogs of various sizes, puppies, geriatrics, and of course cats). Our module had 27 cages last I counted and we almost always manage to fill the weekly schedule so there are volunteers taking dogs out everyday except Sunday, when they rest. If there aren’t many setbacks, each group gets taken out to play once every two or three days, and sometimes more often.
Seeing so many precious faces in cages can be heartbreaking, but the society has lots of movement and many happy endings. Small dogs find homes easier than others, and puppies especially tend to have very short stays with us. But even for bigger dogs they work with organizations in Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands to find families willing to adopt. In the two months that we have been volunteers we have said many bittersweet goodbyes, only to be rewarded later with updates and photos of our furry friends in their new homes.
Volunteering here is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. When people see abandoned animals it’s easy to turn away, because it’s too hard to bear. Yes, of course it pulls at your heart-strings, but I know that I am doing what I can. If I can’t personally give a home to any of these animals, then at least my time in the society makes their quality of life just a little bit better. Pepe and I give them the human interaction and attention they so desperately need, if only for a little while. To learn more or become a member or volunteer, use the following
Or visit the shelter. Camino de las Erizas, 4, Málaga. Monday-Friday 10:00-13:30 and 17:00-19:00. Saturdays 10:00-14:00.