Elena’s verdict on PAWS dogs after two weeks as a shelter volunteer
Elena Gittenberger is a 19-year-old Austrian school leaver who came to PAWS as a caravan volunteer before starting university in Vienna. A passionate animal lover with an ambition to become an animal trainer, she had first hoped to go to South America, and trawled the internet in search of a suitable shelter.
“But then I saw pictures of an animal shelter in Chile and realized it would be insufferable to work there. The dogs live in the worst conditions, with cages piled on top of each other and with not enough space. I knew it would be very tough, mentally and emotionally.”
So she began looking in Spain, and soon found PAWS. After reading other volunteers accounts of their time here, seeing the pictures and watching the videos, she decided PAWS looked just right – an impression which was swiftly confirmed by the warm and friendly response she got from Volunteer Co-ordinator Antoinette.
Her first impression of shelter life after she arrived? “I realized that the circumstances for the dogs in the shelter at PAWS are better than in the local shelter here in Vienna. Every dog has the daily opportunity to get out of the kennel into the big exercise area for half an hour or more.
“I was really surprised that none of the dogs were aggressive against human beings. Some years ago I took care of some dogs in the local shelter and I got to know them well. Some were aggressive which made it difficult to find a new home for them. But the dogs at PAWS are so friendly, playful and grateful. Every time I looked in the kennels I thought: ‘Why are you still here and not in a warm bed and living with a family?”
"From the beginning to the end of my stay I felt like a part of a big family. Everyone has the same goal: to help the animals. The people who run the shelter cared a great deal about helping the animals, but equally about helping volunteers like me who are new to it.Benita (left) and Howard - two lovely dogs Elenea hoped would find homes very soon. Since Elena went back to Vienna, Benita (and her kennel mate Pedro) were adopted together locally in Spain.
"It is sad that so many dogs don’t find homes straight away – but you don’t have time to dwell on that because the dogs themselves make you laugh and be happy (particularly when they are trying to drink water with a ball in their mouth!). Of course I had some favorite dogs - for example Roxy and the “game of thrones” puppies and I was thinking of adopting one of them.
Perhaps Elena's favourite dog of all, Roxy the galgo, photographed on a walk together.
"But unfortunately this was not possible because of the difficulty of transporting them to Vienna.There is no organization in Austria which co-operates with PAWS and receives dogs when the transport van comes to northern Europe."
However Elena continues to support PAWS from her home country even though PAWS has no representation there, and has now placed a collecting box for PAWS in the pet shop where she works on Saturdays.
Elena and Kate after bath time
"So thank you for the amazing time I spent at Paws - and I am sure that I will come back!"