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    • 05 Feb, 2019

    Volunteer blog: Life on Mayhew’s reception

    This volunteer blog was written by Reception Volunteer Caroline Basma. Caroline finished working a couple of years ago and subsequently began volunteering at Mayhew six months ago. She told us she was keen to volunteer with an organisation that she valued and could be directly involved with.

    My career had been as a Senior Manager for a large property company so I was unsure what transferable skills I could bring to this very different sector. I am a huge dog lover and adore my 10-year-old West Highland Terrier Dysney, so when a friend mentioned Mayhew it seemed like a really good fit. I even live in the same borough, so the journey was straight forward by bus.

    I found the volunteer section on the website and kept an eye on the positions that came up. As I did not have any experience or qualifications working with animals, I assumed this ruled me out of many options. When the reception role came up I thought this was a good fit for me as I was used to a front facing role – meeting and greeting the public by phone and in person, using a database and taking card payments.

    A week or so after my interview, I came in again for a training morning with Reception Coordinator, Sue. Sue has been involved with Mayhew for nearly 20 years and is very patient, supportive and has a never-ending supply of tales about her time at Mayhew.

    The most common situations I come across are:

    • People who have lost their cat or dog. They are naturally upset and there are suggestions we can offer about who to inform. These are sad calls to take and hope I can be helpful and supportive at a difficult time for the caller.
    • People who have found a cat or dog. Any dog found must be reported to the dog warden in their local borough for assistance. Cats are tricky to answer. I have been given guidelines for advice on various scenarios.
    • People who are reporting an animal that is injured or abandoned. Following a detailed questionnaire, I gather as much information as possible and pass it on to our amazing Animal Welfare Officers. They then go out and see how they can help.
    • People who need to give up their cat or dog. If someone wants to give up an animal I need to gather as much information as possible. Sadly, there isn’t always space to accommodate all the pets, so the request is passed to the Adoption Officers.
    • People who want to make donations. We get lots of calls and visits from very kind people who want to donate. Whilst we can make use of towels, blankets and sheets, anything with a foam filling can’t be used (the animals easily shred these). We also get calls from people who have just lost a pet and have leftover food, beds and toys. I hope to offer a little comfort that these items will be gratefully received and used for animals that really need them.
    • People who are interested in a cat or dog for adoption. These can be the most common calls and happiest of calls, particularly if there is a popular breed, kitten or puppy. Many people sign up for email alerts on the website so as soon as a new listing is live, the phone goes crazy! In their excitement the rarely read the requirements so we try to encourage them to study these closely to avoid a wasted and disappointing trip. Requirements are very carefully considered by the experts at Mayhew. It is so important that Mayhew do everything possible to make this home a forever home after what has often been a difficult start in life.

    On a Tuesday, interviews for adoption take place between 12pm and 3.30pm but people can arrive sooner to be sure that they are high on the list as we operate on a first come first served basis. I have seen people arrive as early as 9.30am for a puppy. I like to meet the excitable people I have spoken to on the phone and hope that they are successful with their interview. It can also be tense in the reception area and I have witnessed up to five people in a queue waiting to be interviewed for the same animal.

    I absolutely love to see the animals go home and start their adventures with their new family. It is so joyful. The dogs are very excited and wagging their tails. The cats are more low-key in their crates! Some of the animals that have been here longer or have been so loved have a fanfare of staff coming to wave them off.

    It is also a privilege to greet the staff and volunteers as they arrive. As a volunteer I only have to come in for four hours a week and I am amazed and impressed by their energy and spirit. Many have been with Mayhew for many, many years and they are still so committed and enthusiastic.

    I hope this gives you an idea of my role. As I hope you can tell I am loving my time at Mayhew. Long may it continue!

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