The volunteers story
"As we love animals, we decided to do some volunteer work at the BIANCA shelter for two weeks. March 21st 2010 we arrived at Lisbon airport where we were picked up by Ana. She immediately drove us to the shelter. There Gosia gave us a guided tour around the shelter. She explained what we had to during the next two weeks. The main purpose was to walk the dogs that where on a chain outside the shelter. After the tour, Ana took us to our house near the shelter. It was very modest, but it had everything we needed.
A day in the shelter
We usually started our day around 8.30. After breakfast we went on foot to the shelter. We found a shortcut through the forest, so it took us about 15 minutes to get there. Each one of us took a dog for a walk. There where many different routes to walk the dogs, so we didn’t need to walk in each others way. The surroundings were beautiful and quiet and on top of the hill you had a great view. We always took the dogs for a long walk (25 minutes/ a dog) as they seemed to enjoy it very much. Some of the dogs were shy, others were excited, some of them pulled, they all had different characters but they were all very grateful. Lise and I walked around 20 dogs a day.
During the first week, we went back to the house at noon, just to have lunch and to relax a little bit. The second week, we stayed at the shelter to have lunch. After lunch we walked some more dogs. If we had some time left, we went inside the shelter to give some attention to the other dogs. Between 4 and 5PM we usually finished our day at the shelter.
The second week another friend of ours arrived at the shelter. Even more fun, because then we could give even more attention to the dogs and also take them for longer walks.
We always had biscuits or cookies with us to give as treats, during or after the walks.
Lise liked to brush the dogs, which was a lot of work, because some of them had a really long wintercoat. I liked to walk the more difficult dogs. There was not one dog outside that we did not like. They were all very friendly.
It was a shame that we could not spend more time inside the shelter. The days were simply too short.
At the end of our stay, Ana took us to the airport together with some dogs. She checked the dogs in and the only thing we had to do when we arrived in Brussels was to deliver the dogs to Thea, a woman that has a small organisation (Mirbessa) in Holland. Check it out: http://www.dierenhulpmirbessa.nl/
The people that worked in the shelter day in, day out were very friendly. Sometimes it was difficult to communicate with them, because some of them did not speak English and we didn’t speak Portuguese. Our friend, that arrived the second week speaks Portuguese, so communication was better then.
Gosia was a perfect host. She took us to the shop when needed. She gave us enough information and helped us if she could.
Time flew by during those 14 days. We took one day off to visit Lisbon, but the rest of the time we were at the shelter. We were there for the animals and not to have a cheap vacation.
We enjoyed working with the dogs and we got the feeling that the dogs and the people working for BIANCA appreciated what we did. If we had the opportunity, we would stay longer in Portugal.
We just want to mention the following: if you love animals, like we do, you’ll enjoy the work.
Sometimes it’s hard, but it is very rewarding. Don’t think you’ll have just a cheap vacation. The intention is to work with and for the animals. The shelter provides you with cheap accommodation, they pick you up at the airport, they drop you off at the airport, they help you when they can. The only thing they expect off you is to help with the dogs.
Tip for the volunteer: rent a car at Lisbon airport. It’ll give you more freedom to travel around. Oh and book a flight with Brussels Airlines. If you do that, you can take some dogs with you on the way home.
Also one tip for the shelter: maybe it is useful to get some old bicycles for the volunteers. It’s always useful to get around and to do some shopping.
Back home we still follow the day to day life in the shelter through the website, blog, on facebook etc.
We want to thank everyone from the shelter for the warm welcome they gave us.
See you next year! We’ll be back!!
Lise, Elaine and Nathalie