Lend a helping paw

Olivia Chavassieu

A non-profit group cares for dogs in need and gives humans a chance to make new, furry friends

Olivia Chavassieu |

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HKDR was founded by Sally Andersen (top centre) who needs volunteers like Pansy and William Wong (with Andersen) to help look after the dogs
Since 2002, Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR) has been rescuing dogs from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) kennels, preventing them from being put down, and finding them new homes.

Set up by Sally Andersen, who takes dogs from the AFCD every week, the non-profit organisation is popular with dog lovers who can't keep a dog in their home - a volunteer programme allows them to walk, groom and care for as many furry friends as they have time for.

Volunteers must be at least 14 years old, but there are very few limits otherwise. It doesn't even matter if you don't know anything about dogs.

Emiri Ikeda had only dealt with cats before she started volunteering at HKDR. 'I came and everybody was very relaxed about me not knowing anything about dogs. Everybody was very patient, so it just worked out.'

Each new volunteer receives a short training session before starting to walk the dogs. They are taught how to hold a lead, what to do if a dog tries to bite, and how to show the animal they are the boss without using force.

Dogs and volunteers are colour-coded - 'green' dogs are easy to walk and perfect for new volunteers, while 'red' dogs can be more difficult, and require an experienced handler. There are also character descriptions of each dog on the kennels so walkers know what to expect.

Pansy Wong, who has been volunteering at HKDR for a year, quickly learned how to deal with the dogs. 'The first step is to know the dogs' names,' she says. 'You call them and look into their eyes, and you know if they like you or not.'

Pansy convinced her husband William to join her. Although William admits the loud barking scared him at first, he is now very comfortable with the animals. 'Dogs are friendly and lovely,' he says. 'I would adopt one or two if I could.' Sadly, dogs are not allowed in the Wongs' building.

Dogs can be adopted from HKDR, and volunteering is a good way for people to find out if they could cope with bringing a dog home.

Ikeda says potential adopters 'could just come here for one week and they would know what they should be prepared for. And then, if they still think that's what they really want to do, they should go ahead with it'.

'It's just like driving lessons; you can't just go and drive before you've practised.'

Some dogs don't cope well at all with kennel life. So dogs can also be fostered on a short-term basis, until a permanent home is found. This also gives potential owners an idea of whether they could handle a dog full-time.

Ikeda has adopted three dogs, and regularly fosters small dogs during summer. This means she can have as many as six dogs at home.

'I'm at 150 per cent of my capacity when I foster,' she says, 'but I really find a meaning by doing this.'

Kennels on the move

The HKDR kennels are relocating to Lantau, as their Pok Fu Lam site is being redeveloped.

'It's a really nice area,' says Andersen, 'but at the moment it's just bare land, so we've got a lot of work to do.'

The Buy a Brick for HKDR appeal is being launched to raise funds. Donors can give between HK$100 and HK$1,000 to buy a postcard representing a brick in the new kennels.

The HKDR is also looking for new dog-walking volunteers.

For more information, visit www.hongkongdogrescue.com or the Facebook HKDR Fan Page.

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