Ruakaka Dog Rescue - volunteers making a difference to the lives of dogs. August 2019

Maria Gabriel with six week old sisters Chloe and Danni.

It might be one of the most satisfying volunteer experiences of your life.

There is something special about Ruakaka Dog Rescue. Staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by sponsorship and donations it represents the very best of community effort to improve the lives of dogs. Puppies and dogs flourishing in new permanent homes are the obvious success stories, but RDR have a broader focus. They recognise that dog welfare starts with knowledgeable and responsible dog ownership. They undertake public education programmes; they visit owners and provide advice on care and management of their dogs; they will assist with the provision of food, kennels, worm and flea treatments, and de-sexing. No blame, no shame; just helping people provide the best for their dogs. Since starting in 2014 RDR have homed about 400 dogs and puppies, and de-sexed 600.

There is no RDR facility. Dogs are fostered until a permanent home is found. In foster care dogs experience life with a family and other animals. For puppies this is the time of early socialisation and training; for dogs this is often the beginning of the restoration of trust, and for some just learning to be dogs; perhaps for the first time learning to play. “Fostering grows a better dog”, says volunteer Matt Pedersen. “They are better equipped to cope with the world”.

RDR needs volunteers. There is a wide range of ways that people can help, and the work is rewarding. “There is such an obvious need to improve animal welfare, and being part of that is good”, says volunteer Stacey Cordes. “I see puppies in their new homes and I think I helped to make that happen. But everything we do is limited by the number of people on the ground on the day”. Most urgently RDR need people to foster dogs and puppies.

Maria Gabriel and her partner Cedric Marshall have fostered about a dozen puppies for RDR over the last three years. They love seeing puppies adopted, but they enjoy the time they have with each one. “It’s so easy to love an animal that’s so innocent, and it’s really cool to see how different they are all are.” Cedric notes that whilst it’s a lot of fun, it’s also a serious commitment. They aim to have every puppy go to a permanent home with basic good manners and reliably house-trained. “Puppies need time and attention; you have to be adaptable; you’ve got to be able to be quickly puppy-proofed, and you need a lot of digital storage for all the photos you take”. Of course they have been tempted to keep one or two, but so far have resisted. “If you let them go you stay open to helping more puppies”.

Fostering puppies has been so fulfilling that Maria and Cedric are planning to expand their capability by building a large fenced area on their lifestyle block so they can take adult dogs. They are well supported by RDR. “They are in contact all the time. They cover all the costs. Any issues and it's straight to the vet, and the vet bills them. If you can’t take a puppy it’s never a hassle, and if something happens and you can’t keep one they’ll arrange for someone else to take it. They’re pretty amazing – very positive and non-judgemental.”

If you think fostering dogs in need might be for you, or you can offer some time to RDR in other ways, contact us at  Volunteering Northland (Bay of Islands Animal Rescue also look for foster homes).

It might be one of the most satisfying volunteer experiences of your life.

Story by Helen Frances volunteer reporter for Volunteering Northland