Giving Animals A Second Chance At Happiness Makes My Job Worthwhile

Alex McGilligan
I love working at Newcastle Dog & Cat Shelter, whether it's the early shift starting at 7am or the later shift starting at 11am.

I love working at Newcastle Dog & Cat Shelter, whether it's the early shift starting at 7am or the later shift starting at 11am. No two days are ever the same. I mostly work with the dogs but some days I might be looking after cats, rabbits or even our pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys or ponies. We work outdoors in all weather and in Newcastle that means a lot of rain and soggy socks.

Whilst a large part of the day is spent cleaning the kennels, picking up poop and feeding, there is a lot more fun to be had. I love working with the animals, helping to find them new homes and helping them to have a second chance at happiness. I get to meet loads of different animals, spending time with them learning their unique personalities, traits and likes and dislikes makes every day exciting and different.

I also get to meet lots of new people who want to adopt and talking to them about what sort of animal they want and what sort of home they can offer is always interesting and fun. Having undertaken behaviour training, I get a real buzz helping to train more difficult dogs who may have had no previous training or who might be finding kennel life difficult. Watching a dog learn new skills and develop their confidence is a great feeling. I love learning random fun facts about animals so I can help to educate people and help more of our animals to find the right homes.

I love being part of a great team all working towards a common goal. Whilst it can be hardwork, being surrounded by such an enthusiastic, positive group of people makes each day fun and rewarding. It's a great job being outdoors and constantly active. I could never sit behind a desk when I get so much more from being out and about meeting animals and people and always doing different activities.

My favourite animals have to be the donkeys, especially Snowy as he is a really cheeky boy who is full of character. He always shouts if people walk past and ignore him and he loves a bit of attention.

One of the best parts of my day is doing dog socialisations, it is nice to let people see the dog outside having fun and not just in a kennel environment. Dogs behave differently in their kennels, often becoming subdued or sometimes noisy. They definitely show their best side when they are out having fun and I love showing adopters what their potential new dog can do and what a fantastic pet they would make.

Most memorable moment

Helping a lovely little Staffie called Roxy to gain confidence and recover from illness. Her new family came in several times to socialise and get to know her before they adopted her. A few weeks after they rehomed her they brought her in for a visit so I could see how well she had settled in. I actually got quite emotional seeing how well she had bonded with her new family and they left me a cup with the phrase 'tea always tastes better with a dog hair in it'. I've still got the cup and I use it at work every day.

Funniest moment

Whilst on a dog behaviour course I had to pretend to be a dog for demonstration purposes. I was on all fours demonstrating clicker training but I have to admit the dog treat reward wasn't really for me. If it helps us to learn and help our dogs then I'll try just about anything.

Worst part of the job

Snow! It makes work so much harder and layering up against the cold is not much fun and it's harder to move around. It's not all bad though as playing in the snow with the dogs is always a great way to end the day.

Best part of the job

Seeing one of the animals I've worked with going off to a new home. Dogs like Dougal, a six month old German Shepherd who was very nervous and frightened. I spent every day with him slowly gaining his trust and after a number of weeks he had developed his confidence and was finally ready to start a new life with a family of his own.

To see him grow from the frightened little dog who arrived to a happy, playful puppy going off to a new home and a second chance makes me really proud. Knowing I helped to improve his life in a small way makes my job worthwhile. It just goes to show that a little time, patience and effort is all it takes to change the life of a dog and being part of that is an amazing feeling.

Steve Jones, Kate Quilton and Professor Noel Fitzpatrick present a brand new, week-long animal rescue series, Animal Rescue Live: Supervet Special from The Newcastle Dog & Cat Shelter Monday to Friday, 7 - 11 August, Channel 4.

Anyone interested in seeing the animals at the shelter can email or call 0191 266 1167.