Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interview with pet volunteer Tricia Miles

Tricia and Anton.
Tricia Miles is Coordinator for Animal Care for Seniors At Home, a pilot program designed to keep seniors and their pets together. She’s also an active volunteer and animal lover who took a moment to chat to SAT about her life and dogs.
Who are you and what do you do?
As a retiree, I'm lucky enough to be able to do things that I hold dear - volunteering at an animal refuge and walking their dogs.  My husband and I also spend time with our own beloved dogs.  I'm also involved in matching senior citizens (living at home with their pets) and volunteers to help care for those pets.
How did you come to be involved with YAPS and what do they do?  
When we moved to Cairns, we got our first refuge dog from YAPS, then a second one, then a third.  It is a refuge for dogs and cats and has a no-kill policy.  Apart from taking in unwanted, sometimes terribly abused and neglected dogs and cats, the small dedicated staff find the best homes for the animals.  It is a not for profit organisation that depends on donations and sponsors, plus has boarding facilities and an active voluntary fundraising committee.  There are some wonderful foster carers, a support group for teenagers who learn about caring for animals, and a number of volunteers assisting in keeping the refuge going.  There are never enough volunteers though.  YAPS provided me with a retirement lifeline to do something good for animals while enjoying myself.  YAPS can be found on www.yaps.org.au
Can you tell us a bit about the non-humans in your life?
We currently have our fourth little female yellow labby.  The previous three were pedigrees before we became aware of the importance of adopting from a refuge.  It was amazing to adopt Shelly from YAPS and still have a labrador as we gallop - stumble might be a more apt description - around in our seventies.  The other love of our life is a 16 kg black staffy/kelpie cross, an adored little old greying girl who came from YAPS some 13 years ago.  Shelly wouldn't come inside and didn't know how to play when she came to us and was a whopping 40kg; she is now 30 kg in under 12 months, knows how to open the door to come inside and loves playing with her older canine sister.  It's a joy to watch them.
Georgie and Shelly enjoy a laugh.
How do you spend time together? 
Shelly and Georgie sleep inside with us and yes, mainly on (or in) our bed.  They are the first to stir in the morning and make it known they are ready to start the day; if only us oldies had such exuberence to greet the day!  The four of us walk down to buy the paper; Georgie can't walk as far as she used to (but still runs like a greyhound and thinks she is a rottweiler), so I keep going for an hour or so with Shelly.  They usually nap with us in the afternoon, and watch tv in the evenings, jostling for a position on the couch.  They are incredibly hospitable to other dogs so we often have friends' dogs staying though it gets a bit cramped on the bed!
If you could do one thing to improve the lot of companion animals in this world, what would it be? 
With the small pilot program I'm active in - Animal Care for Seniors at Home (ACSAH) - I hope I am doing something good to keep older people and their pets together.  Recognition by retirement villages and aged care facilities of the importance pets are to humans will go a long way to solve the problems of keeping them together.  It works overseas - why not in Australia? (You can get in touch via email - cairnsacsah@gmail.com)
What are three qualities you think are important in a vet? 

Love of animals, capability, and understanding that not all pet owners belong to Mensa so a vet needs a bit of patience in dealing with the humans too.

Do you have any advice for vets and future vets? 
People who care for animals are wonderful.  I'd really like to see vets take on the pharmaceutical companies and lobby for lower prices for consumers.  Yes, we love our pets, but it becomes a daily battle for lower income people to provide the very best of care for them.  I wish they could expose backyard breeders, report any animals they feel may have been abused, and be available to advise and support any educational programmes to teach people that animals hurt too and need love.
How can people in general help companion animals?
Talk to your family, friends and neighbours.  Ask if they can help you with your pet if you are having problems coping and tell them what should happen to your pet in an emergency if you were unable to care for it.  Keep their vaccinations up to date in case they have to be boarded at a refuge. Ask your health provider, doctor, vet or community centre if there is a programme in your area that provides volunteers to help you care for your pet.
Is there anything else you wanted to share?
No matter the terrible pain of losing your beloved pet.... how awful a life not to know that incredible love.  I will always have pets, but now (as I age) they must be older ones; hopefully they will die of old age before us so we know they have been loved and are not left to an uncertain fate.  I would never let my animals die without me holding them and telling them how much I love them if I am fortunate enough to have a choice.

Thank you for your time Tricia and all the great work you do.