My name is Francis. I work for Willowslea Farm Boarding Kennels and Airpets Oceanic Quarantine & Export. I have worked here for nearly two years. It’s a job you either love or hate. I am one of those mad people who love all aspects of the job. I wouldn’t change my job for anything. I start work at around 9am. All my little darlings (my dogs) are raring to go. They all have their own little quirks and personalities.
They will all greet you with a bark or a little tap dance and they all love to have their cuddles and love for you to talk to them just to reassure them that everything is all right. In return they will give you a great big kiss and talk to you, and sometimes in excitement, they will wee on you.
After all this, they will go outside so I can start. My day is very busy so I get started. When all my dogs are out, I then go over to the office to check the “Boarding Dogs Books”, to see what dogs will be arriving today. Then I decide which kennel block to put them in. I also check which dogs are going out today, either exports or boarders who are going home. Then I have to check the export book to see how many exports will be arriving and the times of the exports going out.
Next I have to hunt around for our vets book. Our vets at Runnymeade Hill Veterinary Surgery in Egham come every day. So I need to know where the animals are and in which block. It saves a lot of time. I have to keep a record of all dogs in Boarding & Export which see the vet, including, the date, name, in and out dates, reason for seeing the vet, medication (if any), and what medication will come the next day. I also keep a record of our three boarding/export blocks. Dogs can then be found easier when they are either to be returned to their owners or when they have to be boxed up for flying, this means when they need to be found, we don’t have to go around looking for them. From these records, I also know how many spare spaces there are.
After this I then come back to my boarding and export block to pick-up any mess from the papered kennels and then I change the bedding and start the washing, of which there are several loads a day. Then I can start getting the breakfasts ready, and any medication that’s needed. We have all different things to do for the dogs. Sometimes in boarding we get diabetic dogs that need insulin. But they have to be injected, so they are sorted out first. In quarantine at this present time, I am looking after a diabetic dog early in the morning I do a urine test then I feed him before the quarantine staff arrives. Then at night, I feed him and half an hour later, I give him his insulin.
Other medication we have to use can be tablets or eye drops etc. I live on the premises so I can help out on these early and late medications if need be. Then, I get my mops and buckets full of vet cleaner to wash out all my kennels. Then it’s time to change wash another load of washing and put the first load of washing into our drier. In between this I am 2 bells, which means, if I hear those dreaded bells I have to stop everything and go up to the office. It could be to collect a dog or it could be an owner here to collect his dog. Or it could be a telephone call for me to reassure a worried owner about their dog, which is in my care. Or it could easily be an Export dog from one of our couriers who delivers them to us.
I have to put all my dogs into clean kennel and then find out what they eat, if they are on any medication and their likes and dislikes. I then put their names on my lists: kennel number, dogs name, food. I can then continue to clean. Between 10:30am – 11:30am the vets do their rounds. Sometimes I go around with the vets to help with blood tests, the dogs’ final tests before they fly, and I give any help that is required. So I try to get all my work finished before they arrive. It can be a very short vets list or a long one.
Each day is different. Last week I helped the vet to take a blood sample from a worried cat and as I held him, he began to dribble all down my arm and hand. Sometimes when you try to prepare a dog for export, frightened dogs will go to the toilet as a reaction this. But it’s all part of the job, we realise that they are just scared. Most animals have never been in kennels and for a time, see us as strangers. We also have to make sure that all inside as well as outside are kept clean. When I go into the outside runs, to clear up any mess, it can take some time as the dogs love you to play with them and think that if you are bending down, you want them to jump all over you and push you over so that you will then play with them and chase them.
They just want lots of TLC. If I am lucky, I might get all this done and sometimes I might even have all the lunches ready before the vets arrive. And I have to make sure I don’t forget to keep changing the washing over. I can even take a short break to make sure that I don’t smell dogs! Just because I work in a kennels, doesn’t mean that it has to smell of dogs. I can’t stand the smell of dogs. Then the vet arrives and I sort out which dogs have to been seen by the vet. Sometimes we are standing in puddles of wee, other times it’s on us. But they animals are just frightened. Occasionally, we have to muzzle a dog because he may have had a bad experience with a vet. But most times, they are just bewildered as to what is happening.
A final check means the vets checks the animal all over to say whether it is safe for the animal to fly. Then sometimes, they have to be wormed and “Frontlined”. Some cats can be nightmares, they just hate to be left full stop and you can’t muzzle them. At least with a dog it’s only the mouth you have to watch, with cats, you have 4 legs, with claws, plus, a full set of teeth, ouch! They hiss, spit and generally don’t want to be seen. So it can be a nightmare if blood tests need to be taken. Sometimes other kennel maids need help, so if I can help, then I will. It can be for all sorts of reasons, but we all help each other if we can. By this time, it is usually lunchtime, my break is usually between 1-2pm, but it all depends on whether I am with the vet or not. I will have my break when I have finished my rounds with the vet. Once that is finished, before I take my lunch break, it’s time to feed all of my dogs and then I will let them have an hour rest inside.
Most of the dogs will eat and then have a sleep, usually because they have tired themselves out from barking at the other dogs and from playing with their toys. After lunch, before I let them all out into their runs again, I clean their kennels again. Then, there is yet another washing change and then it’s time to clean all their water bowls and they have clean water outside and inside each day. After this, it’s time to file all the Export and Boarding papers, I try to make sure I do this everyday, otherwise, the papers could get lost and I keep them for the dates of dogs or I have to check the vets book for information.
Once all this is done, my dogs are allowed outside again. I then pick up all the empty food bowls and wash them up and then it’s to take some dogs for a walk and groom them, if they will let you. “Walkies” are always fine, but brushes are an acquired taste for some dogs! Also during the day, it’s time to arrange and prepare my Export dogs. I find it very easy to get attached to dogs, especially those who are with you for a long time before they fly. But it’s nice when owners let you know they arrived safely and thank you for taking care of their pet. Some of our boarders are regular visitors, and when they see me they want a cuddle and they aren’t scared to leave their owners, once they know you, it’s as if you become part of their family.
I even have owners asking me if I will be at the kennels next year, as they are hoping that my holidays aren’t booked at the same time as theirs! After the walks are over, I start cleaning my kitchen and also the vets-room, which is next to my kitchen. Then, believe it or not, it’s time to sort out washing and drying, then it gets folded away ready for tomorrow, when I will need the clean bedding for my dogs. Once a week, I wash all my paintwork down and get rid of any cob webs which appear. There is a small garden outside one half of my runs, so the dogs can smell them instead of looking at a brick wall and that is the day almost finished!!