I've been in love with dogs ever since I can remember. From my Grandad's first Dalmatian, Tessa to the lovable workhorse that is Jake.
When my Grandad sadly passed away I was eight years old and devastated. Grandad meant the world to me and had taught me all about dogs and had taken me fishing and encouraged me, along with my Mother, to enjoy nature. Tessa, who was such a fast dog and who thought nothing of planting her front paws on my shoulders to lick my face from ear to ear, came to live with us and whilst she was only with us for a few more years she made such an impact on my life and it was some small consolation for loosing Grandad. I fondly remember taking her for a walk, letting her off the lead, confident that when I called her she would race towards me as I ran to home. Catching me up in seconds she would reach our front door and be let in by my mother long before I arrived home, tired and out of breath. My parents never owned another dog after Tessa, but I spent every moment I could with the dogs of friends or family members. When I came to choose a career I soon realised that I wasn't going to get the school grades I needed to be a vet. I hadn't considered that being a vet would mean I wasn't just working with dogs, until I did my work experience with a local vet. The work experience was so exciting and I was able to see so many different dogs and observe operations and consultations. However, it wasn't meant to be for me and I was led by careers advisers into working in Environmental Health. They felt that, as I showed a desire to help people, I would be suited to work for a Local Authority and spend my time dealing with complaints and working to protect the public. I never forgot my passion of dogs and I always felt like something was missing. At every opportunity I would ensure I learnt as much about them as possible, and I volunteered to pick up the strays for the Dog Warden who worked alongside my team. Picking up stray dogs helped me to understand dogs when they are feeling most vulnerable and anxious and I learned a lot by collecting them and taking them to the re-homing
centres (Where of course I would spend time meeting all of the other dogs who were waiting to be re-homed before heading back to the office). Occasionally, I would be lucky enough to take one home before its owner was found and I often wanted to keep them (Against all advice from the dog warden who kept telling me not to get attached!). Training to be an Environmental Health Officer was so interesting and I learned all sorts about people and animals. My course required me to complete 200 hours working in a slaughter house, which I found both disturbing and fascinating. Having completed the course and learning all about animal diseases I qualified as a Veterinary Auxiliary - so I managed to partly fulfil my desire to be a vet (even if it was only a very small part!).
The work of Environmental Health was difficult for me and I found it hard being disliked by many. You see, not many people enjoy being inspected by a council official and I would often think that I was missing out on my passion of working with dogs whilst people hurled abuse at me. There were only so many strays that I could pick up and eventually the Council would outsource its collection of stray dogs to a private contractor, leaving me with only the management of the service rather than collecting and meeting the dogs. I did however get to meet lots of members of the public who had dogs and would love to give them a fuss whilst I talked about how their owner had contracted food poisoning or listened to them complain about a blocked drain or about their neighbours dogs barking. I also found it difficult dealing with animal welfare complaints and was often horrified to see how people could treat their dogs. It was inevitable really that I would decide to end my career in Environmental Health to start working with dogs, even if I did spend 20 years progressing through the ranks before that would happen. When I started out as an Environmental Health Officer, I had no idea that I could be working with dogs much sooner than I had dreamed of by volunteering to work with my local Search and Rescue Team. To be continued........