Dogs, cats and a lot of sh*t

We have been at this Workaway for a little over a week now and all our days are pretty much the same. In this blog we will tell you about a typical day. If you want to know more about this place (it’s a dog and cat shelter, with 42 dogs and about 20 cats, run by Lena, you can check out Ambulance Dogs (there’s a video on there too).

Around 7 o’clock in the morning, we get up to take Sparta outside. We walk out of our bedroom and into the kitchen and then the adventure begins. To get outside, we first need to jump over Busia, a huge Saint Bernhard, who always sleeps in the tiny hallway leading to the kitchen. Next, we need to dodge two very happy German Shepherd puppies who are the same age as Sparta and really want to come outside too. Last but not least, we need to make sure that Sima and Brolli, two of the smaller dogs, don’t start playing with Sparta before we make it outside. After we have passed all these dogs, we are not outside yet. We still need to cross a porch (with some sleeping dogs), go down the stairs and through two gates. It’s always a surprise which (and how many) dogs are in our way there. Sometimes it really takes 5 minutes and Sparta usually doesn’t like that, because he needs to pee! It used to be so much easier in the van when all we had to do was open the door! We usually try to go back to bed for a little longer after we have been outside, but most of the times we can’t sleep anymore: the ‘mess’ is waiting for us…

The kitchen is pretty small, and all of the dogs mentioned above are sleeping in there. Last Sunday, two new dogs came in and one of them sleeps inside as well. For those who know dogs: it’s a rhodesian ridgeback, which takes up a big part of the kitchen. You can probably imagine by now how the place looks in the morning: terrible. If we are lucky, the dogs peed and pooped on the special pads we put down in the kitchen and bathroom, but lots of times, they miss. So, here is our first job of the day: we clean the kitchen (and the bathroom connected to it). While doing this, one of us takes the puppies out for a walk. Most times, some of the older and ‘easy to handle’ dogs come with us too. After approximately one hour of working (cleaning, walking, feeding the dogs and taking care of the 5 cats that live upstairs), we take a break and have breakfast.

Around 10 o’clock we go out for a long walk and we always take 6 to 8 dogs with us. Sometimes we try to take dogs that we haven’t taken before, but that’s always a challenge. Some of them we can take out on a walk, are in the cages in the back. If we want to take them out, we need to lead them through other cages, always having to bear in mind that some dogs don’t like each other and might start fighting. When we finally get them outside, they go on a leash and they usually don’t like it. After a while, we release them from their leash and then we always cross our fingers and hope they won’t run away. So far, this hasn’t happened yet! Although sometimes it’s really hard to get them back inside. All the dogs in the shelter really love being outside and they are extremely happy when we take them. We can totally see why: there are big open fields and hills all around our house and you can walk for kilometers without seeing a house or a person. We don’t see many people here anyway: the only people we see are two shepherds who walk by with their cows some days. The 42 dogs always go crazy when this happens. Besides the two shepherds, the few houses that are in the area are all abandoned. Some just for winter, some always.

But let’s get back to our daily routine. When we get back from our walk, we relax for a little while. About 2 to 3 times a week, a worker comes in and he brings groceries from Tbilisi. Sometimes a dog trainer comes with him. Sparta has had two training sessions so far and he (and we) love it! He can do many tricks already: sit, down, paw, stay, turn and crawl! After our late lunch we usually go out for a long walk with all the puppies and some other dogs. Every day we take a different ‘path’ and we explore a different area. By the time we get back, it’s usually between 4 and 5. We relax a little while until we have dinner. After that, we need to feed the dogs and cats again and sometimes we take some of them outside for a short walk. We always hope to find a little less pee and poop in the house this way. Our day ends around 8 or 8.30, with some Netflix.

To sum up our last week here: we really enjoy the company of all the dogs and cats (there are 14 more downstairs, with the German Workawayers). Most of the animals like to cuddle and this makes us really happy. Going on a walk with them is also lovely and relaxing (unless some run away for a while or don’t come back inside). We did have to get used to the ‘not so hygienic’ situation and it is still tough sometimes, but the animals make up for that. Lena (our Russian host and owner of the place) has been gone for 4 nights last week and the day before yesterday she had to leave again (to take some pets to the clinic), so we (and the Germans) are running the place by ourselves some days. It’s nice and quiet, but also a lot of work. It’s not really a Workaway job like this and can be pretty difficult sometimes. Some dogs get into a big fight and we have to try and stop them. Wednesday, three dogs got into a big fight and they were all bleeding. Quite scary!

Besides the hygiene and the busy days, the weather has been bad some days: we had some snow and a really bad storm. On those days, we often didn’t have electricity and/or hot water. It felt like it was freezing inside. There’s nowhere to go from here or have a nice coffee either. The closest town is half an hour away on a dirt road and especially the last part to the house is pretty bad. We took Tiny off roading to get here and don’t want to do that again until we leave. So, we are pretty much stuck here.

Thus, some days were tough, but better weather will come and we love the animals and the sunshine here in pretty ‘middle of nowhere’ (this place doesn’t even have an address). One more week before we head back to the city!