ARK Volunteers have been welcomed at Kuşadası Shelter for over 18 months, to clean the cages, rooms and environment and to ensure that the animals living there are fed and comfortable. It has been a roller coaster experience – at first ARK often seemed to be taking two steps forwards and three back. Financial constraints, communication problems, apparently weak work ethics, cultural differences and lack of sound management and policies & procedures all took their toll. Our volunteers all at some stage needed to take a break from the stress of heart ache and hard work. However, now Sami Vet has taken over the Shelter management and ARK Executive Committee Member Brenda has taken over management of the Shelter Group. At last there are noticeable improvements for both animals and volunteers. Conditions are still not perfect – the Shelter has no x-ray machine so animals with broken limbs have to be transported to Aiden University Hospital for an x-ray and then an appointment must be made for a week or so later for the limb to be set. There is no post-operation recovery room – unconscious animals are returned to the bare concrete of a crowded enclosure. The Shelter often runs out of food – yesterday ARK supplied three bags of puppy biscuit. Angelika and the German charity Sunnydays for Animals e.V. have also donated cat litter, medical materials and foods, for which our furry friends are grateful. At the moment ARK volunteers are only allowed to tend to the puppies and their mums, not the other dogs. However, we are hopeful. Brenda tries to ensure that volunteers attend most days – here is a flavour of what they achieve:

Saturday, 19 January: Trudy, Jan, Paula and Zak volunteered at the shelter, cleaning and feeding the cats, many of whom seemed to have been there a long time with no treatment for eyes and leg problems.  The cats were allowed out for exercise one by one.

When feeding the puppies, a dead one was discovered and two escaped to the next door cage – they were returned to their mother.

Sunday, 20 January:  Nurdan and Rana volunteered.  The carpets in the dog cages were replaced and the cat room cages disinfected by Rana.  Carpets were scrubbed and blankets machine washed.  All the animals were fed with food brought by volunteers and also the dogs waiting for their dinner outside the shelter perimeter.

Tuesday, 21 January:  Sherry, Ibo and Craig volunteered, with extra food cooked and donated by Eerika and her husband.  Ibo & Craig mostly did the puppies. While Ibo went to town and bought  laundry detergent, Craig washed dishes and Sherry cleaned litter pans and put dry food and water in each of the cages and in the big room. Ibo & Craig then fed the animals home made & canned food. Taking care of the cats is definitely a two person job.

Wednesday, 22 January: Mandy, Liz, Susie and Vinny volunteered.  All the cages were cleaned, the cats and also a puppy in the middle cage were exercised. The volunteers had made their usual mixtures of wet food so all the pups were well fed. Five machine loads of washing were completed and another machine loaded in preparation for when the other had finished – the weak shelter electricity supply restricts washing machine usage.  Two dead puppies were removed from the first puppy cage and another that was taken to the vet sadly later died.

In one cage there were two very small white pups with no mother and the volunteers wondered if another dog whose puppies had died might foster them . . .

Thursday, 22 January: Deniz, Jane and Brenda volunteered. They took 3 x15 kg bags of puppy food bought from ARK donations together with 24 tins of both dog and cat food, a large bag of washing powder and cleaning fluid. While Jane and Deniz loaded the wheelbarrow and went to the puppies, Brenda stored her supplies and gathered all she needed to work with the cats.

Deniz reported: There were a lot of puppies, some with and some without their mums. We had brought with us boiled chicken for the mums, dog food mixed with chicken soup and milk for the babies. I was happily surprised to see the improvement in shelter conditions. The rooms were clean, there was plenty of clean water for dogs to drink. Plus, they had long clean metal trays and some plastic plates filled with food. The food wasn’t looking good and most of the dogs weren’t interested in it but at least it wasn’t on the floor mixed with dirty stuff. The pallets were on the ground, functioning. We gave milk, chicken and the puppy mix to the babies and the mums, checked on their medical condition and advised the vets accordingly. There was a black puppy who couldn’t really move his rear legs, one without balance and there were some puppies coughing. Neziha, veterinary assistant, said that the black one had been like that for some time. She also said that she gave the puppies vitamins every day in addition to their usual meals and check ups. She also said that all the sick ones would be put together so that she could follow them up more easily. Finally the wet and dirty bedding was replaced and the dirty bedding laundered.

The highlight of my first visit was two tiny puppies, alone and snuggled up. When one was picked up they would start whining. They couldn’t eat anything, that was how tiny they were. On the other hand, there were two mums in the next room, one of them dominating the rest of the dogs. We suggested that the dominant dog be taken to another room. I asked Neziha for feeding bottles for those two puppies, prepared the formula and returned to the puppies. When I reached the the room, I found the dominant mum from next door. I said to myself “Oh no, they were supposed to put it somewhere else!” One of the puppies became wet but the adult dog wouldn’t let me take the puppy. She took it and started to lick it dry. I then realised that this dog was actually their mother. I was very happy to see them together like that.

It was heartbreaking to see all the puppies look at us while we were leaving though. I will try to go again next Thursday. We don’t know how many will manage to survive until then. But with the shelter staff, we’ll keep trying our best to keep them alive.

Brenda is desperate for more volunteers to join her teams – if you can spare just a couple of hours each week, please contact Brenda Cassidy – you will make a difference . . . .