Each year, Auckland Council Animal Shelters care for more than 8000 dogs. The shelters look after stray dogs until they can be reunited with their owners, dogs that haven’t been claimed or have been surrendered by their owners and need to be rehomed, and dogs that have been charged with injuring or killing another animal.
It’s not a job for the faint hearted, but Aimee Reilly, Customer Service Coordinator at Silverdale Animal Shelter, finds plenty to love in a role that sees her dealing with the best and worst of human nature.
How long have you been working with dogs?
About 15 years now. I’m passionate about all animals but there is a special place in my heart for dogs. I used to be a dog nanny and then had the opportunity to do a six-month contract at the Silverdale Shelter, which turned into a permanent position three years ago.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
It’s a combination of a few things such as being able to reunite dogs with their owners and helping adoptable dogs find their forever home. Because we’re a tight team there is a lot of enjoyment in helping other staff when I can. There are days when I’m able to bring my own dogs to work – and there really aren’t many places you get to do that. And puppy cuddles, they are the best!
What’s the worst thing?
There are people who just don’t seem to care about their dogs – or other people – and that’s really upsetting. Sometimes someone will walk through the door already angry and abuse me or one of the team because their dog has been found wandering and brought in. That’s hard to take because we’re all busy caring for the dogs here like they’re our own.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do?
That I hate dogs and that I don’t care, which is simply untrue. There is no way you could do this job and not be 100 per cent passionate about animals.
How do you deal with it?
The dogs keep me going every day and the friends I've made during my time in this role. Our late team leader Vicky Turner inspired and encouraged me to get involved with being the solution. That advice has led me to foster dogs through Hurrah Rescue and helping out at desexing clinics through Desexy Revolution.
Do you have your own dogs?
I have four fur children who I adore and would do absolutely anything for them. I’m lucky that I live rurally so have the space for four dogs.
Sam is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is about to turn 11. He is my soulmate and my first dog – so is very special to me. Unfortunately he has heart issues so he’s currently completing his very own bucket list.
Cullen is also a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel but he is seven. He is an ex-show dog who I cared for since birth in my previous role as a dog nanny. He is an absolute dork and his personality resembles Dug from the Pixar movie Up.
Jax is my four-year-old papillon cross chihuahua. He is such a smoochy dog and although he’s small, he’s mighty, which makes him ideal as an outreach therapy dog.
My last recruit is Chase who is three-year-old Labrador Cross. Chase was actually adopted by a Hurrah rescue from Silverdale Animal Shelter after the team leader found that during his vet check he would need further medical treatment. Through fostering this I was able to nurse him through his recovery, where we bonded and ultimately he became a foster fail – I fell for his silly smile and clumsiness. He has hip and elbow dysplasia which is managed by diet and limited exercise. Chase is an awesome big boy with a little dog mindset; he basically thinks he’s a lap-dog.
What does an outreach therapy dog do?
Jax visits people with special needs and has two standing weekly appointments – one in a mental health home and one for a lady with restricted movement who is in a wheelchair. She adores Jax and even buys him birthday presents. I signed up to the Outreach Therapy programme, which is run by St Johns and SPCA, because I wanted to share the joy that Jax brings.
What’s your best dog treat?
My dogs love their puppuccino* from Starbucks – I always get them a treat when I take them out! The reward encourages and maintains the training I have done to promote calm and polite behaviour.
Note: A puppuccino is a real thing – it’s a cup filled with whipped cream. It's best used as a "sometimes" food.