Day 1 of being a volunteer at Rex was fabulous. Despite Google Maps giving me incorrect directions, resulting in a few extra kilometres being walked out in Budapestian Suburbia (and the subsequent blisters, argh), we made it and met up with Bernadett, who seems to be the only person who speaks English there. B came with me in case translation was needed.
I collected my ‘Volunteer Card’ and Bernadett explained The Rules (short leash around other dogs, no socialising with other dogs, no patting through the enclosure fences and no off-leash time). We were taken to the enclosures where one of the carers chose a very happy-go-lucky pooch for us to walk, Oleg.
Oleg is a mixed-breed, medium sized dog, around 9 years old. He was VERY excited to come out for a walk and managed to pee on everything, sniff everything and scratch up everything he could pee on or sniff. SERIOUSLY adorable dog.
We decided walking one was enough as my feet were unprotected (I had no idea I would be walking the dogs in the woods and wore my old Birkenstock sandals – nice one Steph) and we were being eaten by mosquitoes. Next time, I’m wearing runners and taking insect repellent. I’d happily go for a whole day and walk as many as I can.
The shelter is a big property in the outskirts of Budapest, on the Pest side heading north up the river. (I’m not sure exactly which district) We took Metro 3 to the end of the line, then a bus out and then walked.
They have some ponies, a pig, a donkey, horses, geese, chooks and ducks. They regularly host open days for publicity and currently have 600 volunteers on their books. You can go regularly or sporadically and there are a multitude of jobs you can help out with. I was allocated Dog Walking (YAY!) though offered to do anything. I think the language barrier prevented me from doing much else. Which is fine by me! Dogs don’t care what language you speak, but me trying to say SIT! to him in Hungarian was not at all successful. However, saying, “come!” in Hungarian worked a charm – he was happy to trot along beside me!
Next week, I will go again and get there earlier, not get lost, and walk more dogs. Great way to see more of the city via public transport, seeing as we always stick to the inner part of the town, get fresh air in the woods, get some exercise, a dose of canine love and know that it’s all for a good cause.
I found out about Rex through one of the universities here that has a student group devoted to volunteering. A few times a year, the student group garners support from the public to get involved in volunteering. They set up the programs and you register and join in. I contacted them but their dog walking days fell on work days or travel days for me, so instead I emailed Rex directly and just asked if anyone spoke English and do they need some extra help. (Their entire website is in Hungarian, so I did a lot of Google Translating to find the right info and contact details)
Bernadett got back to me and it went from there. I filled out an application form, sent in a photo and they made the card. Volunteers show their card and sign in, get a leash and go to the enclosures, where another employee allocates a dog to you. The woods are nearby and there are a few tracks you can go along. The dogs are SO HAPPY to have some time out (as is their wont) and it was lovely to be in the sunshine and walking through the greenery with a pooch by my side.
The other fantastic thing we saw yesterday was a hive of activity outdoors – a whole bunch of university students and tutors armed with laptops and camera gear! I asked one of them what they were all doing. They were students from the Netherlands who are creating media content for the shelter as an assignment! One guy was making an interactive game for the website, and others were working on a short film (or series of short films, I’m not quite sure) What a fantastic uni project – getting students to work on something for a charity that will give them real life skills as well as contributing to animal welfare. Ten times awesome High Distinctions on that one, Netherlands university! *high five*
If you want to see some videos of Rex, click here. (Yes, they are in Hungarian, but you get the idea it’s a good place)
I highly recommend getting involved in something that interests you, voluntarily. I don’t do it for the “glory” (yeah, dog shit is glorious…) or the thanks, I do it because I love animals, I love being around people who do good work for animals and learning from them, and I like to be aware of what’s happening around me.