Ramon Bartomeus is 58 years old and he volunteers in El Cau Amic shelter, based in Sant Cugat del Vallès, a municipality North of Barcelona, Spain.
Although in recent years Sant Cugat has increased significantly its population (now is the ninth most populated municipality in Barcelona province) it still keeps its residential town character, with houses with big gardens, and where all inhabitants know themselves and greet when they take a walk through its cobbled streets.
More than 2 years ago, Ramon left his flat in Barcelona and went to live in a house in Sant Cugat. Almost immediately he began his collaboration with the shelter.
Why did you decide to collaborate with a shelter in the town where you just arrived?
I work in the non profit sector. Now I’m the manager at Iwith.org Foundation, but I always have been collaborating with volunteering projects. So, for me, the best way to get integrated in my new town was collaborating with a non profit in Sant Cugat.
I saw that there was a fair of local entities and I went to meet them… When I arrived, El Cau Amic had not yet assembled the stand, so my first contact with them was helping to do it. After that I told them that I wanted to meet them… and I’m a volunteer since then.
I always loved dogs and I would love to have one, but leaving it at home while I’m all day at work it would not be fair.
Now in El Cau Amic I mainly walk the dogs three times a week and I help in fundraising campaigns.
What is El Cau Amic?
El Cau Amic is a non profit organisation totally composed by volunteers (nowadays around 80 people). We rescue street dogs and we care for them while they do not find a new home.
We have few dogs, but they are well attended. At present time we have 40 dogs that are available for adoption and two dozen of cats that are not in the shelter but live in volunteer houses. Our objective is the animal welfare, so we help any animal that needs us, independently of their species.
In 2013 we have had an adoption per week. That’s good, but it also means that a new dog enters to the shelter every week.
And during their stay in the shelter, how do the dogs live?
Generally every dog has their own cage. All dogs have a straw and wood bed, and a 20m2 patio. Sometimes, depending on character and size, we can put 1 or 2 dogs in the same cage.
If we would tight them up more, we could have more dogs. But our idea is that dogs could go walk 3 times per week, long walks without leash, running by the river… being individually loved and cared by the volunteers.
How is the adoption process?
Large. We want that the adopter is really aware of what means to have a dog in their lives.
First they visit the shelter and we explain them which is the most suitable dog for their way of life. After that we interview the adopters and we propose a sponsorship period: they sponsor the dog, walk it, they even have the dog with them one weekend at home… but we do not transact the documents and the dog returns to the shelter until the adopters are really sure that’s what they want.
When a dog has been adopted 15 days and it is returned to the shelter, it’s worse than its first time here. Once the adoption process is finished, we make a follow up… but in fact Sant Cugat is a town and everybody knows everybody, so it is easy to see how the adoption proceeds.
Do you remember any case that has specially impressed you?
Debo. He was a hunter dog… he arrived without fur, his flesh visible, red… he was a mess. Now he is a beautiful dog, active, but lovely. He needs space to run. He has not been adopted yet.
How do you finance the shelter?
The association is a private initiative and we do not have grants from the town hall.
Our needs are very basic: food, vets and drugs.
Our facilities need some conditioning: more houses, repairing the downspouts (when it rains, water gathers in the wrong place), patch up some houses,…
We are lucky enough: a laboratory gives us the drugs we need for the dog care. Vets attend us with all their patience. And we buy the food thanks to sponsorships, member donations and adoption fees.
Recently we have launched a crowdfunding campaing with Worldcoo, a company that uses crowdfunding with non profits in their marketing strategy based on Corporate Social Responsability. We asked for a modest amount (2400€) for “Operation Cold” with which we could fix facilities for the cold: straw beds, fences,…
Given the success of the previous crowdfunding, we have launched a new campaing this week. We need the funds to create an infirmary, an aseptic space with a stretcher. We will only ask about 1000 €, since the building is done, and we just need to backport.
Tell us how your first experience volunteering in the shelter was.
I did not know how it worked. I thought it was an easy task and that I only need to do what others more experienced than me did.
I went out with 2 dogs, Duna and Jack, in a 20 minutes walk. Duna and Jack love to play togheter, and chase and run freely.
I saw that the 2 of them were runing towards me and I thought “don’t worry, that’s normal, they will dodge me in the last minute…” but not.
They did not sidestepped me, they ran directly to me. I flew about one meter into the air and fell back to the ground. I ran out of air and then I spent three months with back pain …
And you keep walking dogs… would you recomend volunteer as dog walker?
Undoubtfully. It is a fantastic experience.
It fills the weekend time when you can forget about work, family and daily crisis. In my case it allows me to walk 1 or 2 hours with a dog at my side, without leash, in contact with nature and with other relaxed people.
And finally, I also think “if I was not doing this, this dog will be caged or abandoned”… so, undoubtfully: become a volunteer!
All pictures have been provided by El Cau Amic for this post and they are of their property.