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ANIMAL lovers from across the kingdom embarked on a fundraising excursion in the desert as the annual Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) dog walk managed to raise more than BD5,000 for the shelter, writes Kristian Harrison.
The event attracted an enthusiastic crowd of around 200 supporters, 48 pooches from the centre alongside 66 brought by visitors, who trekked 4km around Askar.
Despite having the option of bringing one of my four Siberian Huskies from home to partake in something other than sleeping or eating, I decided this was an occasion for making a new friend.
Having never been a fan of small dogs (it doesn’t deserve the title if it yaps instead of barks!), I asked the kind folk at the charity’s registration desk if they could reserve me the biggest animal available.
What I didn’t expect was to be brought an absolute mountain of a mutt, so huge it required a canine crane to extract her from her kennel. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but she was just as wide as she was long, and this was even after a strict diet!
Maria was her name, a Retriever cross estimated to be two years old who has been at the BSPCA since December 2013. Thankfully, she was as loveable as she was chunky. I was originally sceptical if she would make the whole 4km, but after a water stop and as many as four toilet stops (yes, FOUR), we eventually made it back.
During the walk on the slapdash route, made more difficult by hotter-than-expected weather and rocky terrain (not to mention the minefield of waste left behind by our excitable four-legged friends), walkers could be seen with smiles brighter than the blazing sun.
One couple, Rupert Hearn, 43, and his wife Ann, 42, had brought their Terrier and Old English Sheepdog-cross Bjorn and German Shepherd Bacchus from their home in Budaiya.
Ann said: “It’s great to see this event so well supported, I didn’t think it would attract so many people all the way down here! It’s the first time I’ve been on the dog walk, but I have attended BSPCA dinners and the annual fashion show before. It’s great for the dogs to interact with each other and the people, while on another level it’s exciting to raise so much money for a wonderful cause. Our dogs have had such a nice day, and hopefully it leads to better days for the animals in the shelter too.”
Another who has a history of supporting the shelter is Gayle Clark, who works for HP after moving to Bahrain from Scotland four years ago. She brought her Westie, named Harvey, with her for the day.
She said: “I’m a huge fan of the BSPCA and what they do. I’ve brought a lot of strays into the shelter and it’s my ‘thing’ to rescue dogs from the streets and bring them here. There’s been countless times where I’ve been spotted chasing after dogs with food and a bottle of water!
“After not being able to attend the walk previously due to conflicting schedules, I’ve finally been able to make it and we’ve both had a lovely day.”
Once weary bodies, both of the two- and four-legged variety, returned back to the shelter, there was a period of relaxation to enjoy a raffle draw and barbecue.
As for the dogs, a large paddling pool filled with drinking water was on hand to quench their thirst … except my furry friend decided the time was ripe for a bath!
Yep, Maria jumped right in and plopped herself down without a single care in the world to mass amusement. It was impossible not to laugh at her sheer audacity, so I didn’t mind when she eventually emerged to shake herself off and spray me with water.
One giggling onlooker, St Christopher’s School student Amaarah Cudmore, six, said: “I really enjoyed the walk, I love dogs and it was so exciting to see so many new ones. We walked a dog from here named Gemma who is one year and one month old. She escaped her lead three times and did a really big poo, but she was really cute.”
Her father Lee, 42, said: “We can’t wait to come back next year. In fact, I don’t think Amaarah would let me not bring her again! We don’t have any dogs at home, but SOMEONE is trying very hard to get one, and I think today was part of her campaign to persuade daddy!”
It was certainly a successful day for the BSPCA, with considerable funds raised and three dogs and two cats finding new homes after being adopted by visitors. Joyce Hughes, general secretary of the BSPCA, was delighted with the response from the public and said the event was a huge success.
The 58-year-old said: “We sold out of dogs available for day rental two weeks ago which is phenomenal. While it’s a fundraiser first and foremost, as long as all the dogs get out and have a good day, it’s a success, and even more so if people bring their own dogs and they interact with ours here. It’s the only day in the year that we ever get people bringing their dogs to the centre, as usually we don’t encourage it as there’s quite a furore!
“We have been running the dog walk for 15 years now, and the event keeps getting bigger and better. We have a wonderful team who have helped to organise the occasion; with it being such a transient island we lose a lot of volunteers throughout the year, but we’ve managed to find just as many, if not more, new ones this year. Today, for example, we’ve even got the US Navy in to help us, which is lovely to see.
“All funds go to the shelter. As you can imagine, it costs an awful lot to run with staff, vans, electricity bills and general maintenance. We get absolutely no help from the government whatsoever, so fundraisers like today are essential.”
It was a sad moment giving Maria a sodden goodbye cuddle, but I’m happy that she has had a good day out, and probably burnt a few calories too!
My personal hope is that some day, soon, Maria will find a suitable home where she is loved and cared for, as she combines cute and curvy in one loveable lump … just remember to always be armed with a pooper-scooper and a portable bathtub.