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This will be the fifth Christmas Day that Angela Cox has spent with rescue animals – a ritual that has become a major part of her life. The Battersea volunteer, who doesn’t like to be sucked into the materialism of the festive season, instead spends the day surrounded by dogs in the animal shelter. After all, she says, “for the dogs there’s no distinction between Christmas and another day, they still need walking and human interaction”.
The 69-year-old from south west London will aim to be at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home for 11am, and will spend the rest of the day (until around 4pm) keeping the dogs company. There will be a Christmas lunch and decorations around the site. “It’s a really nice atmosphere,” says Angela. “Things are very social there, which is nice.”
When Cox talks about her role, it’s clear that she takes it very seriously. Being a dog socialiser is a hands-on job and involves taking the dogs for walks and carrying out ‘kennel sessions’ where she teaches them things like how to sit, give paw and not jump up at people. This all helps in making them as ready as possible for their future homes.
She might also do some scent work with the dogs, which helps them de-stress. “Different dogs handle kennels in a variety of ways, so sometimes that can help calm them,” Cox says. Tubs of lavender and other relaxing herbs are dotted around the Battersea grounds for pooches to sniff. There are also larger tubs of bark and pebbles and textured bridges to help keep them as stimulated as possible.
The work of volunteers is a huge help for full-time staff at the shelter, who are then able to take leave and spend time with their families knowing Battersea’s furry residents are taken care of. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day combined, there will be around 50 volunteers working with the dogs and cats.
For Cox, giving back to the animals is the ultimate way to celebrate that time of year. “There’s a Christmas spirit at Battersea,” she says.
“We are, and it feels like, one big family. The one thing we all share is that we want to do something that is going to help the lovely animals that come through our care, so that they can come out the other side and find themselves nice adoptive homes. And that really pays dividends to me, which is why I’m happy to give my time.”
After her volunteer sessions with the dogs she always returns home to her beloved rescue cat – “it’s the best of both worlds.”
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