First day of volunteering at SUST Orphan Animal Hospital, Galati
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Bun venit în România! Welcome to Romania!
After a short flight from Zurich to Bucharest and a 3 hour drive across the countryside, I made it to Galati (pronounced Galatsi) at night. The city is home to around 250'000 inhabitants and located in the Eastern part of Romania, very close to the border with the Republic of Moldavia. It is an important port city thanks to its location on the Danube river, with a naval shipyard and the largest steel mill of the country. You can get more info on wikipedia here.
I was greeted by the shelter manager Lilu, who speaks an impeccable English and the lady who rents me the apartment where I'm staying in the city center. I was touched by their warmth and help to make me feel welcome and like at home. I am lucky to be on the ground floor with a large garden. For those who know me, it means plenty of gardening possibilities: there are several fruit trees, vines and flowers so I can tend to them in the evening :)
After a goodnight sleep, it's time to dive right in the first day of volunteering!
The shelter is located about 10km outside of the city so I get picked up by some shelter employees in the morning. I arrive to a very remote area (the last part is a dirt road) and glad to see there is plenty of space. The shelter is actually split into 2 areas: the clinic and the orphanage.
The clinic is where animals receive surgery (for instance spaying/neutering) and are kept under quarantine and observation. All animals are checked for disease upon arrival. This is important to prevent any contamination and transmission of virus/bacteria to other healthy animals.
The orphanage is where abandoned animals or animals recovered from injuries, but unfit to return to the streets are kept. There are about 100 cats and 1'000 dogs at the moment. In additional, there are apparently some donkeys (i've heard them, but not yet seen them) as well as a few goats and sheep. I'm planning to pay them a visit tomorrow.
I get introduced to the cat area of the orphanage, and get immediately allocated there - I guess it's easy to see I'm a cat lover ;) My two co-workers are named Gabi & Iulia, both Romanian and who recently joined the shelter in early 2020. Gabi speaks very well English and show me the ropes while we listen to Queen on the music speaker, I can tell already it's going to be a great day.
The cat area
I'm quite positively surprised when I arrive to this area, as it's so peaceful and clean! Maybe my expectation was that there would be lots of cats meowing all over the place and a strong urine smell (which is quite horrendous for those who know cat pee smell), but I am delighted to see the cats seem at ease and behaving normally.
The area is composed of 4 enclosures. Each of them has an indoor and outdoor component, with a free passage between them. The space is as one would think for a cat paradise, full of cat trees, boxes with cushions and baskets to rest, as well as sufficient food bowls and litter trays. I think the success of this area is mainly due to
1) a smart design/arrangement of the area,
2) a limitation of 30 cats per enclosure to avoid fights/competition and
3) the hard work of Gabi & Iulia.
The day consists of the following tasks (not necessarily in the chronological order):
sweeping and wet-mopping the floor
emptying & cleaning litter trays
filling dry food bowls
changing water & cleaning bowls
distribution of wet food in various bowls (only on specific days of the week)
cleaning cat trees/baskets for excessive hair
doing laundry of the dirty towels and other blankets
fixing enclosure fences & other amenities
and of course grooming/cuddling and playing with the cats
I have to confess that I did spend a lot of time on that last bullet point :D I wanted to make sure the cats get to know me as a safe person, so that I can move around each enclosure without them being scared. Also it is interesting to notice the social interactions between them as a group, and observe each individual cat personality. I can't remember them all yet, but I'm glad I got acquainted to many of them and could hear a lot of purrs already.
Here is a melting pot of some pictures I took today:
I'm excited for the rest of the week to unfold. I'll be in touch in a week or so to share my next impressions. If you have any question, don't hesitate to post in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!