Dog squad stalwart proud to lead

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 12, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

We’ve all seen SPCA collectors sitting outside supermarkets or shaking buckets on street corners, and the woman behind this army of volunteers says she is constantly amazed at how generous people are.

“The public are fantastic,” Ali Mason says.

“The food bins set up at local supermarkets are always full of kitty litter and dog food. It’s a wonderful help.”

But it is Mrs Mason herself who is often the biggest help of all.

She has been running the SPCA’s “Dog Squad” for the past 10 years and devotes about three days a week to helping the Tauranga branch secure the funds necessary to care for  the region’s neglected animals.

SPCA operations manager Margaret Rawiri describes Mrs Mason as having an “outgoing, bubbly” personality, and says she would give anything to help the organisation.

“She’s a really great person. She spends a considerable amount of time helping us rather than doing things for herself.”

Mrs Mason moved to New Zealand from Canberra in 1992 and resurrected Tauranga’s Dog Squad after attending the SPCA’s  annual meeting and discovering it had was defunct due to a lack of volunteers.

The group’s original task was to collect money using their own pet dogs, dressed in blue and white SPCA jackets to help attract attention outside supermarkets and in the city centre.

But Mrs Mason soon saw other fundraising opportunities and arranged for merchandise  such as SPCA drink bottles, caps and key rings to be sold as well.

She now co-ordinates a team of 35 Dog Squad members and has branched out into other areas.

Several times a week she and fellow Dog Squad members visit rest homes around Tauranga with a variety of animals for elderly residents to interact with and admire.

“The occupational therapists ask us to visit and, when we do, you can see the residents’ eyes light up and their smiles are worth a million dollars.

“They love having a cuddle with a kitten or patting the dogs.

It brings them great joy and it certainly warms my heart.”

The Dog Squad’s presence is also requested at  children’s days and venues like Animates pet store when special events are held.

“We’ll get together as big an assortment of animals as we can. One of our members has a giant Flemish rabbit, which is the biggest I’ve ever seen, another lady owns pet rats as well, and children love them because they’re a bit different.”

Mrs Mason is responsible for booking regular spots outside Brookfield New World and Countdown Fraser Cove for her team to man, and she makes sure donation boxes are  emptied weekly.

“They’re never empty. Sometimes you’ll open it up and there will be lots of notes in there. It never ceases to amaze me.”

The Tauriko woman has always had a love of animals. She is currently mum to a 4-year-old German short-haired pointer named Koda, and recently lost her beloved dog Chuka, aged 12.

But she says the real work is done at the SPCA shelter itself – a place she could never cope with spending time in.

“It breaks my heart. There are so many horrendous stories that the team up there have to deal with every day. I’m doing the easy stuff. The lovely frilly stuff.”

Nevertheless, the “easy” stuff is still a big job and it’s one she is more than happy to do.

“No one can do these things without the support of people behind you. The Dog Squad members are an amazing lot.”

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