4 Paws Secretary Kate Buckley has a passion - dogs! She knows from personal experience how a tiny, scrappy, difficult homeless animal can win your heart and transform your priorities and prejudices.
Kate, a teacher at Mountain Creek State School, has been adopting and fostering dogs with 4 Paws for a decade and took on the role of secretary just over a year ago.
Kate got her first 4 Paws adoption pet when she was drawn to a very anxious little face on the website. It was love at first sight. Misty was an elderly Fox Terrier with some health issues and Kate adored her.
After Misty died, 4 Paws President Julie Penlington mentioned she desperately needed a home for a 12-year-old Mini Fox Terrier that was difficult to place and Kate agreed to foster Maisie while Julie found her a permanent home.
Maisie had a mammary gland tumour and rotten teeth removed before coming to Kate, but she still had ongoing liver and kidney issues as well as serious behaviour issues.
As a teacher, Kate was experienced dealing with difficult personalities and she was also an experienced dog owner. But nothing had prepared her for Mini Tornado Maisie.
Maisie was aggressive with other dogs and people. She had a very small circle of trust, just Kate, her husband Marc and a couple of relatives. ‘She adored us,’ Kate says, but no-one else.'
‘I never envisaged us having this sort of dog to manage. I thought, this is not what I signed up for, a tiny, ratty dog that barks at people. But then I realised that it was not about me just feeling good, it was about making a difference.’
‘Maisie made me think about why I was doing it. I get teary just thinking about her. She was such a special dog and with all her health problems she fought so hard.’
Kate says the vet called Maisie a wonder dog because initially they thought she’d only live a couple of years. ‘But we had her for six years. Having her was so rewarding and we were able to give her a great life, a life that she deserved.’
After Maisie died, Kate and Marc fostered another permanent resident, Suki, for a year until she died. Then they adopted Max, a Fox Terrier that had been surrendered because his family was moving to rental accomodation.
‘Max is a delightful, quirky character. He drags his bed around to where he wants to be. When he plays, he tosses his bed on top of himself like a turtle and walks around.’
Currently keeping Max company is Spike, a 12-year-old Jack Russell Kate and Marc are fostering.
‘We’re doing what we always do with foster dogs, we fall in love with them! We didn’t really want a second dog. Max is such a great little dog who we can take anywhere. As long as he is with us (and his green ball) his life is complete! But Spike is a good dog too and they both get on very well. Marc says we can’t send Spike anywhere else because he’s so happy here.’
When a dog dies it’s so sad it’s tempting to say ‘I won’t get another one’, Kate says. ‘By looking after other dogs in need I’m honouring Maisie. I’m so glad I didn’t turn my back on her.’
Maisie changed me, Kate says. ’You can’t always get the dog you think you want.’
Kate says being a 4 Paws volunteer is incredibly rewarding. ‘It’s so special to know you’ve contributed positively to the life of another being.’
‘To people thinking of volunteering I say do whatever you can, even if it’s small, every bit helps.’