Watching one rescued dog bounce around the Victoria Park Racecourse in the city is all the convincing we need that the “adopt don’t shop” mantra is more than just a catchy phrase.
Roxie looks like a Disney-version of a Frankenstein dog – with parts borrowed from other canines somehow cobbled together to make the cutest animal possible.
The six-year old mixed breed is a rescue dog currently being looked after by foster carer Michelle Exner. Every day, Roxie, Michelle and Honey – Michelle’s Chihuahua mix – walk through Victoria Park Racecourse – pausing to meet other dogs while Roxie expends some of her seemingly unlimited supply of energy.
“It’s great because Honey has company during the day,” says Michelle. “When Roxie came immediately I just loved her, and she fits really well with Honey and I.”
As well as looking after dogs (Roxie is her fifth foster charge) for an organisation called Moving Paws, Michelle volunteers as the not-for-profit’s foster co-ordinator – placing dogs in homes as they come into care.
After working with Moving Paws for about a year and a half, she’s seen the gamut of experience that can come with rescue animal work.
“It can be awful,” says Michelle. “They’ve been abandoned or given up by their owners and you can feel like you’re doing that again when you’ve been fostering them and then they move onto their permanent home.
“But it is also very rewarding when you see you’ve given these dogs a second chance. You can see how happy they are in their new home and how happy their owners are – it’s just fantastic, really wonderful to see.”
A small breed dog rescue group, Moving Paws was started by and is still run by Debbie Mundy, who was working in real estate and repeatedly found dogs that had been abandoned in vacated houses.
Over the years, the group has grown and now has a reputation for taking on cases that others can’t or won’t.
“We take on what we can, I don’t know if we’ve ever said no actually,” says Michelle.
“All of our carers are set up to have small dogs – they have small dog doors and small dogs of their own, so we can’t take big dogs. But apart from that we take on the harder to re-home dogs – a lot of senior dogs and dogs with health or behavioural issues.
Moving Paws is just one of many rescue animal agencies that is working in Adelaide to re-home abandoned and abused animals. While they specialise in dogs, many other groups have everything from goats to kittens on the books – so there’s lots of options.
“We help the RSPCA – they give us a call sometimes if they have a dog that’s not fitting in with their environment or if they’re full. Sometimes the Mildura Pound calls us and we fly them in and sometimes, like with Roxie, people just ask us to help re-home their pets.”
While the message to consider adoption rather than buying from a pet shop or breeder has been gaining traction in Australia, there are still challenges faced by Moving Paws and other associations doing similar work.
As a rescue group that covers vet bills for all their animals in foster care, Moving Paws are constantly in need of money, as well as more volunteer support.
“We’re always looking for foster carers. You don’t have to have a dog to be a foster carer and because we have small dogs it doesn’t need to be a big house either, but we do ask that it be an indoor-outdoor home,” says Michelle.
“And we always need funds – we’ve just started a corporate sponsorship as well so if there’s businesses looking to support something, they can be a part of what we do.”
As Michelle speaks, Roxie is getting impatient for her racecourse walk. The trio disappear off around the oval, and CityMag watches her bound away. The happiness evident in her wagging tail is worth spending something on – whether that be time, or money, or a little bit of thought next time you’re thinking about getting a pet.