My first conversation with Alison was about the nitty-gritty of pet relocation to and from the UAE. What struck me was not only her thorough knowledge of the subject but a genuine empathy towards animals. I still remember she said, “Pet relocation isn’t really difficult in terms of the logistics unless you were travelling during the pandemic and ensuing lockdown when the travel rules were changing frequently. Of course, pet parents must plan everything properly, what’s difficult about pet relocation is going through the emotional turmoil. Pet parents are almost always anxious and thus, pets tend to feel anxious. But when they are reunited, we only see tail wags and happy faces. Its for such moments that I love my job. Caring for animals is extremely fulfilling and rewarding no matter how hard it can be at times.”
What do you find most inspiring about caring for animals?
Alison: There is no straight answer for this. It is an indescribable feeling but caring for animals isn’t ever a one-person job. It takes a community of like-minded people to really care for animals and their welfare. I’m glad to have found the ‘Spay Sisters’ community, a not-for-profit organisation that tirelessly works towards animal welfare. As part of this community, I’ve had the privilege to go on two trips to Seychelles and Kenya. These trips are focused on vaccinating and neutering stray dogs and cats as well as pets but with the owners’ permission.
On our last trip to Kenya, we performed 669 TNRs (Trap, Neuter, Release or Return) in just 10 days. So, our daily schedule is rigorous yet extremely fulfilling. During this trip we performed TNRs in an area called Kibera, which is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest globally. So, these experiences aren’t fancy but caring for the animals was very rewarding. I must also add that to go on these trips are expensive and it always takes away two weeks from our allocated four weeks of paid holiday. But such experiences have been life changing for me.
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Did you always want to be part of the pet care community?
Alison: I’m a trained veterinary nurse, I’ve practiced in the UK where I studied and then in various places including Australia, Thailand and Kuwait. My job as a veterinary nurse took me to many places which I enjoyed. But its also very rigorous and as we grow older it can impact our health too – you know the long hours and standing on our feet. So, I decided to move over to the pet relocation side of the job while I was in Kuwait and decided to continue on this path in the UAE too. This too is incredibly fulfilling for me since I get to interact with pet parents and people from aligned pet care segments like veterinary clinics and grooming salons.
Do you have pets of your own?
Alison: Being such a massive animal lover, I can’t even think of a life without pets. As a child, I had rabbit, guinea pigs and ponies. It was in Kuwait that I first rescued two cats who were abandoned at the doorstep of our clinic. The plan was to foster these cats, which obviously failed. One of them, my dear Habibi travelled with me to the UAE, while I lost the other one passed away. I also adopted Molly, my first dog, from Animal Care Kuwait who also travelled with us to the UAE. After moving to Dubai, I adopted my second dog Dixie and all three of them get along very well, although Habibi is the boss.
How do your pets inspire you?
Alison: My pets inspire me to be a better person, however cliched it may sound. Each one has a distinctive character. Habibi inspires me to sleep better. Molly is the calmest dog I’ve met. While Dixie is always so happy that her tail doesn’t stop wagging. Besides bringing me a lot of joy, they also have a calming effect on me and help me to stay positive. You can often find Molly and Dixie with me at work, while Habibi is lazing around at home. Life is good, despite ups and downs.
When you are not working or volunteering what do you like to do?
Alison: I love to go for walks around beaches, hikes and such other things that connect me with nature.
Is there a message you would like to share with our community?
Alison: From my experience I know that caring for animals is extremely fulfilling but also a very hard job. I’ve seen how miserable veterinary doctors feel every time they have to out an animal to sleep. It’s heart breaking and soul destroying since often there is a sense of failure and guilt. Yet they must go about their job with utmost dedication and professionalism. These things impact mental health. My younger self would try to deal with such challenging times strongly but now I tend to cry every time I hear of a loss of pet. So, my message to the community is to have empathy towards each other and towards our beloved animals. Care for them with full dedication and celebrate life with them while they are around.
Alison Rigley, Pet Relocation Coordinator, The Pet Relocations (part of The Pet Shop / Dubaipetfood.com), [Dubai, UAE]
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