Best friend fights for dog welfare
TRICIA Miles is the best friend of many a dog living in Queensland.
The retired foreign affairs personal secretary is a prolific letter writer and petition signatory, and woman of action.
Her passion is championing the wellbeing of all animals, and dogs in particular, in Cairns and the nearby Aboriginal communities.
"I have developed a social conscious in my old age," Tricia, 75, said.
"There is so much animal cruelty everywhere."
After working and travelling overseas for 28 years without a pet in sight, Tricia found her permanent home in Cairns with husband Nev.
It was then she realised how much she had missed not having a pet in her adult life.
With time on her hands, she found delight in being around dogs and helping make a difference to the lives of those that had been abandoned, mistreated or needing support.
Tricia founded the volunteer group Animal Care for Seniors at Home (ACSAH) which brings together older community members and their pets with volunteers who help to do some of the basic tasks involved in ensuring these pets receive the necessary care in their owners' homes.
"We try to keep them together for as long as possible," she said.
"I was seeing old dogs being surrendered to YAPS because people couldn't care for the animal. That was heartbreaking."
With the help from an old Canberra friend and dog lover Di Johnstone, Tricia set up ACSAH in 2013.
"We coerced, nagged and bribed people to turn up for a meeting which ended up with 30 or 40 people," she said.
"All levels of government attended. Everybody said it sounded like a good idea. That was the impetus to keep going.
"People were interested and did think there was a need to help our elderly and frail so they could stay together in their home with their pets."
The group started with just Tricia and a few like-minded friends but has since grown to 64 volunteers working with about 55 clients.
"The delight and relief when you knock on a client's door - and Fido is even more happy to see you than the human client - that makes it worthwhile to keep them together in their own home," she said.
Tricia has since stepped back from a day-to-day role with ACSAH so she can spend more time volunteering with the Young Animals Protection Society (YAPS).
"I'd rather be a foot soldier now than a general," she said.
"There are now so many more younger and more competent people helping ACSAH."
Five days a week she is at the YAPS refuge exercising dogs and helping with fundraising. They deal with cats and dogs at the no-kill refuge.
"Animals end up at YAPS for a variety of reasons - abandoned, surrendered, found - all terribly sad and bewildering for the animal," she said.
"There is a dog for everyone," she added.
"YAPS, for me, is a happy place.
"There is hope for a better life for the dogs and cats."
Tricia keeps beating the drum even though at times it's hard and she is starting to feel tired.
"One of the ways that I keep coping without being on the front line and seeing a lot of the atrocities, is by not running things any more; just being there when someone needs me," she said.
Tricia continues her ongoing bombardment of state and federal politicians, journalists and animal defenders.
"A sympathetic indigenous voice is desperately needed to educate community people on the benefit to children of having a healthy pet," Tricia said.
"It would create so much love.
"This is just one of the many things in my head, but I can't put them into practise as I don't have the capabilities."