Whilst many of us lay dreaming, in Darling Downs eighty year-old POOPS volunteer Colin Wilson gets up at 4am to feed the animals. There’s the menagerie of birds – a mix of exotic and native his wife Pat has rescued. There’s the horse belonging to their grandkids and the two belonging to their neighbour. These three beauties have Colin going through bags of carrots like candy!
Colin’s feeding routine finishes at 6.30am, which is when he starts his POOPS rounds – every morning except Sundays. Colin has been doing these rounds as a volunteer for almost a decade.
Six days a week, three hours a day, is a huge commitment for anyone and a huge chunk of the daily routine of any married couple. But as Colin cheekily tells us in his Yorkshire accent:
“I think my wife realised she could be free to have the house for 3 hours without me nattering and driving her up the wall. Blessing in disguise I think she thought it was.”
A blessing in more ways than one it seems, as Colin believes this morning routine is part of why he’s still motivated and moving at eighty years of age.
“I’ve never looked back really since I started, it’s kept me going. I’m coming up on 80 this year. I know I’ve got to get up. I’ve done it all my life, getting up for a job. I don’t have to do it for 8 hours, it’s just for 2 or 3 hours in the morning and they [clients] follow up if there’s any problems.”
And there have been some challenges along the way, Colin can attest to that. You don’t go through 10 years of volunteering without a few bumps in the road.
Most recently, a deaf poodle called Mocco and a king charles called Pancho (who is also deaf and blind), have kept Colin motivated on those early morning rounds. Both dogs have experienced difficulties due to their old age and disabilities. At one point putting them to sleep had been considered. Luckily, that didn’t happen and both dogs are now enjoying their walks with Colin, who tells us they have come a long way and are doing unbelievably well.
“But it really gets you, well me, body and heart to see how well these two dogs, who were going to be put down, have come on. If you didn’t know they were blind and deaf, a person would have said they don’t believe you until the dogs come up to you”.
His other client’s dog, a 16 year old beagle poses a slightly different kind of challenge. “Like me he eats too much,” confesses Colin.
POOPS has been blessed to have Colin as part of the team for almost a decade, but other organisations have been just as lucky. In the 45 years since he, his wife Pat and their three kids arrived from the UK, Colin has volunteered with organisations focused on animal welfare and nature conservation – both important issues for him and his wife.
“Nature is a gift that's been given to us and we believe in keeping nature”
It may be 45 years since they arrived in WA, but Colin remembers those first few days in Perth at the tender age of 25 very vividly.
He remembers taking a huge risk – leaving his lucrative job as a manager of an Aston Martin and Jaguar dealership – to join Pat’s parents in this sunny place called Perth that they had heard so much about.
He remembers paying fifty pounds for flights for him, his wife and their three kids, and paying one hundred and fifty pounds for their beloved Scottish Terrier!
But he also remembers the welcoming reception from the people he met in Perth and how, with their help, everything fell into place very quickly. It all started on day one, when the family arrived in Perth. Colin had to report to the naval base, where his interviewer referred him to a friend of his who promptly offered him a job! Colin remembers telling this man he’d only just met:
“I’ve just arrived. I need to buy a house, get a car. He says, hold on two minutes, picks up the phone. There was a brand new Kingswood station wagon full of petrol outside. He threw me the keys. He says, there you are, there’s the car! Now when you come to think of it. He never knew me at all, right? It gets to me a bit, that somebody can say, here’s a brand new car. I’ve only known him for 15 minutes. I’ve only been in the country for a day, and he’s offering me a job. What do you do? Obviously you take the job!”
On Wednesday, three days after arriving in WA, with a new job and a new car, Colin and Pat bought a house in Byford!
“Marvellous people, West Australians”
In 2019 the Council on the Ageing Western Australia (COTA) recognised Colin for his wonderful work at POOPS as a finalist in the WA Senior of Year Awards, Metropolitan category. Colin attended the awards ceremony and maybe had one or two celebratory drinks afterwards.
He was, of course, delighted with the recognition. But as he’ll tell you himself in his delightful Yorkshire way, the satisfaction he gets from the job itself is its own reward.
“It’s marvellous isn’t it? The dog realises you’re coming. The owner realises you’re coming. Somebody loves them and they’re just pleased to see you in the morning. They can’t wait to get out, they’re there waiting at the door - the owner and the dogs - which is good. That starts the day off. It gives you a good feeling, especially when I go home for a beer at 4 o’clock and sit down in the paddock.”