Juan is what our Busselton coordinator, Cathy, likes to call a ‘Super-POOPer’.
Cathy says that every week he’s super keen to walk his POOPS dogs. There is Kernel the ‘nutso’ pug, Beau the ‘chubster’ Jack Russell and Sabby, the beautiful dachshund. Cathy also let us in on a little secret: that Sabby is, “The love of his life… after his wife Gabriele of course”. This means we have a ‘Super-POOPer’ couple, as Juan’s wife Gabrielle also volunteers with POOPS and originally told Juan about us.
Gabrielle and Juan both share a love of dachshunds and had one of their own named Liesel or ‘Queen Lissie’ when they lived in Germany. They knew they may need to move around a bit when they headed overseas for Juan’s work, and felt the best thing for Queen Lissie would be for her to stay in Germany with Gabrielle’s mum. Leaving her behind was hard, but they still get to see her whenever they visit.
Now Juan feels very lucky to have two dachshunds in his life, with the added benefit of knowing that volunteering means helping someone else. He tells us, “It’s a bonus, it’s amazing”.
Queen Lissie and Sabby have something else in common besides being the same breed and being adored by this wonderful couple: they both share Juan’s love of soccer.
“They're crazy to play football with me, both of them. A soon as we finish the walk, we go home and we play with the ball for half an hour to an hour.”
Born and raised in Argentina, soccer is in Juan’s DNA. He played as a kid and was part of a professional club until the age of 18. But with so much talent around him he remembers how hard it was to plan to make the game into a career.
“In Argentina if you are 15 - 16 and you don't have a contract, you are not going to make it in football, you need to do something else.”
So Juan got his Masters Degree in High Performance Sports, became a PE Teacher, and has hosted soccer training clinics in places like Cuba, Brazil and Germany.
It was because of soccer that he moved to New Zealand in 2009, where he met his wife Gabrielle, and it again influenced their decision to move to Busselton in WA, so Juan could take on the role of Football Development Officer with Football west in the Leeuwin Region. Juan of course misses his family, his friends, “the day to day”, and watching his team play soccer back in Argentina – but loves the beauty of the coastline here in WA and the friendly community.
"It is similar to New Zealand; people are very friendly. The community, they work together. I'm a football development coach so it's good to be in a community that wants the best for the kids. It's not about my club or your club, it's more about working together to do the best”
Who better to ask than a ‘Super-POOPer’ about what makes a good POOPS volunteer? Obviously people who want to volunteer for POOPS have an affinity with animals, but Juan believes a key ingredient is also understanding how to read people – a skill he’s picked up on his many travels.
“You are volunteering your time to help that person with a dog and if they want to have a chat, a conversation, some interaction, then good. If they want to keep their distance, you keep the distance. It's like moving to different countries and learning about different cultures - you also learn about how people behave. Are they saying no or are they saying yes. You need to have that sense and that feeling if they want to talk more or they don't want to talk”
Juan doesn’t just walk dogs for us, he’s also an important member of the POOPS social community. We love Juan’s regular Instagram stories and posts in the POOPS Facebook volunteer group (where Sabby, of course, is often the star attraction!), and we think it’s fair to say our group just wouldn’t be the same without him. Especially as he’s introduced the Facebook group to the phenomenon that is Tik Tok!