Catch-up with Tracy McQuarrie

For some, the start of a new year is symbolic of a fresh new start at life. If you’re one of those people then sit back, relax and inspired by a catch-up we had with one of our favourite people, Tracy McQaurrie – founder of DogtownSA and BarkingMad.

Tell us about the turning point in your life that made you want to help pets?

“I have always loved dogs and volunteered at shelters. I was working in media when I decided to try use my skills to help. So I started making videos for dogs looking for homes. Lots of people told me they would love to adopt but they didn’t want to go to the shelter and see all those sad faces and so ended up not adopting. I knew there was something we could do about this, so we created the BarkingMad website. I realized the cost of a website wasn’t always possible for shelters, so I created a site so that all shelters could have a central point to share their animals looking for homes and advertise their fundraising initiatives.

Things really changed when I watched a TV show called Dogtown on National Geographic.  At the time I was running my own post production company, but after watching the show I decided to travel to the US to check out this place doing such incredible work. They were helping dogs deemed “problem dogs” and I saw the need for something like that here in SA. While there, I attended a workshop they were running and the information I gathered was incredible. I realised then that this was to be the plan and purpose for my life and within 6 months I had started DogTownSA, a rescue center for misunderstood dogs, where today we care for on average of 150 dogs.”

What’s been the toughest challenge since that life changing decision?

“I thought my previous career was stressful having to make broadcast deadlines and working long hours but it was nothing compared to what we have to deal with daily. It’s physically and emotionally challenging and the responsibility of knowing these precious lives depend on you is hard. We see both sides of the human spectrum, those caring and kind people and those that you can’t believe live among us. I think the biggest challenge is to stay positive and of course, relying on the kindness of others to make sure we save more lives is both humbling and challenging.”

What’s been your greatest joy with BarkingMad?

“Every life we save is a joy. Seeing “unadoptable” dogs flourish with their new families is so fulfilling. Most of the time they just needed some guidance and understanding and that’s what we are here to do”.

How are you feeling about 2017? Is there a resolution you’re working on with regards to BarkingMad?

“I always strive to be positive for the year ahead. This coming year we really want to increase our adoptions and our Spay It Forward program, which is all about helping people who can’t afford to sterilize, vaccinate and deworm their pets. We are also hoping to increase our Click2Feed sponsorship so we can help more shelters and families feed their furkids”.

What advice can you offer South Africans when choosing a shelter pet, as well as why they should.

“Millions of animals are killed every year. We don’t need more animals – we need to manage what we have brought into this world. In all aspects a pet is family and they are a lifetime commitment. Pets are also not ready made, you need to teach them and guide them how to live harmoniously with your family.  There are so many beautiful, well behaved adult pets, that are already settled and all they need is a loving family. At the end of the day people have pets as companions and I believe it’s so much better to adopt a pet where the shelter generally knows so much about them already and can help match you with the right animal for your lifestyle. Instead of buying a puppy where you have no idea what you will be dealing with in a couple of years”.

What keeps you coming back to the office everyday?

“Their lives depend on us. People have already failed them, which is why they are in a shelter. We are their last hope and I won’t ever let them down”.

What’s your life’s motto? Or perhaps, what’s the one message you’d want all South Africans to hear? (This can be barking mad related or even personal) 

“My personal motto is to save more – and that’s what I try to do each and every day. I believe everyone can do something. People often become overwhelmed when getting involved with rescue and I totally understand, but everyone can help in someway – if it’s only just making one call to find a sponsor, walking the dogs at the shelter or offering their time and skills to help us. We’ve had young kids asking their friends to bring dog food as gifts for their birthday, that one gets me every time – those parents should be really proud of them!”

This year, we hope more people find a cause that inspires them, and like Tracy, they find the courage to step out and make a difference in the animal community. What a great year that would be.

From all of us here at Montego – we wish you a happy new year and prosperous 2017!


About the Author: Matt Cooper

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