AFTER 36 years working with animals, Mike Ward is looking forward to enjoying some time with his family as he retires from his role as manager at an animal ahelter.
Mike, 67, has retired from Stubbington Ark and on his last day trustees, staff, volunteers and friends gathered to bid him a fond farewell.
Mike has been the manager of one of the largest RSPCA shelters since 1987.
He started working for the RSPCA in 1977 and originally managed a smaller shelter in Park Gate, before the rise in the number of animals coming in forced a move to Stubbington.
Alongside the party held at the Ark on Wednesday, last week his family organised a surprise party to mark his 67th birthday and lifelong friends threw him another surprise bash at the Parish Rooms in Titchfield.
Mike said: ‘I have been well and truly celebrated.
‘There was so much love and warmth. It was wonderful and I love everyone who came.’
Mike said that he is very much looking forward to spending some more time with his three-month-old granddaughter, Olivia, and to taking up writing as a hobby.
He said: ‘It is the right time to go, although I am going to be busy.
‘I’m not going to be sat in my chair smoking a pipe just yet.’
When the Stubbington Ark animal shelter was first bought, Mike was heavily involved in its design.
He was also instrumental in project-managing the appeal to build a state-of-the-art veterinary unit on the site in 2010.
Mike said: ‘We have built new units, an extra cattery, a new puppy unit and have vets on site seven days a week. It has just got bigger and bigger and I hope it will keep on growing.
‘It’s just a shame that we have to be there at all. We see so many horror stories that we tend to forget that for every one of them there’s 10 more lovely people who take animals from us and help us everyday.’
Penny Lynch, from the Ark, said: ‘Mike has put his heart and soul into improving animal welfare. His dedication and enthusiasm have inspired many generations of staff and volunteers.
‘We wish him a long and happy retirement.’