Sunday, May 15, 2011

Becoming an Animal Shelter Volunteer

I needed something in my life but did not know what it was. Fortunately, something came along and has filled my time and changed my life. I have spent so many years working hard, trying to maintain my lifestyle, and raising a child. My child was 16 and did not need me as much. He was always hanging out with his friends leaving me wondering what to do with myself. It was time for me to get a life.

My son had to do community service early last year and we considered his options. Working for the Orange County Rescue was complicated. In addition to a 3 hour training session, you had to wait for an email for your specific volunteer inquiry and if you were selected, wait for the date and time you were scheduled for. There were also beach clean ups and soup kitchens. He did some service for our church and then he decided to complete his hours at the local animal shelter. After a two hour training session we were able to set our own hours and go as often as we wanted. He did not have the courage to go it alone so I went with him. When his hours were completed, he said he had better things to do with his time (like hanging out with friends). Not me. I love going there. It has been a year and a half and it feels like the best part of each week.

What do I do there? Walk dogs, bathe dogs, feed dogs, give them toys, give them treats, clean their kennels, do laundry, do the dishes and spend time with the dogs. Interacting with these sweet dogs is incredibly fulfilling. There are dogs that recognize me and I pick them first for their walk. I miss them when they go to their forever homes. I love reading the adoption board each week to see who went home. It almost always moves me to tears when a long time friend has gone home.

I see so many kinds of dogs. The disabled ones almost always go home quickly. Deaf, three legs or blind, people fall in love quickly with the special needs dogs. One sweet pit bull had breast cancer. We all spent time with her the day she was adopted. A volunteer took her home along with another pit bill friend. Another volunteer took home a chubby, sad 12 year old Chihuahua who was relinquished by her owner. The abandoned dog cried constantly and this volunteer spent time with her every day and finally took her home.

There is the other great part of this volunteer gig, my new friends. They are people like me who love dogs as much as me. We talk about our favorites and who has gone home and chat while we walk our 4 legged friends.

There are also opportunities to foster puppies. My son really liked this part. I went to foster class and took home a couple of shepherd mix pups for a few weeks. They are healthier in a home environment and they do not adopt out until 8 weeks old. My dogs were not so happy. It was very hard for me to let them go at the end but they were both adopted immediately and I got to visit with one of them before Christmas. His owner is amazing, the perfect place for him.

I am so glad I found this amazing place. The only time I get upset is when I see innocent dogs relinquished by their owners for no good reason or found as strays. Where did your owners go, why didn’t they find you? I have fallen in love with pit bulls and Chihuahuas. There are lots of other dogs as well, but there are lots of these. I have been there long enough to be able to walk more difficult dogs. I usually walk these because the younger volunteers can only walk the easy dogs and the more difficult ones don’t get out as much. And they are sometimes there for a long time, so you get to know them.

The shelter I volunteer for only puts down dogs that are really aggressive or really ill. They bring in dogs from other shelters that are on their last day because they have room. Why aren’t all shelters like this? We have more volunteers and more donations and are partially city funded. But other cities should be ashamed of themselves for not caring enough. It makes me very angry. I would never bring a stray dog to the county shelter, it would probably die.

I am looking forward to seeing my friends in just a few days – the volunteers and the dogs. I wonder who has gone home. I kind of hope Gina has gone home but I will really miss her.


How do you enjoy spending your free time?

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