I go to an animal shelter every week to walk dogs for two hours. I always have so much to say afterwards but it’s too much for a Facebook status. So, I’m going to start including my thoughts in my blog. What a great idea! It only took me many months to figure that out.
When my dog Akira past away in December, I went through a major mourning process. I have yet to blog about her actually, because it is still a little too tough to get through. I think I am getting closer to finally doing it but man it’s hard. How to sum up 14 years?
Anywho, I knew of volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters so I looked into one. I filled out an application and attended a 3 hour orientation. You learn all about the organization, how it works, about statistics and are able to have any of your questions asked. You know, a regular orientation. You are able to volunteer and not handle the animals if you want to do laundry, paperwork or front desk work, greet, and so on. If you want to work with animals, you have to decide if you want to work with cats or dogs. They will cross train you after they see that you are reliable and show up when you say you’re going to. Even though you are volunteering, they rely heavily on their volunteers to complete their projects and goals. They are limited in staff and need the help. Once you pick an animal, you have to go to an orientation for that too. You also have to commit to once a week for two hours for six months if you are going to handle the animals.
I picked dogs. I love cats but I was really wanting to be around dogs so that is what I picked. I attended the dog orientation which was 2 1/2 hours. There is a little paperwork involved with walking the dogs, charting, knowing procedure and so on. There are around 150 dog kennels and they are moved around according to whether they are healthy or sick or ready for surgery. This all happened in February, four months ago. My love for the organization has grown a hundred fold and so has my love for dogs. It is easy to get very invested and want to do all that you can (whatever that may be) to become more involved. Of course the next natural phase was fostering for me.
Fostering is like babysitting the animal. You don’t own the animal, you didn’t adopt it, you are just taking care of it in the comfort of your home until it is adopted. A lot of times, sick animals especially need fostering so that they are able to get the proper rest that a home can provide. There is a lot of sleeping and medicine involved and it’s only like having the pet part time. The shelter that I volunteer for has a certain way in which they want the animal introduced into the home, which is utilizing a crate or a room for the animal. They don’t get free reign of the house in the beginning so you only spend certain amounts of time with them at first. And if they are sick on top of that, they are tired and not feeling well, and just want to sleep in combination with their meds.
I really took to a dog named Maggie. I had walked her for a couple weeks in a row and I just really liked her energy. She was a Argentine Dogo Mix and was tall and white with black spots. When you have children or other animals, the dog needs to be ‘tested’ in those situations to see if they’re a fit. So the whole fam went down to the shelter one day excited to meet her. I had her picture out a lot so that they kids knew who she was when we saw her and they were saying her name non stop. They knew we were going to get Maggie. Welp, we met Maggie and all of a sudden she looked really big! Ha ha. She was excited to see them, and hadn’t been out for a long walk that day so she was full of energy. Needless to say, she scared the bejeezus out of the kids. Lance liked her but didn’t think she was a fit for us. We had the meet and greet with two dog trainers and although they approved her for us, the children didn’t. So off they went to the car for a nap ride while I continued on with my volunteer duties for the day.
I usually fit 5 or 6 dogs in a two hour time period and there’s a section of the shelter that is only for the very sick dogs. These dogs can only be walked after the healthy dogs, not before so there’s no getting the healthy dogs sick. Usually I walk a couple of the healthy dogs, and then I walk a couple of the sick dogs afterwards. The really sick dogs are in the back kennel called Mutt Hutt. You have to put a gown and gloves on and go out a separate door for these dogs. They usually have a bad case of kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection. They hack all over the place and the kennel aisles are separated by shower curtains to help curb contamination. It’s serious business! Anyways, I ended my session that day with a dog from Mutt Hutt. It was a dog I had never seen before and his name was Sherman. He was so cute and was on the smaller side. He kind of looked like Akira but was definitely a male energy. He was a Pit Bull type dog mix and I am very familiar with the breed. It’s my favorite actually. I thought to myself, “could this be our foster dog?” I went over to Lance who was totally exhausted by the day, and was ready to go home. I told him about Sherman and he agreed to let Max meet him. I hurried Max inside to meet Sherman and it was love at first sight. Max loved him right off the bat, wasn’t scared of him and wanted to foster him. So we had our little foster class and took him home that day.
Sherman who we later named Yoshi, was an amazing foster. He was sick with kennel cough and a URI but behaved perfectly. We only had him for two weeks but I was able to work with him and taught him how to ‘drop it’ while playing ball games. You could tell that someone had him before (even though he came in as a stray) because he was well mannered and was a complete pro at ‘sit’. He walked like a dream on the leash and I would take him out every evening for 45-60 minutes and it was therapeutic for both of us. He was really great with the kids, but was leashed every time he was around them because of the shelter protocol for the first two weeks a foster is in your home. By the time he left, he was off his meds and in perfect health. He was neutered the week after he left and adopted a few weeks later. A couple that had cats ended up adopting him and I heard that they were awesome. I know that he will thrive in that home, he was such a good dog. He was two years old, so I think my house was a lot of stimulation for him. Which is why we chose to not adopt him ourselves. We fought with the decision for a while. In the end, a landlord situation arose and we had to cut the foster time short. I look forward to fostering some more in the future when we move or that situation changes. The children definitely want to foster again and still ask about Yoshi every other day. We had a great experience fostering and I know how rewarding it was for us and always hear about how it is for everyone else that does it too.
Until then, I volunteer my time and walk who I can. I have since stuck to only Mutt Hutt dogs, because I have a soft spot for them and not everyone that volunteers wants to walk the sick dogs. Getting up in the garb takes extra time and you have certain things you have to do with each walk. I enjoy it.
I think that volunteering is a great way to get your pet fix in for people that can’t have the pets that they want or for people that have gone through painful losses. Or if you just love animals!! It’s a great way to do something positive and to make a difference. Each person who volunteers is significant and you understand that after you see what you have accomplished after your time there. Two hours is never enough time but it is enough time to make a difference in 5 or 6 animals’ lives. And like always, when you give, you receive. It’s always great to give financially as well, but this reaps different rewards. It has been very therapeutic for me and helps me work things out in my head while I’m there walking outside. You get to enjoy another soul, make a difference in that animal’s life and then receive the benefits for yourself by all of that manifesting in your own life and soul.
It’s a good thing. Maybe you can try it?
Heading picture photo credit: http://catsndogsnaturally.blogspot.com