Volunteering at the animal shelter – it's more than just walking dogs

As you know, yesterday was my third Friday volunteering at the city animal shelter. I went back down today for two reasons: first, I forgot to log in my hours in the volunteer book yesterday, and second, I wanted to be there when the couple coming to adopt Hank brought their older dog back for a visitation.

I met Diane, one of the other volunteers, as I got out of my car. She was there when the couple came in and offered to come over and be there today when they came back. As soon as I saw her she told me that Hank had been adopted yesterday – by another family.

As long as I was there, I decided to stay for an hour and lend a hand. One of the other volunteers asked me to walk a dog, but you know what? I’m just not comfortable walking around downtown by myself. So I went back to the cat room, talked to Christine, who was mopping and sweeping and cleaning cat cages, and helped with a cat visitation.

I asked Christine if it was hard to not take the cats home, especially knowing some would get put down when they ran out of room. She said when you do the cleaning for all of those cats every day you realize just how difficult it is to have too many animals at home. I’m struggling with not bringing home another cat. There are some great cats there, older cats that sometimes get looked over for the little kitties.

There didn’t seem to be too much more I could do in the cat room; Christine had given all of the cats some free time that morning, so I thought I’d head out. Then I ran into the shelter manager and asked if she had anything to do. She jumped at the offer.

Apparently the shelter is shorthanded and the city isn’t allowing overtime, so they’re having trouble keeping up with everything from cleaning floors to giving vaccinations. She asked, “How do you feel about doing dishes?” No problem, I replied. So Mary, another volunteer, and I went with her to the cat kitchen to wash “dishes” – which turned out to be about eleventymillion cat food dishes and litter boxes. I really wish I had taken a picture of the stack of litter boxes, but I don’t think you’d have appreciated it unless it was a scratch and sniff picture.

Yup, I understood what Christine was talking about earlier. By the time Mary and I were done I was confident that I did not need to adopt another cat.

Except that I know it needed to get done. It was one of those “all hands on deck” moments, when you have to decide if you’re all in or not.

And it’s not just about the animals. I mean, yes, I want the animals to find homes. But the people that come in to adopt are bringing home a companion that will become a member of their family. And we owe it to them to give them healthy and happy animal, one who’s had a good experience while they were in the shelter but who are also thrilled to go home to be loved. I love talking to people as they look at the animals, finding out what they’re looking for and how we can help match them with a pet.

Plus, it’s just interesting work. And that’s a lot, coming from the girl who as a child avoided dirt, sweat, and anything even remotely stinky.

4 responses to “Volunteering at the animal shelter – it's more than just walking dogs

  1. This is great – I think everyone should volunteer at an animal shelter, at least once, to really see what a large problem we have. Perhaps it would make people think twice about giving up their dog or cat just because the novelty has worn off, or the pet has matured, or the pet sheds, or the myriad of other shocking reasons I’ve heard that some people give for giving their pets up. Good for you for helping and making a difference!

    • It’s crazy the people who just don’t take care of their dogs. June is the month when all of the shelters are just totally overrun with cats. All of which could be controlled by people neutering their animals and keeping them inside or fenced in their own yards. Volunteering is really interesting – kind of gross, too, LOL. But I’m so glad I’m doing it.

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