Gimme Shelter. Part 2.


Recently, I made the decision to volunteer at an animal shelter. My brother and I had applied at the Bucks County SPCA a few months ago and never heard back. While I was somewhat disappointed, I wasn’t really upset as I know they are well- supported. But, I did kind of think, “who doesn’t take the time to even follow up with people who are willing to give up their time in return for picking up poop?’. Anyway, the timing wasn’t really right for me, but, I continued to visit and was able to help 2 friends find their new housemates there, 1 cat and 1 puppy. I felt good about that. However, at the back of my mind was this nagging thought…I can do more…I can do more. And, then, the thing happened that caused me to stop thinking it and start doing it.
I follow a group on Facebook, called Love Four Paws (you can “Like” them on FB, or check out their website at, based out of Philadelphia Animal Care & Control and over the past few months, have donated some treats and some toys. Whenever a plea has gone out, I have tried to give something…cat food, Kongs, soft dog treats for dog training. Through the course of these months, I have looked at photos of  the volunteers and dogs at events, playing together and in pleas for adoption or foster parents. I would sometimes post them on my own wall, would celebrate with others when a dog was saved and cry when they weren’t. A little over a week ago, I saw a post about a dog who didn’t make it, and though others have made me cry, this one, for some reason, really, really broke my heart. And, my decision was made. For me, the treats and the toys would no longer be enough. I have the time, I have the resources (2 arms, 2 legs, a car), and if it matters to me, there is no excuse not to do it. So, I emailed my friend who runs Love Four Paws, got the info. and 4 days later, went to orientation.
Today was my first visit back after orientation and I loved it. On Sunday, I hung out with 2 great dogs and today, I played with and walked with 5. Every time I thought I was ready to leave, I’d look at someone else and think…ok, what’s one more? If it sounds weird to say that the 6 hours I have spent at the shelter were the happiest I have been in a long time, so be it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have had a helluva year and I will take my comfort wherever I can find it.
It may also sound weird that I find comfort at a high volume animal shelter, where they see about 30,000 animals a year. But, again, if you know me, you know that I love animals and that I have a philosophy about shelters. If you don’t, here it is: it is absolutely sad  that so many animals need homes, but, rather than focus on that sadness, something in me finds hope for them to be more compelling than the sadness. I have long visited shelters and spent time with the cats and dogs, because I feel like my sadness needs to take a back seat to their socialization and well- being. Turns out, I was on to something. An article I recently read, co- authored by Temple Grandin, stated that human interaction while in a shelter environment is very beneficial to dogs and reduces their stress levels. So, if you have ever thought, “I can’t go to the shelter, it’s too sad”, remember that: it might be sad for you, but it’s good for the dog…and likely makes them more adoptable. The less stressed animals are usually the ones wagging their tails and coming up for a sniff, and that openness is typically what appeals to humans. So, go visit, sit and chat with a dog (or cat!)….and you will be helping them in ways you probably didn’t think was possible. And, if you can, save your tears until you are back in your car.
If you can’t bring yourself to visit or volunteer because of the sadness (or the fear of wanting to bring them all home), know that there are ways you can help, always. If you are interested. If not, that’s fine. Everyone has their “thing”, this is mine. Adopt a shelter pet, don’t buy one. There are too many beautiful animals just waiting to be loved again. Donate treats, toys, $5 towards a spay or neuter. Share a picture I post on Facebook…..and, there will be lots more of those, so I hope you stick with me. I will gladly bring anything anyone wants to donate to the shelter. I will also gladly talk to anyone who wants to volunteer. I will also gladly talk to anyone who is thinking of buying a dog out of it 😉 Because, my new friend Sandy here is just a love, who likes fetch, knows  sit and knows a good lap when she sees one.


4 responses »

  1. Being in a shelter stinks. But it’s better than being homeless on the street, or in an abusive situation. Until we can fix the real problems, folks like you make all the difference! Our small rescue group fosters dogs in private homes. If there were enough volunteers at the shelters, we wouldn’t get the emails that say “we have this unadoptable dog … ” Some walking, some petting, some treats and a calm voice and in time those unadoptable animals often become great pets. THANK YOU!!!!

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