For the Love of Shelter Dogs*

Dogs Are Not Our Whole Lives, But They Make Our Lives Whole.
January 27, 2009, 3:09 pm
Filed under: General


I’m a volunteer at my local county animal shelter. I’ve been volunteering with the dogs for about 3 years (give or take) and I decided it was time to share some of my experiences.

I didn’t really like dogs when I started volunteering. I’d never had good experiences with dogs. I was afraid of puppies at the pet stores. We’d take them out to play and I’d climb up on the benches to avoid them. My cousin’s pekingese bit me. The pekingese pup we bought from them bit me. The Maltese we adopted from a shelter bit me. The first dog we had that didn’t bite me was our retired racing Greyhound, Regis. We rescued him in 1997. He taught me that not all dogs are evil. He developed bone cancer in 2004 (I was a sophomore in high school) and had to be put to sleep.

Shortly after losing him, I started begging my parents for another dog. Any dog. Greyhound, mutt, lab. I would’ve settled for anything. But neither of my parents were ready for another dog. My friend and her neighbor told me about volunteering at the animal shelter (they’d been volunteering for about 6 months). They wanted me to go to an orientation and volunteer.

I did the orientation (Mom came too, because I was 15 and had to have an adult with me), but I didn’t expect to ever go back. It was too sad, too heartbreaking. So many homeless dogs, all barking and staring at me with those sad eyes. Of course, I was also a little afraid of them.

We went back about a week later and spent an hour walking dogs. We walked the old dogs or the calm one-cagers who looked like they needed to get out. I met one dog I fell in love with – a Golden mix named Barbie. She was about 3 years old, short, and chubby. And she was very sweet.

I went back a week later, but she was gone. I found out two years later that my friends’ Grandma adopted her, and that she was doing really well.

I wanted to volunteer more often, but Mom couldn’t take the smell. I told my friend, and she told me to come to her house and ride over with her, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s mom. I did, and that’s when the tradition started.

Ever since that first Saturday we all went together, we’ve been going almost every weekend for however long we can. We fall in love with dogs and try our best to train them and help them find homes. Most often we succeed. Sometimes, though, no home can be found in time and the dog either gets sick or develops behavioral problems (kennel-stress usually) and has to be humanely euthanized. Our shelter euthanizes humanely. There are no horrible gas chambers or other mass-euthaniasia machines. Each animal is held lovingly by a vet-tech or employee and is given an injection. They experience love in their final moments.

I make it a point to mention this when I’m asked by a customer about euthaniasia. It’s a necessary part of a county animal shelter, even though it’s sad and terrible. They can’t turn away any dogs that are brought in, and they do their best to get every dog adopted.

By blogging about my time volunteering at the shelter, the dogs I meet, and the people I help, I’m hoping to raise awareness about animal shelters, the necessity of volunteers (and foster parents!), and the incredible, unconditional love of rescue dogs (and cats!).

*In memory of Somalia.

Somalia, who ran out of time before she could find a forever-home.

Somalia, who ran out of time before she could find a forever-home.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great blog. Keep up the good work!

Comment by Angela

I like the site. And the Somalia pic/dedication is going to make me cry.

PS (you know who this is, right? =))

Comment by little neighbor (I B ME)

Loved your blog. Keep up the good work.

Comment by Angela

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