Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your local shelter needs you

Meet Gypsy! Gypsy is a sweetheart. She is one of thousands of animals who need a home today. When I first met Gypsy at The Max Fund Shelter in Denver you could not see her eyes and barely could see her nose. Her hair was so overgrown that you couldn't see her face. The mats on her feet were almost all two inches wide and her ears looked triple their size because of her mats. When I opened her cage to show her some love she trembled as I picked her up.

This week she was spayed at the shelter and by the time you are reading this I will have had a visit with her. (well, I have visited her twice now!) She still shakes. You can just tell that she was accustomed to being on someones lap all day at some point in her life. Now she is terrified and in a cage.

But she can see. And she has no mats. This is because I met her and had the time to groom her.

NOTE: I am in no way a professional groomer. Ask anyone, including our companion dogs. Yet I felt I could at least clean her up and remove all the mats. Mission accomplished.

No matter where you live, no matter how busy you are, no matter how many causes you are involved in, no matter if animals in shelters are "not your thing", you can make a HUGE difference in an animal's life with very little time. An hour a week can mean the difference between a terrified animal and one that feels a little better off. It can mean the difference between getting a walk or no exercise at all. It can mean a clean cage right after an incident and them waiting till someone else notices that they are lying in crap. It can mean the world to shelter employees who day in and day out rock it for the animals and many times don't have enough time, money, resources or help.

You can find a shelter online or in the phone book. Give them a ring or swing by. My experience is that many things can happen once you offer to volunteer:

They will say they do not need volunteers.

They will not return your phone call.

They will send you a list of the volunteer training schedule.

They will say thanks so much, and here's broom.

They will ask you to foster an animal.

And so on.

In the ten years I have volunteered at The Max Fund, I have had many amazing experiences. I have looked at other places to volunteer but have always come back to wanting to volunteer for The Max Fund. You can find the shelter that fits best with you and your schedule (and your belief system). Keep in mind that you may not always have great experiences and that the shelter may not meet your expectations all the time. I have to constantly keep in mind that I am there to serve the animals, and nothing else matters (aside from any type of cruelty towards those same animals).

My point is that I may not dig someone on staff, I may not dig their policies, I may not dig their adopting system and I may not dig their euthanasia policy (if they have one). Yet I am there to clean a cage, to take someone on a walk, to brush a cat, to cut out mats, and most of all, to love. Yep, I want as many of those beautiful creatures to know they are loved. My favorite times are taking one of the animals out of the cage, going to the play room, and just totally loving on them. Regardless of their circumstances, you and they will feel loved for that time.

And please keep this in mind. I looked all over for statistics on how many animals, dogs and cats, are euthanized in the US every year. It looks like the number many groups use is 3.7 million and that is from 2008. That's 3.7 million in one year. I definitely realize that there are many conversations going on about what to do about this number. While those conversations are happening, we can support the animals by volunteering at our local shelters.

I would love to hear about the shelter you volunteer at!

As always, thanks so much for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it's great to help out with the stray cats & dogs. I work with Gateway Pet Guardians which does feedings and rescues in East St. Louis, which is interesting. We go out and feed and bring them in as we can. So many have been shot,'s heartbreaking and inspiring and really toughens ya up or wears ya down. It's a no kill group but then I go on rescues and see how many dogs are on the street. Used to work at another no kill rescue, and that was nearly all happy because I wasn't going out doing the feedings, etc....I only saw the happy ones, the rescued ones. Now it's a little more real......