When I retired from teaching two years ago, I planned to spend part of my time volunteering, something I had had little time for while raising a family and working full-time. But most projects I was interested in required a set time commitment, which was difficult to do with an irregular substitute teaching schedule. Or perhaps that was just an excuse . . . However, last summer Oldest Granddaughter, who wants to be a Veterinarian, expressed an interest in volunteering at the local Humane Society. I wanted to encourage her, and since she needed not only transportation but also an adult mentor, I agreed to help, and together we went through orientation for Junior Volunteers.
Granddaughter has always been an animal lover, so this "job" is a natural for her. We help out several hours a month and can choose our own schedule, so it's also the perfect opportunity for me to help out in a small way. Junior volunteers are given simple jobs; dog walking, for example, is limited to those who are at least 18. Instead, one of our main activities is to socialize with the animals. Playing with the kittens or puppies, cuddling them, or brushing them helps them to interact with different humans as well as giving them a much-needed break from the confinement of their cages.
I can attest to the fact that the animals at our local shelter are well-cared for: well-fed, litterboxes regularly cleaned, and all necessary medical attention given. But it has to be hard for them to spend most of the day in a cage. The luckiest animals, I think, are some of the more laid-back cats who are allowed to live together in their own room with names like "The Catnap Cafe." I don't remember how they are selected to live here, but 8-10 cats live in each room filled with all sorts of climbing towers, scratching posts, and comfy couches. They still love the human attention, though.
Recently, Grandson #2 has tagged along with us. Now that school is out, I asked if he would like to come along so that he didn't have to spend a few hours home alone. He eagerly agreed--I thought it was because of the offer of going out to lunch afterwards. But he has really enjoyed it and now wants to become an official Junior Volunteer himself.
Granddaughter chooses what we will do each week, but our first stop is always to check out the puppy cages. Puppies never stay long at the shelter; usually by the time we see a new one, it already has a blue sticker on its cage, meaning someone has applied to adopt it. Even so, these little guys need play time, of course, and we're more than happy to oblige.
Can you tell by the blurry tail that this little English pointer mix was having fun?
This little guy was such a sweetie that if I didn't already have Sophie, I would have seriously considered adopting him. And that is the main problem with volunteering here--I wish I could take so many of these animals home. Although the shelter is not technically a no-kill shelter, we were assured at orientation that no animals are euthanized if they are not adopted. The shelter seems to have a high rate of adoption, and alternative homes, such as rescue societies are sought in special cases for a few animals.
Volunteering isn't just playing with the animals, though. Folding laundry, mopping up the occasional puppy "accident" in the play room, or washing and sanitizing the mountains of pet dishes and toys are all part of the experience, too, and Granddaughter is more than willing to do whatever is needed.
Helping at the Humane Society wasn't one of the volunteer projects I had in mind two years ago. But it's been a rewarding experience for both of us, and it's given me a lot of quality time with my granddaughter who is quite a remarkable and mature young lady.
And I do think the animals appreciate our being there.