7 Things I have learned in the first year I’ve spent volunteering at the county animal shelter, and some of the crazy questions people ask.
A year ago I was on Facebook one day in a local group and I saw a post where the county animal shelter was looking for food donations. Even though the county receives funding for important things like food, the more the community donates, the more those funds can be used to help injured or sick animals, making them adoptable. So I jumped in my truck and headed to the store and bought some food.
When I arrived at the shelter, I was struck with an idea. As someone who has been a blogger since the early days of the internet, I’ve gotten pretty good at snapping photos. I asked if the shelter had a person to do photos, and they did not. A lady had signed up to do it, but then never actually showed up. That left the staff to snapping photos with their phones and posting them online. So it was settled.
Since then, nearly every week I have packed up my photography & videography tools to document the newest animals who are looking for “fur-ever” homes.
During the time that I have volunteered there, I have learned and witnessed a few things.
People Ask the Most Ridiculous Questions
Sometimes you would simply not believe the questions people will ask about animals that are up for adoption. Take into account, the fact that most of the animals there came in as strays. They don’t carry resumes rolled up in their collars…if they even have a collar.
Some of the questions include things like:
“Are they house trained?”
“Are they good with kids?”
“What’s their birthday?”
“What breed are they exactly?”
“Why does it stink in here?”
“Are there any purebreds I can breed mine with?”
“Why do I have to have them spayed/neutered?”
“Do they have papers?”
“Feline means female, right?”
These are cats and dogs off the streets. They can’t speak for themselves, they can’t tell us their history. The staff of the shelter looks at each dog, and makes their best guess at what breed they think the dog is. Some people are better at guessing than others. They look at the dog or cat and estimate how old they think they are. And the rest?
Shelter Pets Have Baggage
Granted, some dogs come with pretty little purses, others come in with beat-up, heavy duffel bags. But each cat and dog has some sort of history – good or bad. You have no way of really knowing what an animal has been through, or how it has been treated. At the very least, she has likely lived on the streets for some period of time, hungry, cold or hot, thirsty and scared.
You are not going to undo days, weeks, or months of hardship and trauma in 48 hours. You must show that animal some grace and give it time. Remember, they aren’t human, and even though they do learn in time what some words indicate, they don’t actually speak human.
January is the Best Time to Shop for a Shelter Pet
This may surprise you, but January is the busiest time for many animal shelters. If you would like to adopt one, chances are there will be more to choose from in January than any time of the year. Why? People give puppies and kittens for Christmas. A few weeks later, they realize they don’t like the work of two dogs, two cats and of course they can’t get rid of the new one. So the dog they have had for years as a loyal pet, or the cat who has warmed their lap every winter is drop off at the pound.
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
Some of the “scariest” looking dogs are the biggest teddy bears. And some of the sweetest looking little cherubs will try and eat your foot. But most of the time, that shelter pet will make the best pet you could ever imagine. It’s almost like they know what you have saved them from. And in a way, maybe they do.
Why – How Do I Do It?
I can’t tell you how many people ask me if the shelter I volunteer is a “kill shelter.” And when I answer that yes it is, their immediate response is, “You’re stronger than I am, I could never do it!”
So why do I?
Well, first of all, I am an animal lover. My whole life I have had pets. I can’t possibly adopt every one of them, so the next best thing is helping them find homes.
I take photos and and do short videos to help each animal put its best face forward. I make that animal appealing and lovable. I give it an online presence to help increase the chances of it finding a home.
I’ve seen people say that they will only make donations or volunteer to shelters that are “no kill.” And of course that is fine. But the reason I volunteer at the county shelter – the kill shelter, is because those are the cats and dogs that are the most in need.
If you have a life preserver, do you throw it to the person in the raft, or the one who is drowning?
In the year that I have volunteered at the Morgan County Animal Shelter, I have photographed over one hundred kitties and over two hundred doggies.
Shelter People Don’t Hate Animals
Now I can’t speak for all animal shelters or all people, but I can speak for what I have witnessed here in my town, Hartselle. The town with heart.
In the time I have volunteered there, I have seen countless cats and dogs, kittens and puppies not only adopted, but scooped up by rescue organizations from all over. How does that happen?
First, it starts with the boss. A boss that actually cares. Then it comes to the staff. Staff who spend every spare minute tracking down rescue groups, arranging transportation. They do everything they possibly can to not euthanize animals. They even went so far as to find a dog hospice group to take the very elderly, deaf and blind Leo.
Recently, one of the “shelter people” in the area even helped spearhead an animal rescue of another kind. One that had been needed for years, but that no one was willing to attempt.
How do you rescue an elephant?! With a lot of community help.
Knowing how the people at my local shelter feel about animals, makes doing what I do so much easier.
The Struggle is Real!
Okay, I have to confess. The struggle I face every week to not bring home another pet is immense. It takes untold self-control to not walk out with a fur baby every single time.
Of course it took only a couple weeks for me to break. I photographed Ava the first time I went to volunteer. She came home with me three weeks later.
And then of course a few months later, little Schatze joined the family.
Yes, the struggle is real, but so very worth it.
If you are an animal lover, I really want to encourage you to see about volunteering at your local shelter. Whether you have photography skills or not – every one of them would love some “people time” for affection and socialization. Let them see that people are kind. People are to be trusted.
But be prepared. One of them may just steal your heart.