The following blog is the work of my new friend , volunteer and foster for our Shelter, Michelle Earl. As you will read, after completing our volunteer orientation program just a few months ago, Michelle and her daughter Anna, jumped into volunteering with both feet and all their hearts! If you’ve followed me much at all you’ve read about Anna in two previous columns (“Anna and Baby Girl” and “It feels good to save a life”) both which were in the newspaper but are also included here on my blog too. They are such wonderful assets to our shelter and the animals there. I so loved Michelle’s passion that I wanted her to share it with you. It reminds me so much of how I felt when I first begain volunteering and in fact still feel today! Thank you Michelle for sharing your talent, your passion, your special daughter and your friendship.
For years I had wanted to become involved with the Humane Society and was scared. I was scared I would make a connection. I was scared to find out what happens there. I was scared I would want to take everything home. I was just…..scared. Until my daughter asked that for her 8th birthday to collect items for the shelter and wanted to become a volunteer. Gulp. How could I deny this request when so many kids are asking for mindless possessions? And so I filled out our applications and in a few weeks we were given the dates for our class!
The energy that I encountered at my orientation led by Carrie was infectious. I was intrigued listening to her stories. I was inspired by her advocacy and compassion towards these animals. I felt like my work would be important as she said the words “Even if you only have 10 minutes to walk a dog – that is 10 minutes that dog gets out of the kennel, gets outside.” I remember thinking – I CAN do this!
After orientation and the dog handling class on a Thursday, we went in on a Saturday. I noticed a man who had taken a couple dogs out and could see he just did not seem to be finding the right match. So I suggested a dog for him and it was love at first sight. He adopted the dog and I was hooked. I felt the difference I made and it felt great. And in the meantime, my daughter was learning life lessons at a young age that would impact her forever. Her words were, “It feels good to save a life.” I knew that moment she was certainly “getting it.”
So we started volunteering regularly, and although it has only been a few months, it feels like we have been there forever. I still get very excited to go walk the dogs. I get even more excited when I help to find animals homes and learning about animals going to rescue and adoptions. In just a short time I have seen big impacts. Although I do not get to go in as much now on Saturdays, this is actually my favorite day to go in because one of the things I like doing the most is asking prospective adopters when they come in if I can help them look for any particular type of animal and when I have made a match, it is the best feeling ever!
I love volunteering. There are weeks I may only get down to the shelter to walk animals once a week and there are weeks I am down there several days. There are days I am there for 30 minutes and there are days I am there 2 hours. They do not care if I had a bad day. They do not care what I am wearing, if I cheated on my diet, if I brought them a treat or not. They only care that they get out of their kennel. The fact they get love on top of that and get to stretch their legs and maybe play ball is repaid many times in tail wags and licks, purrs and snuggles. And the fact I get to do these things with my child is a memory I will keep in my heart forever.
One last impact that has been made on my life since I have begun volunteering is the friendships and bonds I have made. It feels so good to have a community and network sharing love and compassion for these helpless animals. When I pull into the shelter on Thursday nights and see my new friends walking dogs and cuddling the cats, I am filled with a feeling of hope. Hope that these animals feel love. Hope that these animals will be saved. Hope that I will make a difference.
So from the words of a “newbie” as I am affectionately called, I cannot tell you there is no sadness in this shelter. I cannot tell you I have not shed tears for any animals. But what I can tell you is that you will love volunteering. The first dog that you take out on your own who is bolstering to get out and get a walk and gives you a big wag and a lick – the first kitty who purrs and nuzzles as you take her out of the cage, will hook you.
In closing, I will share one of my favorite quotes is from Ghandi to “Be the change you want to see.” I want to see the change. I want to see more volunteers. I want to see more animals adopted and most of all I want to see less animals come into our shelter which I know will be happening with the opening of the S.P.O.T. clinic. I am being the change and you can too.
Michelle Earl, Guest Blogger