Thursday, February 10, 2011


I finally got called in for my animal shelter volunteer orientation nearly a month and a half after I applied.  I wondered why it took so long, but now I think I know.  The trainer mentioned that they get an unmanageable influx of people wanting to volunteer over the holidays, and one of the most common reasons is that they have family in town and want to use the animal shelter as a place to get away from home.  Many of them are so desperate to get away from relatives that they will stay at the shelter all day walking every dog 2 or 3 times, camping out in the staff room and whatnot.  The other most common reason is because a lot of people get laid off from their jobs in December and want something to do until they get a new job.  I got the feeling that they'd been burned so many times by these temporary "volunteers" that they really didn't trust anyone's reason to be there.

Fortunately, they keep the training simple by giving everyone a background check and a 1 to 2 hour orientation, and after that you are on your own.  You make your own schedule.  That way they don't have to deal with hundreds of people calling in with excuses for why they can't show up.  They suggested that if your name shows up on the sign-in sheet on a regular basis, they might start using you for something other than just exercising and socializing the animals. 

It was an interesting experience.  They gave me a Queensland / Pit mix to take for a walk and she dragged me most of the way.  I felt like my hand was just caught on a rope and I was being dragged behind a locomotive.  Pretty much all the dogs were like that.  However, about halfway through our walk, the dog finally noticed me and got interested in the scents and smells on my jeans.  I petted her while she walked beside me, and she really, really, really liked that.  Next thing I knew, she was walking beside me more and more often because she liked the feel of being petted. 

Toward the end of our walk, we got into a rather desolate area and my hair stood on end as if something were wrong.  The trainer told us we will run into rattlesnakes and our dogs will take off after jackrabbits, but this felt more sinister.  Within a few seconds of me getting the creeps, my dog zoned in on something just over the ridge to our right and started growling.  I thought, "Thank God she's part Pit Bull Terrier, because I know she can rip anything or anyone to shreds who attempts to attack us."

Whatever it was never came over the hill after hearing that growling, and we fast-walked it back to the shelter.  That's one of the reasons why I worry about walking my own Chiweenie and Corgi out in the wilderness.  If a bear or mountain lion or pack of coyotes show up, they'll make a snack out of my dogs.  All the trails around the animal shelter are motor sport / horseback riding trails like I saw last weekend.  Walking the dogs will get me to see if there is any routine regarding who is using the trails for what each day of the week.  I can learn where each trail goes and how long it is before it hooks up to another trail to turn back.  It's always easier for me to relax on a horse's back if I'm familiar with where we are going and who we might run into.


Judi said...

Whew, good thing you had the right kind of dog! I wonder what it was?

We have an animal shelter by our trails, and we get to see the dogs on their walks. If I had the time, I would like to volunteer at an animal shelter, because it seems like fun.

Be careful you don't fall in love with another 4-legged friend!

duffylou said...

I'm glad you finally got your call. I'm sure they'll appreciate your experience with animals.

I have a toy fox terrier/chihuahua mix and a rottie/pit bull mix. I'm not usually bothered when I walk my dogs. I do get a lot of stares, though. There is quite a size difference between my pups. While Tahoe just strides along, poor little Trixie's legs are doing double time to keep up.

Crystal said...

Sounds like an interesting walk. Glad they called you back.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

wow, that has my hair standing up on my arms, just reading this. That was really kind of you to voluntter and walk a dog, and beginning petting her. that made a special bond for you two. I couldn't work there - I would want to bring all the dogs home!

Lauren said...

How nice of you for volunteering at the animal shelter! I agree about the trails, always nice to know about what's in store when you're riding a horse.

Linda said...

That sounds like a lot of fun--congrats! Wonder what was over that hill. Dogs are great for a little protection, aren't they? I have an Irish Wolfhound and I feel pretty safe when she's walking next to me. ;)

Janie said...

That gave me the creeps reading it!

Please be careful walking anyone...that just scares me to death. But I am glad you got called! I'm sure you'll make a huge difference in the lives of those animals. A simple pet can make a day.

achieve1dream said...

Yay! I'm glad everything turned out well with the animal shelter. I like the whole making your own schedule thing. If we could do that here and the shelter were closer I would start volunteering in a heartbeat. When my husband's back is better and I can afford the gas money I'm going to start volunteering at our local disabled riding club. :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

People want to volunteer over the holidays because they use the animal shelter as a place to get away from home? Really?!

That's crazy. I can think of a hundred other places I'd go to get away from annoying relatives than using and taking advantage of an animal shelter. sheesh!

I volunteered for just over a year at the Annapolis SPCA in Maryland. What ended my volunteer time was when two dogs adopted me...literally.

I would go and walk, groom, or bathe between 5-10 dogs each visit several times a week, and the management started noticing that two dogs were having separation anxiety when I left and would become eager and excited just 10-15 minutes before on the days I'd normally visit.

One day I was showing one of those dogs to some potential adopters, and those people told me that I needed to adopt this dog because she only had eyes for me. Strange that I never really noticed that before, but I was there to do a job and not adopt a friend.

I ended up adopted my pomeranian/papillion little dog and a sweet german shepherd that had grown attached to me, too, for my hubby.
We had them for over 12 years, and they died of old age complications. I wish I could have kept volunteering for the animal shelter, but I felt that I was taking too much time away from our two adopted dogs and wanted to spend all of my time walking, grooming, bathing and playing with them intead.

I'm glad it finally worked out for you and I hope you enjoy your time there.

By the way, the Annaplis SPCA had a very nice dog walking/hiking trail that they built on their own private property. It was about 2-3 miles long and circled a beautiful pond. I always felt safe walking dogs there because the trail was fenced in and entirely on private property.