Give the Gift of Time to a Shelter Pet

December 22, 2009

Give the Gift of Time to a Shelter Pet

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the shelter, every creature was stirring ….they all wanted a house! 

Shelter animals need a house, a home, and a forever family.  Shelters also need money, supplies, and most importantly staffing, so they can find homes for all those pet dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. 

I began my adventure as a shelter volunteer this past August at Wayside Waifs, near my home in Kansas City. I hesitated initially because I feared I could not handle seeing all of the homeless pets in their kennels.  The hardest part was getting started, because honestly, the whole experience was a little intimidating.  Even though I own a pet services business, I am not a dog trainer, and let’s face it…200+ dogs of every size and disposition is a lot more to handle than even the largest pet sitting job!  However, the shelter does have professional trainers to teach the volunteers how to handle the nuances of the job; you are not just thrown in and told to go walk a dog or take care of a cat.  In fact, you are not allowed to handle the animals until you take the required training classes.

I soon learned that Wayside Waifs is the largest pet adoption center in Kansas City.  In 2008 they took in over 7,000 pets. At any given time they may be housing more than 250 pet dogs and 200 pet cats in preparation for adoption.  The dogs need to be walked and taken on potty breaks daily. Cats and dogs all need socialization and human contact. Wayside even has a new program where volunteers sit quietly and read to the dogs that are scared and nervous in the shelter!  Do the math and you will readily see that providing dog walks and pet services for that many animals on a daily basis is a daunting task. 

Along the way you gain knowledge and confidence and make new friends, both four-legged and two-legged.  I have been urinated on, jumped on with dirty paws, and I have picked up a lot of dog, uh, mess. I have walked dogs for several hours on beautiful summer days and windy, rainy winter days, because I said I would. That’s the mechanics of the job.

The rewards are these:  I have gotten kisses, shakes, and high fives from dogs of every size; I have held puppy mill rescues that had to be coaxed from the back of the cage and then lay quaking in my arms, stretching up to give me a tentative lick on the cheek. I have had the biggest, toughest looking dog roll over at my feet and beg for tummy rubs merely because I scratched behind his ears.  I have had big black cats curl up under my chin and purr.

I can’t bring them all home, but I do check every week to see who has been adopted, and revel with the volunteers and staff in the joy of knowing that another of our ‘babies’ has found a home.  

To find opportunities to volunteer at your own local shelter, check your local phone listings or go online and enter “pet shelters.” You will find plenty of places that are in need of a volunteer just like you – ready to give time, love, and comfort to an animal in need of a forever home. Now, SIT!  STAY! and FETCH! that number today! ‘Tis the season for giving!

This article was written by Barbara Gates, owner of Fetch! Pet Care of Western Johnson County. Barb Gates can be reached at 913-738-4328. Fetch! Pet Care is the largest national pet care company in the United States; serving 38 states in more than 2,000 cities and towns.


One Response to “Give the Gift of Time to a Shelter Pet”

  1. Deborah Hughes Says:

    I love this article. Especially at this time of year, it is a great reminder of the huge need the shelters face each day. Even an hour, once a week, can make a big difference to the pets!

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