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I have decided after much contemplation to fill out a volunteer registration form for the county animal shelter. Since the school semester ended I've found I have a lot of free time (even with a very slow part time job) and I have been finding myself feeling unfulfilled for the lack of a better word. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, and now I feel I am finally ready to take this on. They are asking for volunteers to walk and socialize dogs. I know it's going to be tough, as I get attached to dogs very easily, but this is something I am feeling called to do, as corny as that may sound.

So, who here volunteers? What should I expect? (well, I am pretty sure I know) I'd love to hear some of your experiences. :)
 

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I love volunteering at animal shelters!
I've been doing it since I was in high school. My school had a mandatory 50 hours that you had to volunteer in order to graduate (private Quaker school -- they're into that stuff), so I chose the nearby humane association. It was a blast.
You usually have to do a training session first. Then once you're doing it, your level of commitment is entirely up to you. What kinds of activities you do are up to you as well. You can just hang out and "socialize" (aka, play with and cuddle) the animals, or you can clean. If you go enough and get familiar with the people, they'll give you more responsibility, like doing feedings and stuff. The cleaning is the biggie. If you do that, people will love you.
The one thing that is important to know is that the people working there can be sort of clannish. Different shelters have very different ... personalities. At some it's easy to get to know the people, and at others it's hard. The second shelter I volunteered at had a bunch of kind of antisocial, cut-off-from-society types of people who tended to bash outsiders. I wasn't bashed myself (that I know of) but they liked to say a lot of bad stuff about other people, even in my presence. The environment there was pretty negative. At shelters I've volunteered at since then it's also been clannish, but not in a negative way. It's the kind of work environment where people tend to get pretty close.
Anyway, the animals are the important part, and working with them is great.
At most shelters the dogs get a lot more individual attention than the cats. If you're also a cat person, I recommend handling them too. Sometimes, depending on the shelter, they don't get out of their cages for a week at a time or longer.
Good luck!
 

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Well if you're looking to feel more fullfilled this should definitely help. It can definitely be hard but you have to think about how just a few minutes can really help these dogs that might normally just be sitting in their kennels.

I have volunteered at both "no-kill" and euthanasia shelters. The first was the county shelter and there was always so much to do. I helped mostly by cleaning the runs and showing dogs to prospective adopters. As the previous poster said they'll love you if you spend some time helping out with the cleaning. I remember some volunteers that would just go sit in the kennel with the litter of cute puppies while the dog next door was jumping in it's own feces. There will be all kinds of dogs there from very friendly to terrified to aggressive. At my shelter there were different locks on the more aggresive dogs so the volunteers wouldn't get hurt (those dogs were only handled by staff).

There was one dog I really feel in love with and his name was Cyprus. He was the biggest Rottweiler I've ever seen (I'm talking easily 180). Yes I realize that is way over what they should weigh but the shelter weighed him. He wasn't even that overweight just had a huge build probably some mix. Many people wanted to look at him just because of his size. I showed him a number of times and could always walk him to the room even though I was under 100 at the time. He was great with me and the shelter staff but a couple people I showed him to were visibly nervous and the dog immeadiatly picked up on it and kinda stood up to them. Not growling just basically saying I'm the boss. I made sure to let the front desk know in case these types tried to adopt since it wouldn't have worked. He ended up being adopted by a shelter employee who had lots of experience with Rotties. I still to this day miss him.

I have lots more great stories but that'd take all day. But to sum up I think you'll have a great time helping the dogs there. :)
 

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Tomorrow will be my first official day volunteering at our humane society, so I guess I'm not a real volunteer yet. Our HS is a no-kill shelter and they are currently filled to the brim. They work off of 100% volunteers (they do have a very small staff) and donations from the public.

Today I had my orientation. I met every dog and cat. I was also given a basic tour. My heart cried out for these dogs... some of which have been there for years. I was told that I can come by whenever I have time (during shelters hours). They don't have a set volunteer schedule, they just take what they can get whenever they can get it. My jobs will be to help love these animals, to help socialize the young ones, give some walks, and help out with laundry. I may take on more work the more time I volunteer, though. There are also monthly trips to Petsmart for adoption days, and doggie bathe ins that the shelter does for a fundraiser.

I think my biggest fear, is when someone comes in wanting to adopt an animal, that I've worked so hard with and fallen in love with, that I'm to going think in the back of my mind "This family isn't good enough for them". Just today during my orientation I met with a family. The husband and wife wanted two totally different things from a dog... and you could tell they knew nothing about dogs ("let's look at this one honey, she's a golden retriever mix and those are smart dogs... we won't even have to train her!!haha"... I think the staff member with them cringed as much as I did).

Britt, I'm like you. I know it does sound corny, but I do feel like this is my calling too. I know that I am supposed to work with animals. And right now, so many other opportunities have fallen through, I've just taken them as a sign that I am needed at this shelter more than at the other places.
 

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Dogs have been there for years? Wow. Do they have a foster network set up? Or do outreach and take the dogs to local events? (I'm not criticizing or anything like that; this just piqued my curiosity.)
I hope one day all shelters are no-kill shelters. Of the five places I've volunteered, none of them were no-kill, which was always the hardest part about volunteering there.
 

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Dogs have been there for years? Wow. Do they have a foster network set up? Or do outreach and take the dogs to local events? (I'm not criticizing or anything like that; this just piqued my curiosity.)
I hope one day all shelters are no-kill shelters. Of the five places I've volunteered, none of them were no-kill, which was always the hardest part about volunteering there.
Yes they have a few that have been there for years. They are very special to the staff and will only be allowed to go to very special homes. Most of the time they have spent there, the staff has been working with them on their issues and medical problems. These dogs are very lucky dogs. I know that some people would think that maybe in these dogs' cases euthanasia might be the best thing, because that would open up kennel space for more dogs to be adopted, but it was explained to me that they make a special promise to save the dogs that come there and they aim to do so. They never put dogs down unless in extreme cases. Just by looking at their "recently adopted wall", it seems they do have a pretty successful operation going on. It did bring a nice smile to my face to see all the pictures of the dogs, that we in the new happy homes.
I know it must sounds kind of crazy. There's only maybe 3 that have been there for a while, which is only a very small number compared to all the others that have only been there a short time. I do have faith that in good time, the right home will come for each of these dogs.

This is not our only shelter though. We do have a county shelter that is not a no-kill facility, as well as a few other smaller organizations that rescue.

I haven't quite learned everything about their fostering system yet. I didn't ask too many questions since I won't be able to foster. But as far as I can understand, they have a few dogs in the very few fosters homes available. I know right now they have had a ton of pregnant cats come in, so most of their available foster homes are being used for mamas and babies, so that the moms can have their babies in an environment that is more comfortable and home-like.
I know that they do have monthly adoptions at Petsmart. Their doggie bathe-ins are also a fundraiser, but it also gets people to the shelter, and allows them to meet some of the dogs. They also set up booths at various festivals throughout the year.

They also do a lot of other programs that work with therapy dogs. They have one program that visits elementary schools and educates kids on pet ownership and about shelter animals.

So for a tiny shelter, they do pretty well. I learned a lot today about them... a lot of things I would have never even thought about (like the therapy dog programs that bring dogs into schools).
 

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That sounds like a really excellent shelter! It's great to hear about one that is succeeding that fully. In my area the shelters need a lot of work. :( The few that are no-kill are tiny and underfunded, and have to turn away most of the animals that people try to surrender. So they end up in the big kill shelters, which have pretty bad records. Fortunately we have a city councilman and a few journalists who have been calling a lot of attention to the problems lately, plus a growing local no-kill movement. Someday...
 

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Nothing you've said sounds corny at all. It sounds like you have the heart for it. :)

We fostered puppies up until I was about 7 months pregnant with our son. It was the most fulfilling experience of my life next to motherhood. We still try to stay involved with the rescue and plan to start fostering again either this summer or next.
 

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Dogs have been there for years? Wow. Do they have a foster network set up? Or do outreach and take the dogs to local events? (I'm not criticizing or anything like that; this just piqued my curiosity.)
I hope one day all shelters are no-kill shelters. Of the five places I've volunteered, none of them were no-kill, which was always the hardest part about volunteering there.
I don't think that's too unusual for a lot of no-kill shelters. I visited one before I got my dog. They had a lab there was picked up as a stray and was terrified of humans. If you walked up his cage, he would cower in a far corner. You could stand there with a hot dog in your hand and he would not approach you for any reason. He would reluctantly approach some of the staff members, but would not allow himself to be petted. He was a case that would likely be put down very quickly in a kill shelter and understandably so. His chances of adoption are probably going to be pretty small. The staff there had been working with him, but just wasn't having a whole lot of success.

They also had a boxer there who had only 3 legs. Apparently his previous owner got ticked at him for some reason and shot him. One of his legs had to be amputated. He was still a friendly dog and healthy, but you can see why people would be reluctant to adopt him. A three legged dog is perceived to be "broken". He would probably be put down in a kill shelter as well because his adoption chances would be very low.

There was also a 10-12 yr old corgi there too. The dog was grey haired and couldn't get around very well. He/she had been dumped by their previous owner who didn't want to deal with a geriatric dog. Again, a kill shelter would probably put the dog down because at that age and in that health adoption prospects would be slim. You could argue that would not be a bad idea either. Yet, this dog was healthy enough for a dog it's age it just didn't do anything in a hurry and was extremely laid back. This was not a dog who was going to play with kids or other dogs or take long walks or do anything other than lay around for the year or so it had left.

One issue with no-kill shelters is they often end up taking in dogs who would be considered lost causes otherwise and these dogs do end up living in the shelter for years and taking up space.
 

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I noticed that there were some people at the "no-kill" shelter that looked down at the bigger "kill" shelters (don't like that name). In general the kill shelters have the burdon of having to accept every dog that is dropped off there. No-kill shelters have the luxury of being able to pick and choose who they accept and let come in. I'm not saying the no-kill are bad actually I think it's great that they can rescue dogs from the big shelters that may get overlooked in crowded kill shelters. If we didn't have such an overpopulation problem then we wouldn't need the kill shelters but sadly until that gets fixed we need them :(
 

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I noticed that there were some people at the "no-kill" shelter that looked down at the bigger "kill" shelters (don't like that name). In general the kill shelters have the burdon of having to accept every dog that is dropped off there. No-kill shelters have the luxury of being able to pick and choose who they accept and let come in.
I think this depends on the shelter. Yes, a lot of no-kill shelters are too small to take in all the dogs they receive; but more progressive no-kill shelters are building huge networks with other shelters, rescue groups, fosters, and donors that are able to handle a much higher volume of animals. I don't know the exact proportions, but I think that the majority of no-kill shelters are like the ones you're describing, but a growing minority are able to accept all surrenders.

I agree with you that the overpopulation is the root of the problem. I've heard of mobile spay-neuter clinics and I think this is the future of population control. If every city had these mobile units going from neighborhood to neighborhood, just imagine how that would dramatically reduce the quantity of surrenders and strays in a single year and forever after that. It would also be incredibly cost-effective for cities, because it's a lot cheaper to get to the source before it's multiplied.
 

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I volunteer at our county shelter, and I love it. Its sad dealing with the fact that some dogs have to be... destroyed, but its awesome to know that you gave them love in the end. I do everything: clean the pens, the dogs, walk them (sometimes they walk me, lol), feed them, groom them, love them. Its wonderful. I can't wait till graduation, 'cause it'll free up my schedule and I can work on planning an adopt-a-thon. :)

If you want a suggestion on whether to volunteer at a "kill" or "no-kill" shelter, I have to recommend the "kill", simply because they need help too. Everyone is quick to help where they don't have to see the reality of dogs being there one day, then gone the next. The final moments of love spent with a dog is a reward in itself.
 

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I think this depends on the shelter. Yes, a lot of no-kill shelters are too small to take in all the dogs they receive; but more progressive no-kill shelters are building huge networks with other shelters, rescue groups, fosters, and donors that are able to handle a much higher volume of animals. I don't know the exact proportions, but I think that the majority of no-kill shelters are like the ones you're describing, but a growing minority are able to accept all surrenders.
I totally agree with this. There are good AND bad 'kill' and 'no-kill' shelters. I think the 'shining example' no-kill shelters often get ignored by people who think no-kill is a failure just on principal. But there are just as many badly-run kill shelters, too and people don't question why they fail as much, I guess because they just accept killing as inevitable, which is a bad attitude for inspiring improvement in the way things are run.

In general I think shelters of both kinds would improve a lot with greater community involvement and outreach. It's always hard without that backbone of foster homes and volunteers to keep the animals happy and properly cared for. Shelter volunteers are priceless, thank you for donating your time this way. =)
 
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