If you have been considering volunteering your free time spending time with dogs at a shelter, your heart is in the right place. Shelter dogs are commonly mistaken for broken or damaged goods. In reality, most dogs in shelters have been surrendered due to no fault of their own. They are simply good dogs who were dealt a bad hand.
What to Keep In Mind When Volunteering
Before you jump into volunteer work, there are a few things that would be beneficial to keep in mind to make your volunteering experience the best it can be. Whether you are shadowing a veterinarian for school or volunteering as a hobby, it can be a very rewarding thing, but it can also be slightly heartbreaking. Making sure you are fully prepared to handle all of the ups and downs of volunteering will help it be easier on everyone.
1. Obey The Signs
No one knows the dogs in a shelter better than the people who work there. If there are signs stating that you should not approach or interact with a specific dog without a staff member, be mindful of this. Other signs, such as the ones that state “no kids” or “no dogs” etc, are also signs to stay mindful of. Not just for the safety of others, but also for the safety of the dogs.
2. You Can’t Adopt Them All
Many people go into volunteering with the best of intentions, but ultimately end up feeling guilty because they feel the need to adopt every dog they create a bond with. This is nothing to feel bad about, but it is something you must come to terms with quickly. Take this love that you have for them, and use it as your determination to find them their absolute perfect forever home.
3. You Are Constantly Reminded Of The Cruelty
One of the most difficult things to deal with when volunteering at a shelter is that you are reminded on a regular basis of the cruelty some dogs are subjected to. Looking into the sad eyes of a dog who has been neglected, who is confused and scared, is enough to break your heart. Just remember that this is why you are volunteering in the first place: to show them the love that they may not have gotten otherwise.
4. There is an Everyday Struggle to Find The Perfect Home
Day after day people come in and out of shelters looking for puppies, adult dogs, and sometimes even those senior dogs get lucky. It can be difficult to sit back and watch the same dogs get passed by or looked over for one reason or another.
5. You Are Also Reminded Of The Wonderful Things That Can Be Done
Granted, it can seem a little heart wrenching sometimes. Then, there are those good days when you get to see 2 or 3 (or hopefully even more) dogs getting adopted and going home with their new forever families. Even if you have to watch a dog you really loved be adopted to another family, you can feel good knowing you gave them the love and care they needed, which may have helped them to become the adoptable dog they were.
If you really enjoy volunteering with animals, becoming a staff member at a shelter could be the perfect job for you. You never know – your volunteer work with dogs might lead you to a career working with animals! Zoologists, veterinary technicians, and dog trainers are only a few of the animal-centric careers constantly in demand.
No matter where your volunteer journey takes you, volunteering with dogs is a great place to start.
Kathryn Goodwin is a devoted animal lover and an ardent volunteer at the El Paso Animal Shelter. Her deep passion for animal welfare has led her to dedicate her time and writing efforts to educating others on how they can give back to the animals in their communities.