One of my recent goals has been to volunteer more… When I made the decision, I was hating my work-life and needed to feel useful. I started volunteering at Washtenaw Literacy, working with people who need one-on-one help with native English speakers just needing some extra help. Washtenaw Literacy is such a fantastic organization and I was SO excited to be a literacy tutor, but unfortunately it required more time than I thought :( 2-3 hours per week. Because I was working one-on-one with a high school student with special needs, I didn’t want to half ass it. I spent hours preparing for our lessons and we always had difficulty meeting up with one another, it just wasn’t working out.. then my hours at work increased so I can to call it quits. I hated giving up on my student who was so sweet and seemed to enjoy the stupid games I came up with. I felt like such a failure.
Two years ago I left that company and started working at a local company that had a better work/life balance. Two years later I made the decision to start volunteering again. What better place to begin my new life as a volunteer than the humane society!
The Humane Society of Huron Valley holds such a special place in my heart because we adopted Andy there. And if you know me you know how much my dogs mean to me. The HSHV has new volunteer orientations every month. I made the decision, paid the $40 orientation fee (you get hooked up with a sweet volunteer shirt), and I was READY to be a do-gooder.
Volunteer orientation was easy. We listened to information about the shelter and its mission, took a tour, talked with other volunteers about what brought us to the HSHV. I might have made up a little story about wanting to get over my fear of cats…. It’s true I am afraid of cats but I don’t want to get over my fear. Cats and me have an understanding and we both like it that way.
When you first start, you’re “Paw 1” level – which meant I couldn’t walk the dogs! Boo! I spent 20 hours doing easy shelter work – mostly driving to a Walmart in Canton, picking up donations from the store, and dropping it back off at the shelter. 20 hours of doing that and I finally made it to “Paw 2,” hell yeah!
Paw 2 = dog walking! Bring on those pups. After I completed an orientation, I was ready to start walking dogs. I was so nervous at my first shift, you could say I had a LOT of anxiety. What if I picked a dog I couldn’t handle? What if the dog ran out of it’s kennel before I could get it’s leash on? What if I missed an important behaviour note about the dog?
I wasn’t perfect my first few shifts. I was just too excited to get in there and walking dogs. You’d think it’d be easy-peasy, but the HSHV does a great job about making sure each dog is treated as an individual. Some dogs can’t go on longer walks, other dogs need a harness, some dogs LOVE the play yard, others are shy and need coaxing out of their kennels… It’s a lot to take in.
I’ve put in about 18 hours of dog walking so far and I’m loving it. I’ve been signing up for the Sunday morning shift, 730-930am. When I arrive the shelter is quiet (except for all the barking dogs, natch) and I get to take my time walking each dog, giving them lots of attention, and making sure they start their day off right.
The best feeling I get is when a dog I’ve really enjoyed walking has been adopted. I feel like I’ve helped that animal, and in some way the family that will get to enjoy that dog, on their way to a better life.
I encourage everyone to try and find time to volunteer, it’s more than worth your time