Volunteers Who Make a Difference for Dogs
By Kim Boatman
Across the country, volunteers work to improve the lives of dogs in need. No job is too big or too small. Dog lovers staff adoption fairs, nurture dogs in their homes and scoop poop at animal shelter kennels. They do it for love rather than recognition, and they make a difference, one four-legged friend at a time. Here are the stories of just a few.
A Friendly Face
One afternoon each week, retiree Kay Bauer stops by the Tri-City Animal Shelter in Fremont, Calif. She knows how to feed the dogs and cats at the shelter. She can also prepare kennels with bedding and clean cages, should the need arise. However, the teenaged volunteers usually take on those tasks, so that leaves Bauer with a happy chore.
“What I mainly do is just socialize with the dogs,” says Bauer. “I always think the dogs will want to just get out and run and play in a larger space than their kennels, but really all they want to do is sit by you and be petted and given some human attention.” Bauer says that while the animals are cared for, they are still in need of a little extra TLC.
For the Love of Labs
Nancy Riggle can’t resist the enthusiasm of Labrador puppies. Riggle and her husband have fostered more than 50 dogs in the last three years through their work with Atlanta Lab Rescue. While Riggle serves on the board for the organization and helps organize fundraisers, her love for working with rescued dogs is evident.
“It has been an amazing experience,” says Riggle, who owns two 7-year-old black Labs. “We like the younger dogs with more energy. When they come to us, they are so sweet and just want to be loved.”
What Riggle particularly enjoys is meeting adoptive families and seeing how much the dogs she has fostered love their new owners. “We keep in touch with many of our adoptive families. That is the only way we are able to give up the sweet puppies,” she says.
Groups such as Atlanta Lab Rescue need all sorts of assistance, even if fostering isn’t for you. If an organization can’t figure out how to fit you in at first, please don’t give up, says Riggle. “While we work to get people involved quickly, we work full-time jobs also. Keep trying.”
Finding the Right Role
Monica King realizes that not everyone can commit long hours to volunteer work. Since she works full-time, she spends about 15 hours a week serving as vice president and director of volunteers for German Shepherd Dog Rescue Group of Georgia. The organization has placed more than 200 German shepherds since King co-founded the group seven years ago.
King’s inspiration came when she visited a shelter with a family member who was adopting a dog. She was dismayed to see a bright-eyed, fit German shepherd in the shelter. “I couldn’t believe such a great dog was in the shelter,” she says. King values every effort the group’s volunteers make, no matter how small. “The more people we have help, the more dogs we can save,” she says.
It’s important to know that any contribution you make -- whether it’s writing a check, editing a newsletter or fostering a dog -- will be welcomed by organizations working with dogs in your community. “If you can volunteer a couple of hours a week, that’s more than enough,” says King. “Any time you have available is helpful.”
Photo: German Shepherd Dog Rescue Group of Georgia.
Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily.