One of my New Year’s All Year goals was to volunteer at the animal shelter in my city. I am excited to say that I have been meeting that goal! I got trained in April and as of now help out one evening every other week (though I hope I can increase the frequency of my visits soon).
When my mom asked me, “Why did you start doing this?” the answer was clear to me. I may not have met all my career or personal goals at this point in my life, but I am so lucky and I should give back. Not only do I personally feel the duty to give back, but I ENJOY giving back. While in college, I joined Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity. Though I of course cherished the friendships made and the leadership opportunities APO provided, the service is what impacted me the most. It grounded me. When I got incredibly stressed over schoolwork or ridiculous drama or just plain exhausted, helping others and the community always inspired and reenergized me. It reminded me there is much more to the world than my slice of life, that I am lucky and healthy, and positivity is key. During swim season, though I was being paid to coach, I felt my duty and desire to do some type of service fulfilled. Once the season was over, though, I wanted to find another way to give back to the community. Finding volunteer opportunities is a bit harder now that I’m not on a college campus or an active member of a chapter of an organization well-known for its service, but arranging the shelter work was easy.
As you might know from reading this blog, I’m big animal lover and consider my dog Madison my best friend. What you probably don’t know is Madison’s story. Dan and I adopted Madison from P.A.WS. in September of 2010. She was rescued in February 2010 from a hoarder’s property. The hoarder, who’s land initially started as a humane sancutary, had over 150 neglected dogs. They were underfed and kept in shoddy shelters. Little is known about Madison’s background beyond that and the fact she is missing a tooth, has a broken tooth, and has small scars on her eye and ears. She was in foster care for seven months before she came to live with us, and though she was very well cared for (receiving a great deal of needed medical care and love) and had made excellent progress, she was still underweight, ate anything and everything out of fear of no food, was distrusting of strangers, intimidated by other dogs, terrified of bad weather, hated being outside on her own for any length of time, and had severe separation anxiety. She is totally healthy now and is much better with her food and trust issues, but is still easily startled by both humans and dogs and scared of storms. However, her capacity to love and be loved is amazing. She really does make my life brighter just by being in it.
So to me, the answer was simple. If I was going to volunteer, where? Clearly, it should be somewhere I would enjoy going and would feel a solid and invested connection: somewhere where I could help other animals in need. Where better than the animal shelter within in walking distance from my house – where my family adopted another canine love in my life, Sasha? Perfect! I made it one of my March goals to begin arranging it, and began putting it in action in April.
What drives you to serve others and the community? What inspires your choice of volunteer work? If you interested to know more about my experience or just what working with animals could be like, tomorrow I’ll recap what volunteering at a shelter has been like so far (complete with photos of cute cats!).
Photos: (1) quote from my Pinterest; (2) Madison hanging out on the porch on a nice day; (3) Madison and Sasha napping together