Oh Dog! I’m so glad you came back for part 2! Today we meet Cindy, another volunteer at PAWS in Norwalk Connecticut. Cindy works with dogs, so we’re going to find out what her experience has been! Help me give a warm welcome to Cindy!!!
Rumpy: Thanks for being my guest today Cindy. How about you tell us what got you into to volunteering at PAWS.
Cindy: For almost three years, I drove by a place called PAWS during my daily commute. I was tempted to stop in, but anxious at the same time. I had no idea what their philosophy was, and I had never volunteered at a shelter before – were they no-kill? Did they help all animals or just the “cream of the crop” as so many places do? So, I did my research and found out that they were, in fact, no-kill.
I also noticed that they had quite a few senior pets available for adoption (always a good sign that a shelter isn’t overly selective of who they’re saving) and, in reading the pets’ bios, I could determine that they were taking in some animals with real medical issues and rehabilitating them. This was the kind of place I was looking for, but I was still hesitant. What if it was depressing? How would I react? And would I want to take all of them home?! Finally, a friend talked me into going with her one night, and almost eight years later, we both still volunteer there.
Rumpy: Hooray!! So what exactly do you do there?
Cindy: I started on the canine side of the shelter, and that’s primarily where I still volunteer. I began as a dog walker, helped with training (both dogs and new walkers), cleaning kennels, feeding – anything that needed to be done, I would do. Now, I’m considered a “manager on duty,” which means I’m the go-to person if there’s a problem with an animal or the building during my shift. This could mean something as simple as telling someone where the poop bags are to rushing an animal to the emergency vet.
Rumpy: Oh Dog! That’s alot of hats to wear! Looks like you’ve got to develop some skills since you came on board as well!
Cindy: There was also a period of time when I worked on the feline side of the shelter, which was a huge opportunity for me because I grew up with dogs, not cats. I quickly learned to “read” a cat (who knew a wagging tail isn’t a good thing!) and I fell in love with quite a few of the feline residents of the shelter!
Rumpy: Awwww….. I like kitties too!
Cindy: I’m an Adoption Counselor, which means I have the opportunity to work directly with the public. This has its good and bad aspects, as not everyone is pleasant, honest, or honorable… Thankfully, most people are! My job as adoption counselor is to review applications, interview potential adopters, and introduce them to dogs who should be good matches in the hopes of finding great homes.
I’ve also helped behind the scenes medicating animals, whether it’s administering fluids to very ill puppies or nebulizing cats. These are skills for which I’m so thankful for having the opportunity to learn!
One of my biggest responsibilities right now is helping with fundraising. I help to plan events, and often design the brochures, flyers, and websites we use for our larger events.
PAWS is also invited to appear on a local pet talk show quite often, so I have the pleasure of helping to shepherd dogs there and present them to the host and the public.
Finally, I help with content on our website, which (thankfully) is going through a major redesign – stay tuned – and I try desperately to keep up with a blog that focuses on the wonderful dogs at PAWS, but I’m not always up-to-date… (http://rescuek9-dogs.blogspot.com/)
Rumpy: Wow! That is alot of different things that need to be done! So I guess no matter what your skill, you can be of help to an animal shelter!
Cindy: The only restriction PAWS has is that a volunteer has to be 18 or older to work with the animals. Beyond that, you can do anything that you’d like, really, and we need all the help we can get! We’re a privately-funded, grassroots organization – no government funding – with a very small staff and an army of volunteers. The staff relies on volunteers to help with so many things, like the less elegant but essential jobs of doing laundry or filling and emptying dishwashers or helping to clean kennels and cat rooms.
Of course, a well-socialized animal is a more adoptable one, so we need lots of people who are willing to bring a shy kitten out of its shell, or work with a dog so he has good manners and can leave the shelter and integrate into someone’s household more easily. We also have people who work on fundraising, whether it’s weekend visits to local shops to represent the shelter or our larger annual events like our dog walk or wine tasting.
For volunteers who are under 18, we encourage them to be creative! Have competitions at school to see who can collect the most redeemable cans and bottles, or organize collections of goods based on our Wish List of items we use every day at the shelter. And so many young adults have “donated” their birthdays to PAWS, asking their guests to bring a toy for an animal or a Wish List item in lieu of a gift.
Rumpy: I love how you are able to incorporate everyone to help us animals! But how do you deal with the emotional issues?
Cindy: Because of my behind the scenes involvement at PAWS, I’ve helped receive cats with chemical burns, dogs who’ve been used as bait in fighting rings, and animals who have been left behind to starve. It is emotionally draining, there’s no denying that. But at the same time, the rewards are incredible when you see an animal begin to trust again, gain weight and thrive, or heal from burns – what a fantastic feeling that you’ve been a part of that pet’s rehabilitation and re-entry into the world! The icing on the cake is when you find that pet a great home.
Rumpy: I bet that is a great feeling! Now are there any preconceived notions you had about animal rescue that have been challenged since you began to volunteer?
Cindy: “You’ll bring them all home!” No, not true, at least in my case. I know that all the staff and volunteers truly love each and every pet at PAWS, even the crotchety ones! In 7.5 years, I’ve adopted two dogs, not so bad. Knowing that all of the pets are being adopted to the best possible homes, that not one will be euthanized to make space or because “it’s too old,” and each will be loved unconditionally until that forever home comes along – makes it a lot easier to volunteer there.
Rumpy: Yeah, that does make a difference. And do you have any advice for anyone thinking of volunteering at a shelter or rescue?
Cindy: Do it and don’t hesitate like I did. The animals need your help, no matter what it is that you can do. What’s your skill? Are you a carpenter? Can you paint a wall, mow a lawn, garden, type? How’s your public speaking? Whether it’s changing a light bulb, answering phones, stuffing envelopes, sweeping a floor, or holding a scared kitten, the couple of hours you spend at a shelter will make such a difference in an animal’s life. There’s so much to be done, and so few people to help.
Rumpy: Oh yeah! Well, Cindy, thanks SO much for being my guest today, and thanks for all that you do to help us animals. You guys ROCK!
Don’t forget that you can check out PAWS on Facebook by clicking here. Here is the link to their website. You can check out the Animal Shelter Volunteer blog for some great pics of wonderful animals looking for a forever home. Also, check out Cindy’s blog, Scratch My Belly for more info and photos!