i’ve been walking the dogs at my local humane society for the past (almost) three and a half years now. when i was working on my dissertation, i decided that would be the reward i would give myself: "finish, and then you can start volunteering at the humane society." in truth, it took me a year and a half to get around to it once i HAD finished my dissertation. i was busy and unsure of my schedule; i was nervous about how to start volunteering; i didn’t know which position i wanted. eventually, though, i got my act together, submitted an application, and learned that dog-walking is pretty much always a high-need area. this is probably because some people are uncomfortable around dogs, or can’t keep up with the rambunctious ones… but it’s also because dog-walking means being out in all kinds of weather. i was more than happy to give it a shot–i have always loved dogs, and i figured this would be a good way to get a weekly "fix" of dog snuggles.
i have really and truly loved walking the dogs every week. my position has changed slightly a couple of times. first, i moved from "the front" (adoption) to "the back" (lodging, where the animals are still being temperament tested, spayed/neutered, treated for colds and the like). next, the humane society decided to close the adoption areas on mondays, so i went from working during a fairly busy time to working when i was the only volunteer in the whole building, and virtually no "public" to deal with. to be honest, i prefer it this way. it’s much easier to focus on the dogs when there aren’t a million people trying to pet them. heh.
i have fallen in love with many, many dogs. almost every week i can pick one that i’d love to take home with me. our humane society is committed to finding homes for all adoptable animals, so i never worry about someone’s "time running up," which is such a relief. even so, i’ve seen sad things; i’ve cried during my shift a few times. but all in all, i LOVE volunteering there.
over the past year or so, i’ve wondered about trying a new area; shaking things up a bit. i love the dogs, but i’m so interested in the cats and bunnies too. or working on "the wildlife side" in our huge wildlife rehab area. just something different for the sake of being around Even More Animals. i haven’t bothered to ask about it, though, because mondays are the best for me, and the only volunteer position available on mondays (when we are kind of "closed") is dog-walking. also, i was feeling guilty about even considering leaving my position as a dog-walker. they need dog-walkers so badly; plus i knew i would miss them.
i promise you i’m going somewhere with this.
a couple of weeks ago, i scanned the volunteer newsletter and learned that cat socialization (one of the positions on my dream shortlist) has become a high-need area. this really surprised me, because in the past it has been one of the most popular positions. i kept reading and then learned that they are particularly in need of people who can socialize the cats "in the back" (lodging), which is where i work with the dogs each monday. typically you have to work in adoption before you move to lodging, but i decided this newsletter was a sign (hee) and i went ahead and asked anyway: could i socialize cats in lodging on mondays? answer #1: sounds like a great idea to me; let me check and see. answer #2: yes! hooray!
so yesterday i watched a brief video on cat handling, practiced my new skillz on avery and finley (who were confused but cooperative), and then today i shadowed a trainer for a two-hour shift. easy peasy! i start on monday. i’m so excited! i have decided NOT to abandon the dogs after all… i will be working a shift with the cats, then a shift with the dogs immediately afterward. i can’t wait. now every monday i’ll have a dog AND a cat that i’ll want to take home!