Rattling the bars

As you know, I’ve been volunteering at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.  Previously I talked about what volunteer orientation was like, so I thought now would be a good time to post what it’s like to actually volunteer there.  Also, a brief disclaimer – there are many different volunteer jobs you can do at the shelter; personally, I chose to help with exercising the dogs.  There are also cats and rabbits to be played with, tons of cleaning and organizing to do, etc.  Pretty much, if you want to help out at the shelter doing something, they’ll find a place for you.

My first day I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7am.  I’m an early riser these days, courtesy of my husband’s belief that we should always be up before the sun is…I can’t say I’ve always agreed with this idea, but I do like getting a jump-start on the day.  And when I asked the volunteer trainer when they most needed people to walk dogs, he said they were having some trouble filling the very early shift, 7-9am.  “Most of these dogs will be in their kennels from 4pm onwards, so they really need to get out as early as possible the next morning,” he explained.

With this in mind, I punched in the code on the side door (the shelter’s doors don’t open to the public until 9am), put my car keys in their cabinet, and picked up a set of kennel keys (the swap of keys ensures that I don’t leave with their keys).  I put on my lovely shelter apron, checked that I had treats, poop bags, and my slip leash securely in the pockets, and entered my pin number in their computer system.  Then I was ready to face the dogs.

When I pushed open the door in the back that lead to the dog kennels, there was a brief second of stillness before the air exploded with sound.  It actually froze me in place; I couldn’t think as the barking erupted on all sides, each and every dog desperate to get my attention, all of them basically screaming, “pick me! Pick me!” They wanted out.  All of them.  At the same time.  After a few seconds of shocked indecision while the dogs rattled the bars of their kennels and tried to look as cute as possible, I remembered my volunteer training.  “Quickly get one dog out at a time and walk that dog immediately out of the room.”

Baxter is ready to walk!

But which dog? There was so much need in that room, I knew I couldn’t choose among them, so I just turned and took the dog closest to me.  I checked his sheet and saw that he hadn’t been out since 3pm the day before.  His name was Baxter and he was a basset-hound shar-pei mix, a little over a year old.  I prepared my leash, http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/amoxil/ opened his kennel, and slipped the leash over his head.  Then we walked quickly out the door as the dogs behind me continued to bark.  ‘I’ll be back, guys,’ I silently promised them.

My first walk was great! It’s always pretty at that time of the morning, with everything feeling fresh and new, and there are a lot of really nice little side streets near the shelter to walk on.  Baxter was thrilled to be out in the open air and kept looking up at me, his wrinkly little face full of joy.  Then he was on the scent, and walking fast, and it was all I could do to keep up with him as we explored street after street.  I didn’t have a route in mind yet, so I just kept walking, staying off the busier streets and enjoying all the cute gardens in the houses we passed.

After about a half hour or so, I gave Baxter a treat and some love, then lead him back inside where he settled down to eat and drink.  I wrote on his sheet, then turned and took out the next dog.  Then the next.  Soon my two hours were up and it was time for me to leave.  As I turned, a large shaggy dog caught my eye.  She had been trying to get my attention this whole morning, and now, as I made the mistake of locking eyes with her, I knew I had to take her out, too.  “Alright, girl,” I said, heading over there, “we’ll go.”  I glanced at her sheet; Ebony, a six-year-old german shepherd and airedale terrier mix.  She hadn’t been out in a while, either, and when I slipped the leash over her head she was eager to get going.

See? You couldn't say "no" to that face, either...

Ebony was really well-behaved.  I was a little surprised at how tall she was; she hadn’t looked quite so big in her kennel, but she was great on the leash, hardly pulled at all, and just seemed happy to walk where I wanted and to sniff at things along the way.  When I went to pull out a treat she automatically sat down and looked up at me, wagging her little stump of a tail, so clearly she had been trained before.  I don’t know why she’s at the shelter now, but I know she’d make a great dog for someone looking for a companion.  Just putting that out there…

So, that pretty much wrapped up my first day.  I went home, changed and washed my hands, and then gave my own dog a hug, remembering that he had been in a kennel like that four years ago.  Once again I felt thankful for the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation for taking care of him, and for my teeth, which led me to him.


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