For just a few minutes, imagine what it feels like to spend your free time with an animal like two-year-old Reu, pictured above. You play with them, have them rain kisses on your face, rub up against you and see their obvious joy at the attention they are receiving. You share a bond, if only for a few moments a day.
Now, imagine what it’s like to go to the facility where that animal was housed and know that there’s a 50-50 chance that they will no longer be there. Thrilled to learn they were adopted or rescued, perhaps returned to their owner who came looking for their lost pet or, perhaps, had a change of heart and came back for them. But devastated to find that animal is not there to greet you because they simply ran out of time, or became too ill, never getting his or her second chance. Knowing that life was extinguished and feeling like you failed them.
Yet every one of these brave souls still push on and walk through those doors, knowing their heart may break that day. Not once, but many times. Every day, every week. But still they come. They know they’re needed by the rescue community. It’s certain that the shelter would be hard-pressed to survive without them. But the bottom line is always the shelter residents; whether they bark, meow or squeak, have hooves or feathers, the volunteers come for them.
You know the saying they have for someone in rescue, “their bank account is empty, but their hearts are full”? That goes double for almost every volunteer at an animal shelter. They get paid in licks, purrs of contentment and demands for belly rubs. If they had a dime for every ball they tossed, they’d all be billionaires.
Some of them are warned by their respective spouses, “don’t bring another one home.” Yet those words sometimes fall on deaf ears, if “only for a few days…”. When they’re not volunteering, they’re posting stills and video of the animals on social media. Sharing on numerous sites and trying to raise funds and pledges for an animal’s care with which they
might entice a rescue. Sometimes they are put in ‘Facebook jail’ for days or weeks, or had their Twitter account suspended for a short time, because, according to the rules of the platform, they’ve ‘over shared’,simply trying to save some lives.
Judging by this writer’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, volunteering can be a full-time job. When the doors close for the day, many volunteers feel that they didn’t have enough time to give every shelter animal their moment in the sun. A half-hour of socialization and interaction that can actually mean the difference between life and death.
But sharing these animals on social media is the ONLY option. And it works. Usually the pets they’re sharing have been overlooked by the public because the animal has medical issues, or it’s a breed discriminated against by an outmoded legislative code that should have been eradicated years ago. Or, sadly, the animal is just a victim of ‘black dog’ or ‘black cat’ syndrome.
The last time a Shelter Director exclaimed ‘we have too many volunteers’ … was NEVER.
There are many ways you can help animals in your neighborhood. Find your local Animal Shelter. Volunteer. Offer your skills, whether it’s tossing a ball, scratching behind the ears or taking photographs and video that highlight the true qualities of the animals; almost anything looks better than an ‘intake’ photo.
Are you a webmaster? Help your shelter build a great interactive website. Help them maintain the website. Share the website on your social media pages.
If you don’t live in the area, but want to stay involved occasionally, there are options! You can help rescues drive animals from the shelter to the rescue. Shelters are also in need of items, large and small, and some may already have “wish lists”. Check back here for an upcoming story on that – we’ve got some great suggestions!
And, if you have the time, energy and room, you can always foster. When you become a foster family, the shelter or rescue foots the bills. Almost every shelter and rescue are in desperate need of foster families year-round. If you’re a feline fancier, springtime’s ‘kitten season’ is a great time to pitch in!
We’ll explore all of these ideas in an upcoming stories, here on ShelterMe.tv! This ShelterMe column welcomes your ideas and input. Be part of the solution. Think pawsitive.
Volunteers at Orange County Animal Services in Orlando, Florida and Pawsitive Shelter Photography have shared the photos for this story; every animal is currently available for rescue or adoption. Each photo has a clickable link which will take you to that pet’s bio and adoption information. One click, one share – you’re now part of the solution!