No. 68 – Animal Shelter Volunteers

In most of the places we visited during our family’s around-the-world journey, animals became a part of lives. This was mostly due to our daughters’ deep love for all animals, big and small. In Croatia our landlord’s kitten, Kika, adopted our family during our stay and could often be found snoozing somewhere in our apartment. In Ireland, we got regular visits from Sydney, a black cat who prowled Castletownshend in search of a warm spot on chilly days. In Thailand we volunteered at the Koh Samui and Cat Rescue Center, in Cambodia a stray white cat became Ali’s cuddle buddy, and in New Zealand we took of two dogs, two chickens, and a kune kune pig. In general, animals found their way to us throughout our travels. They seem to know an animal lover when they see one.

So, it was appropriate that our volunteer activities in our new hometown include work at the local animal shelter. In April the girls and I went through the training for volunteers at the Summit County Animal Shelter, and since then we’ve periodically volunteered our time there. It’s a pretty easy gig, given that it involves petting cats and walking dogs. Even though we have two dogs and a cat at home, the girls would be at the shelter every day if they could. Here’s a little bit of what Emily has learned during our time there.

Volunteering at Our Animal Shelter
by Emily Carisch

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a fun way to help out around your community and it’s open to people of all ages. At our shelter, we read to cats to help them become more comfortable with humans and we take dogs on walks to let them stretch their legs.

Step 1: Find An Animal Shelter Near You

This shouldn’t be a problem. Most cities have them and all you have to do is whip out your phone, type in your city name and add ‘animal shelter’ on the end. It should pop up on a map and as long as you can get a ride, you’ll be fine.

Step 2: Contact Shelter or Staff

Shelters usually give their phone number or location on a map. This makes it easy to communicate with staff and set up a volunteering time frame that works for you and the shelter. For us, Mama found the information we needed on their website. I’m not really sure about other shelters, but ours had orientations you had to attend to be able to volunteer. There were two orientations; one for dogs and one for cats. By attending each orientation, the staff ensured that you knew what to do and what not to do. 

Step 3: Learn about Dogs

 The dog orientation was mostly about body-language and shelter rules. They taught us how to tell what a dog is feeling. For example, if you can see the whites of a dog’s eyes, they’re watching you out of the corner of their eye because they’re nervous and unsure what to make of you. We also learned about the C-curve. When a dog curves its body to look at you, with its tail tucked between its legs, its scared and you need to let it come to you. Also, dogs don’t like to be hugged, and licking their lips is a sign they’re a little nervous. 

Step 4: Learn about Cats

Just like for the dog presentation, the animal shelter staff showed us a slide show about reactions and behaviors of the feline family. Cats react pretty much the same way a dog would, so it wasn’t that hard to understand. We were asked to tell the difference between an angry cat and calm cat when they showed us two pictures: a sleeping cat versus one with an arched back. So yeah, that wasn’t hard. 

Step 5: Always Wash Your Hands

Animals can spread diseases to other animals, so if you have pets at home, make sure to wash your hands before you go. One time, we volunteered at the Summit County Animal Shelter and the staff warned us that, we’d need to take showers and change into new clothes because interacting with our pets. Kennel Cough was going around the shelter’s dog population and a litter of  kittens had come in with a respiratory disease. Its always a good idea to wash up when you leave if you have a pet of your own.

Volunteering at the animal shelter has been a great experience for us. I plan to do it more often when I’m 14 because then I will be able to volunteer without a parent present. Honestly, I think my mom’s been a little freaked out about going ever since they told us about the Kennel Cough and respiratory disease. She can get a little uptight with that stuff. :-)

AS Liv class AS Ali tag AS Em Cat AS walking

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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