Volunteering in Animal Welfare, rescue groups and shelters can range from spending a couple of hours per week to having your whole life turned around. For some of us, volunteering became so additive that today, we basically are what we do. You might not have the time to do all that 24/7, but here’s what you could do.
- Walk the dogs
In some shelters, dogs are rarely walked, due to lack of time and a shortage of volunteers. Teaching a dog how to walk properly on a leash is crucial when it comes to adoption. You might think that two hours per week are not enough, but dogs never forget. I walked Petra once per week, and she is who she is today.
- Spend time with the dogs
Volunteering usually comes with an erroneous perception of what rescue dogs need. Spending time with them does not necessarily mean petting them for long hours with no reason – in fact, this is wrong and can have the opposite results. Spend time with shelter dogs simply by staying there, next to them and ignore them. Watch their behavior. How do they react to you being there? Which dogs approach you constantly and which ones avoid you. How do they approach you? What do they want? How do they interact with each other? These are very useful information for potential adoptive parents and you can help them by explaining them how the dog might react when they take him home. Will he lay on his bed and be quiet? Will he hide under the bed? Will he be constantly looking for ways to get their attention?
- “Televise” your experience
Volunteering is about many things, and one of the most important is telling people about it the right way. Telling someone that this dog does something special, weird or unique is boring, showing him a video or a photo of it is interesting. Rescue animals need all the attention they can get. It used to be hard, but smartphones made everything so easy. Take pictures and videos of the shelter dogs and post them, so that people can see them interact, play, be silly of just sleep. A number of good photos or fun videos can make the most unadoptable dog get adopted, like it happened with Sofi.
- Take a shelter dog home
I don’t mean forever. Fostering can be difficult for some people, but taking a dog or two home for a couple of days is more helpful than you can imagine. First of all you get to teach a dog some very basic stuff about life: how to live in a new environment, how be around people cooking, eating, watching TV and chatting. Shelter animals crave for attention. Teaching a shelter dog how to be calm around people and how to simply hang out with them is very important – and what volunteering has been for me. Apart from teaching the dog, you get a valuable feedback that will make the dog’s adoption easier. Potential parents can learn from you what to expect, and this makes things easier. Telling the future family how the dog will react during his first days at home makes the parents trust you and it makes everything easier, for them and for the dog.
- Talk to people you know about it
Friends, family, neighbors, and everyone we know learn a lesson form us every day – as we learn from them. Talk to people about what you learn from volunteering. Talk about the dogs. Not the sad and boring stuff. Talk about the fun stuff. About a silly habit, a dog might have, about how much fun shelter animals are to be with. People tend to pity shelter animals, and pity adoption is not the best choice. Talk about it like you talk about a movie you saw, about a meal you had. Talk like you talk about the normal things of everyday life. It makes people see shelter animals like normal and adoptable pets – which they are.
I hope all of the above were helpful. Basically it is what I do. And it helps, I swear it helps a lot.