What is the best way to get involved in the community and show your support of animal rescues and shelter? Volunteering, of course! But there are some things that you should know before you volunteer:
- Just because you grew up with a dog or other animals does not mean you are an expert on animal behavior and can handle any situation. The one pet you grew up with is a very different situation than many animals in rescue and shelters. Even the best dogs can behave differently in a rescue. It can be a scary situation –maybe the dog was surrendered after years of being with one family or maybe he was found as a stray. If the dog came to your area on a transport, that can also be stressful. Navigate carefully, keeping in mind that it is far from an ideal situation for these animals temporarily in the rescue’s care.
- If you don’t know, ask. If a visitor/potential adopter asks a question about the rescue or an animal that you don’t know the answer to, ask for clarification. There is nothing worse than giving out misinformation. Likewise, if you don’t know how to do something or where to find something, ask another volunteer. There is no such thing as a bad question.
- Only handle animals with which you are comfortable. All the training and orientation in the world cannot better prepare you more than your own judgment. If a dog seems too big or unruly for you, move on to the next one. In most situations, there are plenty of other dogs that need your attention so don’t feel bad for passing one up.
- You might not always hear it said out loud, but you are appreciated! The Directors can get busy with the day-to-day details of running a rescue or shelter, and may seem to overlook your contributions. But, without volunteers, the rescue would not operate as smoothly and the animals would be without comfort and attention.
- You are making a difference. Some days it may seem like you were not all that productive at an event or Meet & Greet. Remember though to that one dog, you most certainly made a world of difference. Beyond total volunteers and hours donated, it is a challenge for rescue volunteer coordinators to quantify their program’s contributions to the organization because so much of what you do is from the heart.
- Expand your potential. A well-rounded volunteer is extremely valuable to a rescue and shelter. Please consider cross-training in multiple programs or volunteer opportunities. Some days, there may be a lack of volunteer participation in one area of the rescue, and it is so helpful when a volunteer is already cross-trained and can jump in to fill the gaps. This will also help to keep you engaged as a volunteer should you ever need a break from volunteering in one area or another.
You might only have a few hours each month to spend with a rescue. No matter how small your time contribution is, the rescue is eager to have you, and the animals are that much better off for having you volunteer.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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