Friday, December 22, 2006

My holiday gift from the dogs

Yesterday evening I probably had one of the best nights I have had in a while. I skipped the weekly happy hour I usually partake in on Thursdays after work and went out to the Takoma Park metro area to where the Washington Animal Rescue League shelter is. I went out there with no idea of what to expect since the last time I tried to volunteer at an animal shelter the people I dealt with were in no way friendly and seemed to not even want to deal with volunteers. This time it was different from the start, even before I made it out there there was a different vibe when I traded multiple emails with the volunteer coordinator at the shelter, all of which were very pleasant and welcoming to the idea of new volunteers.

After arriving as I was standing in awe at the amazing facilities this shelter provides I was introduced to the volunteer who would be ‘teaching’ the dog walking ‘course’ and being the only ‘student’ for the day we set off into the shelter to see how things worked. The dog “kennel” area is absolutely amazing; the individual spaces for the dogs all include a good sized area for the animals to move around in, a bed that flips down or up for more space, a heated floor (half heated half not for if a dog has lots of fur or is a short hair dog that gets cold easily), double opening doors so it is easy to open the top half to say hello and socialize without letting them out, another door in the back to allow dogs to enter a center ‘runway’ area where the dog can socialize with a dog back behind them and finally the most extravagant part, flowing water over a glass top over all of the kennels which is meant to act as a calming device for the dogs. While some of this seems at first thought over the top I think over all it really makes a difference and if nothing else shows that this shelter strays from the norm and really honestly cares about the animals it brings in to care for.

I think the end result really is positive for both the animals and the people adopting since the love and affection the dogs receive while in this shelter will help them to be better pets then if they were in the typical kennel set up, both cold and unfriendly in my previous experiences. Anyway, we went through the shelter while she told me how everything works and what needed to be done when coming in to walk the dogs as I peered into the doggie ‘condos’ you might call them at the cute and hopeful eyes staring back out at us. I think this may be even harder then I ever imagined possible; the dogs in this shelter are some of the sweetest I have seen certainly ever in a shelter and I’m never going to want to leave without at least two or three of them in tow.

About half way thru the ‘class’ two other people showed up for the ‘training’ and they joined us for the real ‘hands-on training’. We took a couple of tremendously sweet dogs out named Stacey and Violet to the large dog park outside and played ball and just generally had a nice time with them. Stacey was great and would go and jump up on anything she could get onto. She especially liked on of the taller planters which had some dead grass like plant that she would walk around and sit down right on top of. When you would pet her she would kind of roll her body to the side and was just the sweetest little puppy; she’ll be long gone before too long here; I would scoop her up in a heartbeat if only I could.

We then walked a group of three small/medium sized dogs on of which was named Alfredo and was the fluffiest and softest dog I’ve ever seen. He would just kind of fall over on you while you petted him and was a blast as well; apparently he is also big into giving hugs. He however was next to impossible to get a leash on; it sort of seemed like he might be scared of it though I think he may have just been playing. Next we walked the biggest looking dog in the kennel, a 95 pound German Shepard that if you stood up straight would probably be about 6 feet tall. This guy was a sweet heart too; his name is Mars and he is the epitome of a gentle giant. He played with a couple kids for the whole time we were out there and never once even appeared in the slightest a threat to any of them. Plus he walked like a dream, never pulling even once on the leash.

The next dog I walked was probably the hyper dog I’ve ever seen but you could tell he just wanted to play with not a bad or mean bone in his goofy lab body. The volunteer that was training me told me that she refused to walk this dog just because he was so hyper and pulled so hard on the leash that she could not handle him; apparently she was testing me. When I went to put on the leash Larry (that’s the dog’s name) started jumping up and down probably about 4 feet off the ground and it took me a good couple of minutes to get the leash around his neck. Finally I got him lassoed up and off he went dragging me behind him. In Larry’s eyes my sole purpose in life was to throw his tennis ball. Too much fun, especially when he would stuff three of them into his mouth and still try to catch the next one you threw without dropping the others.

Walked a couple more dogs before it was time to go; two more sweet ones that reminded me of the first two we walked and it was time for us to leave. I haven’t had that good of a time for quite a while and really enjoyed the time I spent with each dog there. I think one of the other hardest things I’ll have to deal with is not spending too much time with each dog. The goal is to get as many outside as possible though I know I’m just going to want to keep playing with and getting to know them all so it’ll be tough not to be able to spend the extended QT with each one. That said it will probably be much better if I don’t; then the whole leaving thing. I’m sure watching them get adopted will be a little easier as well.

Next Thursday I go back for my official orientation training and then I’ll officially be a dog walker and can start going in and taking the dogs out. I can’t wait to start, last night was just so much fun and I think this will be one of the greatest stress busters of all time.

Sorry for the novel today, I just had such a great experience and had to share it; I suggest anyone who is an animal lover should go and check this shelter out and consider volunteering; not only can you help out tremendously but you also get so much back from these animals and the people who work and volunteer alongside you.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Nice experience! check out my post too on funny pets. u'll njoy it..

merry xmas