One of the things on my schedule was volunteering. In theory, I think volunteering is a great idea. In practice, my experience isn’t always that great. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really “doing” anything as a volunteer. In high school, I volunteered at a hospital and I filled up ice pitchers. That ice is important, I know, but I really didn’t have much contact with the patients and, honestly, didn’t feel like I was really making an impact. My volunteering history has been a bit sketchy since then.
Enter the SPCA. You know I love dogs. And by volunteering with the SPCA, I can have a direct impact. I work right with the dogs–playing with them–and in so doing, the dogs are getting exercised and socialized. Both of which make them more adoptable. The SPCA shelter in my neighborhood is so overbooked and understaffed that dogs get out of the cages about once a week. (A dedicated group of volunteers is trying to change that so that each dog gets out once a day.)
I’ve been assigned two cages, and it’s my job to make sure that the pups in those cages get outside. Tigress is one of my dogs. She is a sweetheart. Sadly, she’s been at the SPCA for almost a year. Imagine if you were in a cage all day, every day, surrounded by the sounds and smells of really stressed out animals. You go outside for about 20 minutes a week. It’s heartbreaking.
Tigress is good dog; there’s no reason not to adopt her. What tugs on my heartstrings even more is that she looks just like Scout, who is also from a shelter.
When I came home from volunteering today, Scout wouldn’t have anything to do with me. She sniffed me and backed away. Even though I’ve showered and changed clothes, she still won’t engage with me. The shelter smell of stressed out animals must be stuck to me, and it’s certainly stuck to her. She remembers what it was like.
Someone once said to me that dogs remember everything we humans do to them. Which is why a rescue will flinch when you go to pet them because they remember being hit. It’s also why a rescue will kiss you and cuddle with you because they remember that you are safe.