By Alicia Ryan
I’ve been in the animal welfare field for many years; first as a volunteer, and now as my career, so I’ve come across all different types of animals. Friendly, scared, old, special needs – I’ve seen and worked with them all. Every case is different than the last, and each animal has their own unique path.
Though I primarily deal with volunteers (being I’m the Senior Manager of Volunteer Programs here at Bideawee), hanging with the animals and hearing their stories just comes with the territory. Volunteers always tell me all about cuddling the adorable little fluffy puppies that arrive in intake, or about the timid cat they worked with tirelessly to coax out of his/her shell. It’s humbling to be a part of the journeys of these people and pets. The well-being of an animal in the shelter environment truly relies on that positive volunteer interaction, and it all hits close to home.
I adopted my Olive about 3 years ago. She’s a mix of this and that and I don’t know what else, and she’s the greatest addition to my life. Back in my volunteering days, I would always start my daily shift by walking a certain super friendly pittie, but one day, I arrived and he was already out on a walk, so I took a look around the shelter. A staff member told me about their newest addition named Nugget, and when I first saw her, I was totally saddened. She was shy, her fur was matted, and her eyes had no expression. I had experience with fearful animals before, but none like her, and I knew I needed to start my shift with her. She didn’t really want to walk off the property, and we couldn’t walk very far anyway because she had heartworm, so we took a seat in the patio area. We were there for a long while, just sitting, and she’d get closer and closer and was eventually on my lap enjoying a good rub down. I felt so terrible when I had to put her back in her kennel, but I promised I’d be back the next day. I learned some things about her in the coming week – her back end was crooked due to some unknown abuse, the hair around her neck was rubbed away from being tied up, her tail was paralyzed, she was terrified of any bug that crossed her path and she absolutely hated other dogs. It was a pretty tough combo that didn’t put her on the “Most Adoptable” list, but she had my heart. She was a sweetie pie, extremely loving (the best snuggler you’ll ever meet!!!), and we were getting rather attached to one another. So after that week, Nugget (now Olive) came home with me. She is no longer shy, her hair is shiny and healthy, and her eyes are bright and happy. She still doesn’t love other animals, but it’s okay, as long as we have each other! Her transformation reminds me every day that taking on an animal with special needs, whether those needs be physical or emotional, is so important!
So, this is just a note that your time, no matter if it’s as a volunteer or as an adopter, will make a world of difference in the life of an animal. Love is a beautiful thing, and who better to share it with than an animal who needs you. Trust me, I know first-hand because I live it every day!