How Volunteering at an Animal Shelter Improved My Mental Health

I've always dealt with anxiety and depression, even before coming to college. It got worse when I got to college and was forced to do all these activities with random strangers. Being around new people would make me anxious, being alone would make me depressed, and I wasn’t really sure how to deal with it. I decided to take a Service Learning Class as a way to fill up my free time and distract myself from thinking about my anxiety. But, I never thought the class would change my life the way that it did.

I've always had such a strong bond with animals.. So for my class, I decided to volunteer at the Oswego Animal Shelter. While I was there, I got to socialize with the kittens and walk the dogs. It was a simple task, but it meant so much to me, and so much to the animals.

I never would have thought that simply petting a cat or walking a dog would improve my mental health, but it really did. Every time I left the shelter, I left with a more positive mind and body. Animals have such a significant impact on the lives of so many people, I never could have imagined how much these animals would impact my own.

When I volunteered, it did not feel like “work.” It’s something that I started to fall in love with.

I was shocked at how much it changed my life. It’s been about a month since I started volunteering and it is incredible. Every animal there is treated amazingly and they radiate love and compassion.

Although a month may not seem like a very long time, I have already seen improvements with some of the animals that were there my first day. It’s amazing to see what just a little bit of love and care can do.

I volunteer at the shelter in between two of my classes. When I first thought of doing this to get my 20 hours for my class I thought it would be exhausting, but it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it was the opposite. After my morning class I take the bus right to the shelter. It’s a great way to destress and relax before my next class.

Whenever I would read about how animals could help people with mental illnesses, I never believed it. How could petting an animal, or having one sit on your lap help you to not be anxious? It didn’t make much sense to me, until I actually experienced it myself.

The first day I volunteered I was socializing with the kittens and a few of them curled up on my lap and fell asleep. That was such a simple thing, but it was beautiful. It helped me so much. I used to be anxious about going there, but now I look forward to it. It’s the highlight of my days.

Whenever I’m having a bad day, I just go to the shelter and sit with the kittens. You realize that these animals, who have never met you, trust you enough to sleep in your arms. They find comfort in being held.  

If you have the opportunity, definitely volunteer. I highly recommend it. It’s a life changer, and an amazing feeling to help these animals find their forever homes. I’m so glad I get the chance to share my love with these animals and help them grow and become part of a family who loves them endlessly. I wish the animals understood the positive impact they’ve had on my mental health this year already. I can’t thank these little guys enough.