The *Leashed* I Could Do: Volunteering with Animals

Volunteering With Animals

 

 

 

This past Thanksgiving, my mom introduced me to the cutest, fuzziest volunteer opportunity that I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. In my town, there is an organization called Golden Opportunities for Independence that raises and trains golden rertriever puppies to be service dogs. They have raised truly remarkable- and adorable- dogs that are now working in police departments and schools as well as being service dogs for people faced with PTSD, cystic fibrosis, seizures, and more. The goldens' calm and gentle dispositions, paired with their intelligence and easiness to train, offer inexhaustible support and joy to their loving owners, with whom they form incredible bonds. 

The puppies are placed with families starting when they are 8 weeks old. Before this time, GOFI workers and volunteers coach the dogs through a variety of developmental tasks to get them ready. Lucky for me as a volunteer, this means a lot of petting, cuddling, and playing with the dogs. Just this month, I went home to volunteer at GOFI when the newest litter (4 weeks old) was taking on some very exciting firsts- eating kibble and going outside! When the puppies are a bit older, they will start to learn more commands and skills to build their obedience and control. From birth, they are exposed to as many people as possible in order to socialize them. Their socialization and training later combine when they are brought to many different public places to gain experience in the spaces they will likely accompany their future owners. Basically, they take a lot of "field trips"- to stores, banks, movie theaters, walks around town, even Martha's Vineyard. The "grown up" dogs are also the special guests at many events and fundraisers in the community, at different restaurants, cafes, country clubs, farms... in short, the dogs have a way better social life than I do, and people are thrilled to see them wherever they go. 

Animals who haven’t necessarily been bred and trained from birth, like the lucky GOFI dogs are, may need special care and attention- or just the right owner to work with them a little extra. Every so-called “too energetic” “too old” “unfriendly” “disobedient” animal has a great capacity to bring love and happiness into an owner’s life- they just need “their human” to put in the time, effort, dedication, and devotion they may have been missing all their life.

As a VERY proud owner of two rescue dogs, I have also taken up volunteering at an animal shelter in the town next to mine at home. The shelter is quite small, usually only having one or two dogs, a few cats, and maybe a pair of guinea pigs at any one time. Thankfully, the animals are usually adopted fairly quickly. Volunteers are mostly responsible for shoowing all the animals the love and attention they deserve, keeping up with their food and water, making sure my cages are clean, and, my favorite part- walking the dogs (although I have been known to spend my fair share of time with the cats). As much happiness as these animals bring me during our time at the shelter together, there's nothing better than knowing that they have found their "forever homes." It makes me happy to know that so many other people in my community share my soft spot for shelter animals, and will open their hearts and their homes to them. Animals who haven't necessarily been bred and trained from birth, like the lucky GOFI dogs are, may need special care and attention- or just the right owner to work with them a little extra. Every so-called "too energetic" "too old" "unfriendly" "disobedient" "too expensive" animal has a great capacity to bring love and happiness into an owner's life- they just need "their human" to put in the time, effort, dedication, and devotion that may have been missing all their life. 

 

Needless to say, I am a BIG animal lover, and am always desperate for opportunities to talk about (and show pictures and videos of) all of these cute creatures so near and dear to me. I can’t emphasize enough how much delight my volunteering with animals has brought me over the past year. I highly recommend that any fellow animal lovers look for similar volunteer opportunities, and if anyone lives in my area (I’m 5 minutes away from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough), check out Golden Opportunities for Independence in Walpole, and the Medfield Animal Shelter in Medfield!

Needless to say, I am a BIG animal lover, and am always desperate for the chance to talk about (and show pictures and videos of) all of these cute creatures so near and dear to me. I can't emphasize enough how much delight I have found in the past year through volunteering with animals. I highly recommend that any fellow animal lovers look for similar volunteer opportunities, and if anyone lives in my area (I'm 5 minutes from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA), check out Golden Opportunities for Independence in Walpole, MA and the Medfield Animal Shelter in Medfield, MA!

 

Thanks for reading!