Adventures of a NWAS Volunteer
An indescribable, never previously scientifically documented smell has invaded my nostrils. Ugh, I can taste it. The litter paper has been cleaned up, the floor scrubbed for trampled poop and bleached for any other messes of the liquid variety. What on earth is causing that otherworldly vileness? I walk down to the far stalls where a few of the Ski-Hill pups have trickled inside from their outside time. Nothing seems amiss, but then I see him. One has a liquid squirt oozing from the top of his head and down his little face. He’s happily batting his sibling around and squishing his poopy fat head into the wriggling mass vying for the one bait bowl of food I had placed down to lure them back in. There isn’t a care in the world for this puppy. Life is unicorn glitter farts to this guy.
I grab Poopy in the crook of one arm while I try to call the rest in. I start to count the little bodies coming in and split them into their respective pens when I hear one still outside. Life is not unicorn glitter farts for this puppy. Based on the screaming I assume he must be marooned on an iceflow, alone and afraid for the slow and lonely death that awaits him. Poopy and I head out to save the abandoned puppy found in the wrong run, shrieking at a closed door. The grateful puppy is directed to the open door and scampers in. Finally, I can deal with Stinky. I switch the twitching, heavy puppy to my other arm when I see that a long streak has been left reaching up the length of my raincoat sleeve. Even better, it looks like it has wormed into the thumb hole at the bottom of my sleeve, likely onto my fancy new Fitbit. Neat.
I had been so focused on making the horrendous wall of sound stop at the beginning of my shift that I hadn’t read the comm-log. Normally I would check for notes left by the caretakers and volunteers like myself from previous shifts: Things like info on new intakes, notes on those that have left, food and medicine regime changes etc. But there had been surprise puppies tonight. 7 screaming puppies that stopped all brain function once the door was opened. I stopped for a quick read.
“AFT – Um, I think Momma has diarrhea…” . . .
So Northwest followers, that is a little sneak peak at the fun of the shelter. I have volunteered consistently for a few years now and there are a few common themes that come up when I mention I volunteer with NWAS. This ties in nicely with an idea we’ve been batting around regarding sharing more of what we do with all of you. I think people love hearing stories about the animals we meet and their journey through to their forever home. And I think also sharing what we do just might inspire website visitors, facebook followers and members of the society to engage with us even more. There are so many ways to do so whether it involves volunteering at the shelter or at one-off events, donating items, food or money, or spreading our message further. In whatever capacity this message finds you, we appreciate you and your support greatly. We couldn’t do it without you.
So, back to what comes up when I say I volunteer at the shelter.
This one doesn’t come up as often, but I guess it’s not as common knowledge as I thought so I thought I’d briefly touch on it.
“What do you do with the animals that, you know, don’t get adopted?”
My experienced-volunteer articulate answer is usually something like the following: “Umm, hang out with them longer I guess?”
Maybe some people don’t know that this is a no kill shelter.Very few animals over the year’s have been put down, and then it is at the advice of one of our partner vets.Animals that were suffering greatly.We put a lot of resources (time and money) into any animal that stands a chance of having a good quality of life.
We adopt out locally as well as we have established relationships with other rescue groups throughout the province that will take some of our animals if they have room.
Some animals do have to wait for quite a while for their match.Our team does a great job of assessing each animal’s quirks as best as they can in the shelter environment: Do they like kids/cats/dogs/men/women? How much energy do they have? How much exercise do they need?Are they attention seeking lovebugs or aloof lone-wolves?
Even if an animal does have to wait a while, it is likely worth it as their match has a better chance of succeeding, rather than rushing out a poor fit.Everyone finds their home.I’ve seen it.It’s amazing.Which leads me to point two.
“Oh my goodness, how do you not take them all home? They are sooooo cute!”
“Oh my goodness, it’s so easy not to take them all home.”This is usually in response to the words “puppies” or “kittens” slipping out.I now actually keep a short video on my phone just to let them know what a six pack of bored large breed puppies sound like just from hearing a door open.Just for fun.
It’s easy not to adopt everyone for a few reasons.As above, what comes with volunteering for a while is the peace in knowing you don’t have to.There’s lots of wonderful homes out there waiting to find their match.And they’ll take the pressure off you, dear volunteer, from adopting them all yourself.Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen in love a few times, and I’ve failed once.I have one NWAS animal.In 4 years, not bad!
And secondly, maybe you’ve never had the whole litter of puppies at once.1 is cute, 8 together are not.There is one thing I’ve learned that I can’t help but smile over regarding a litter of puppies; That cute noise of the whole gaggle scampering across the floor together to get into trouble will make me smile no matter how messy their pen is..
“Oh my goodness, WHY do you do it?”
Now this one usually comes after a friend asks what I did Saturday night and me starting with “Well…” and ending with a story like we started this article with. Yeah, if you’re involved with the shelter shifts, poop is a thing. As are injured animals, sad stories and lot’s of noise. This question also comes with the flavour of “It’s too sad, I couldn’t do it. I’d feel too bad for the animals.”
But despite all the realities, there are just … those perfect moments. You know the ones I mean. Time seems to pause in perfect joy.
You’ve sat on the porch and watched this wary stray keep their distance for several shifts while it adjusted to it’s new surroundings. Tonight though, they slowly walk up the steps and turn around and lean into you, resting their head on your shoulder. I always whisper “I know you’re having a pretty weird day. But you know what? It’s going to get awesome.” And over the next weeks you see that quiet dog get comfortable and blossom into the fun, spunky dog that was hidden under that weary animal eking out a stray’s existence. And then you hear that they “picked” that last family that came in and they are going home.
Or staring at the small ball of purring energy loving its belly rub in your lap. Only weeks earlier this kitten was fighting tooth and nail to worm out of your well gloved hands as you tried to give it medication to save its life. It was certain you were trying to kill it. Seeing a feral kitten turn around into a family-ready love ball in a matter of weeks is just amazing.
Regardless of backstory, these animals have ended up without a home, or without someone with the means to get them back to health from a disease or injury. We can only focus on moving forward. They have shelter, clean beds, food, veterinary care, medicine, and socializing with humans and their own kind multiple times a day. This could be the best thing so far in their short little lives, or a comfortable transition phase to their next wonderful home. And I don’t think that’s sad at all.
And for all these reasons, I want to be a part of it. I hope you do to.