The choice to become a volunteer lead directly to the creation of my book Shelter Dogs, and subsequently to the rest of my life.
I can actually remember the exact moment when late at night, sitting in complete darkness except for the sickly glow of my computer screen, I decided to act. It was then, browsing through photo after photo of dogs that were dead - completely innocent victims of overpopulation and ignorance - that I finally thought of a way to channel my anger and devastation. My sole purpose in creating Shelter Dogs was to make a tangible memorial to these animals in the hopes of saving others yet to be abandoned or even born.
The book, which met with immediate and completely unforseen success, officially kicked off my career with a bang. Now, almost 5 years later, Shelter Dogs has been re-released in paperback, sold in countries all around the world and translated into Japanese. We have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the ASPCA and hopefully inspired many other people to act in some small or perhaps great way.
I am still volunteering every week despite my deepest hopes that one day I will wake up and no longer be needed.
Since December, I have been the sole volunteer at my shelter in Providence. In that time, I have had to step up to responsibilities that I never thought I could handle. In truth, I can't handle them but am trying to hold on for a few more weeks at which point I have been promised that we will get more help. Every week is a desperate struggle to save the dogs that have been unlucky enough to end up there. Every week more come in. Every week, some die whether it is due to space, illness or behavior issues. Every week, I delete these beings from existence when I hit "remove" on Petfinder.
However, almost every week, a really great dog finds a really great home. Bleu (see image) is this week's success story. Given his stocky stature, enormous head and of course, Bully Breed status, I didn't think he stood much of a chance, but last Friday, a couple came in and fell in love with him. Although Bleu has had to remain at the shelter this week to await neutering, the family has come to visit him everyday. Sometimes they come seperately on their lunch breaks. Today, the husband brought all three of their children. They have food, shampoo, a bed and all imaginable comforts waiting for this big lug for when he finally goes home on Tuesday.
Now, this family found this dog on Petfinder after viewing the photos that I took of him and reading the description I posted. When they came to meet him, I was there and spent over an hour talking to them to help them pick the right dog for them. This is an instance where I know that what I did actually made a huge difference in the life of this dog. This is the miracle of volunteering. How often do any of us actually get to say that we saved a life?
Volunteering on the front lines is definitely not for everyone, but everyone does have something, somehow to give. That is why I encourage every single person regardless of your occupation, age or financial situation to consider giving just one or two hours a week to a worthy cause. Analyze your strengths, talents and resources and share them. Graphic designer? Offer to re-design the logo for a local non-profit or create a brochure or calendar or new website for them. Lawyer? Offer your legal services or involve your firm in a charity drive. Plain old normal person? Collect towels and blankets for an animal shelter, help the local food bank, the list goes on and on.
If your passion is animals, then think about this: If just ONE new volunteer in every town, village or city in America helps find a home for just ONE shelter animal a week, then together we would change the destiny of over 25,000 animals EVERY WEEK, and over 1.3 MILLION a year.
Inspiration, gratification and immense personal growth are predicted side effects.
For lots of volunteer opportunities visit: Volunteer Match
Apathy is not acceptable.