Volunteer to Change a Life at the Humane Society
I fell in love yesterday.
His name is Cooper, and he’s a three-legged Cocker Spaniel / Pit Bull mix with a bizarrely human face and a penchant for flopping down on his stump and looking pathetic when he doesn’t want to do something.
I met him at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County yesterday, when I went to check out their volunteer dog walking program. Currently, the HSMSC has a squad of about 150 volunteer dog walkers that come to the shelter on their assigned day to walk, play with and socialize adoptable dogs.
All of the dog walkers have to attend an orientation session where they learn valuable puppy wrangling tips (such as, if two dogs are fighting, you break it up by grabbing one dog by the butt, lifting it up and walking it backwards). The rules state that you can only have one dog per person, so I teamed up with a long-time volunteer named Katie.
After she gave me a quick version of the orientation session, I was handed a leash and taken into the kennels where the HSMSC’s 78 adoptable dogs live. It’s loud (the dogs get really excited at walking time), but it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as I thought it would.
I leashed my first dog, Pauline, and led her outside to one of the play yards. Once inside, she and her roommate dog, Paco, were unleashed to play, run around and get a bathroom break.
It went something like this:
After Paco and Pauline, we got out a pudgy, concerned-looking mutt named Rocksie and her roommate, Fuego. Fuego earned his name. When I cracked the kennel door open so that he could stick his head in the leash, he bolted. One of the other volunteers caught him before he could do much damage – this is apparently a fairly regular thing.
Currently, there are 78 adoptable dogs living at the Humane Society. All of them have either been injured or abused in some way, which makes the jobs of the volunteer dog walkers especially important. Through their interactions with the dogs, the dogs learn to trust people again and are more likely to be adopted.
Once an animal comes into the Humane Society, it doesn’t leave until it’s adopted into a good home. Some of the dogs have been there for years, others for just a few weeks. Most of them are adult dogs, and all of them have some level of training (all of the ones I walked yesterday responded well to “sit” when treats were involved).
If you would like to become a volunteer dog walker (or cat volunteer), you have to be at least 17 years old and attend an orientation session. Be warned, though – apparently a lot of the volunteer dog walkers wind up adopting their charges after they get to know them.
935 Farm Road
Memphis, TN 38134