Volunteer to Change a Life at the Humane Society

Posted by Holly Whitfield | March 8th 2011 3401 0

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.

Cooper, HSMSC

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.

At the HSMSC

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.

Rocksie at the HSMSC

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.

Go There:

Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County

935 Farm Road

Memphis, TN 38134

Show Comments


  1. Katie says:

    Ha, you can’t help but fall for Cooper!

  2. Sarah M.. says:

    I am sooo happy you did this post. I wish more people would adopt these beautiful animals!!

  3. Elizabeth Vollmer says:

    Funny, I’ve been meaning to get involved with this for years (literally)! Thank you for the inspiration and motivation!

  4. Katie says:

    Elizabeth, the next volunteer orientation is Saturday 3/19 at 9am! We’d love to have you! I waited years to get involved too and now I can’t figure out why I waited so long. I can’t remember what life was like before I was a dogwalker!

  5. […] is a volunteer dog walker at the Humane Society. (she’s the one who showed me around when I visited earlier this week). This is her, getting sloppy kisses from […]

  6. Tiffany says:

    I’ve been planning to do this, but after reading this I am going to the next orientation. Thanks for posting this! The Memphis Humane Society does such a wonderful job!

  7. Matt says:

    My wife and I adopted a dog from the Humane Society two years ago named Summer. Summer is a fantastic dog and since then we have added two other rescue dogs to our home. So if you’re thinking about adding a dog or cat to your family, please pay the Humane Society a visit and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

  8. Tanja P says:

    I think everybody is in love with Coop :).

    And just like Katie – I don’t remember what I did before dog walking. It is sooo much fun and very rewarding. “Our” dogs are great,so loving and fun to hang out with. Becoming a dog walker was one of the best choices I have made and I couldn’t go without 🙂

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