Lessons From Dogs

Next month marks my fourteenth anniversary as a volunteer at my local humane society.   I could write an entire book about all the wonderful dogs and people I have encountered while volunteering there, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m just going to  highlight a few of the important lessons I’ve learned in the past fourteen years.

IMG_0445First of all, despite what I have always been taught, sharing is not necessarily a good thing. Yes, it is wonderful when dogs share their love, their affection, and their joy at being taken out for a walk after being cooped up in their kennels for many hours.  But the problem is, they don’t stop there.  Dogs share everything, (except food) and they share it abundantly and extravagantly.  That includes, but is not limited to:  their fur, their drool, their unique doggie smell, their poop, and on the rare occasion, their fleas.  If they have it, they will share it.  But that doesn’t mean you want it.

Also, always keep your mouth closed when you are close to a dog’s face.  I learned this the hard way when I was leashing up a German Shepherd that was still getting used to being handled by people, which meant that I always spoke to her in a calm, reassuring voice when I was getting her ready for a walk.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of doing that while I was leaning in to clip my leash to her collar, and to show her gratitude, she suddenly lifted her head and gave my face a quick lick.  While my mouth was open.  Which meant that for a brief second, I had a dog’s tongue in my mouth.

Trying to be tough, I just shuddered a little and went ahead and took her for a walk.  But as I was putting the dog back, I spotted a note on her kennel that said she was being treated for worms.  Suddenly worried, and more than a little bit nauseous, I found the nearest vet tech and inquired as to whether if I had just been “french kissed” (as we used to call it back in the day) by a dog with worms, did that mean I could actually get worms?  When she stopped laughing (which took quite some time), she said, “probably not.”  I have to tell you, that was not the definitive answer I was looking for.  And from that moment on, I kept my mouth firmly closed when I was anywhere near a dog’s face.

On a more serious note, I learned that no matter how hard it is to go down to the shelter, day after day and week after week, to walk shelter dogs in all kinds of weather, for however long it takes to get each and every one of them out for a walk, it is ALWAYS worth the effort.  No matter how tired I am, no matter how sweaty hot or frozen I am, no matter how much I am smeared with smelly stuff, nothing beats seeing a dog who came to our shelter neglected, abused, or just plain terrified of the shelter environment begin to blossom into the happy, healthy and confident dog they were born to be.  And when they are adopted into a loving home, all of us volunteers have the satisfaction of knowing that we were a part of that transformation, which is nothing short of a minor miracle.

Most shelters are in desperate need of more volunteers to help them care for their animals.  And while volunteering at an open-admission animal shelter is not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heart, I really believe that if you have some time to spare and love animals, you should give it a try.  Yes, you will be tested in ways you haven’t dreamed of.  But trust me, if you stick around, the rewards will be more than you ever dreamed of as well.

72 thoughts on “Lessons From Dogs

    • Thank you! And no, this is not a time for the white jeans! LOL! We wear our oldest clothes, and don’t bother to take our daily shower until after we are done (because we’d just need another one.) Sometimes, when we volunteers get together outside of the shelter environment, we are surprised to see what we look like “all cleaned up and wearing nice clothes!”

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    • That is so great! We have cats at our shelter, too, but they are just starting an “enrichment” program for them. I’m sure they appreciate your help, especially if you are able to help with the photography. That helps get them adopted….thanks for all you do!

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    • I hope he does give it a try, Kim! Most shelters could use more men as volunteers (strength helps with the bigger, stronger dogs), and I bet he will really like it. If he doesn’t like the first shelter he tries, then he can always try another. There is a huge variety of animal shelters out there, and sometimes its just a matter of finding the “right fit.” Good luck to him!

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    • Oh thank you, Jodi, but I don’t deserve that praise! There are many volunteers at the shelter I go to, and some of them do so much more than I do. The good thing is that, with each of us doing the best we can, and supporting each other when we need it, we get the job done. Because we are all there to help the dogs, and that’s what counts!
      PS Thank you for adopting a shelter dog, too!!!! People like you adopting our dogs are what give us the strength to keep going!!!!

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    • Oh, TJ, thank you! There are so many of us walking dogs, and most of the others are better at it than I am. (I try, but we all know what a klutz I am!) And the dogs are very lucky to have you do the extra promotions for them….you have gotten many, many dogs adopted that way!

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  1. So cool. My last 3 dogs have been rescues, and they were all such good dogs. My current dog was found wandering. He had paint on him (from no one knows where), and he had been in the shelter for over a month. When I came by his cage to say hello, he came to me and said hello and then lay down in the shade, just watching me carefully, as if to say, “I’ve been through this before; I’m not keeping my hopes up.” But we brought him home, and he’s been such a joy.

    You are so blessed to be volunteering at the shelter, and the dogs are blessed, too.

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  2. Fourteen years of service – outstanding! It takes a special person to do that time after time. Kudos to you. I don’t even want to be licked by a dog! Shelter animals are the best. Keep up the good work. I could not do it but I do try to contribute financially when I can.

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    • Thank you for your kind words and for helping any way you can! Honestly, there are people who have been there longer than me. Patty, who commented above, has been there sixteen years! We have lots of long-term volunteers, which is a really good thing.

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  3. Wonderful post Ann. And I agree, we don’t always have to necessarily share everything with our dogs, no matter how much we love them. 🙂 I so applaud you for volunteering at the dog shelter, it must be so rewarding. Having got Harry from a shelter more than 10 years ago I would never get a dog any other way. You all do such a good job.

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  4. I can only echo all the lovely sentiments expressed here, Ann, and as a lifelong dog-lover, thankyou for your years of dedicated work. I’m certain it must be incredibly rewarding work, though, and getting to meet all the different characters is doubtless wonderful! 🙂

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  5. Terrific post, Ann. The sharing part made me smile because even though we don’t have a dog right now two of my daughters do. One has a lazy lab that loves to lick so I laughed out loud at your French Shepard kiss😊. The other has a golden and while it is a terrific dog, it is the neediest dog I’ve ever seen. He always is in your face, literally, in your lap or jumping up on my. Shedding is crazy. But he is so love able and they are both great with kids regardless of how much they get sat on and poked.
    I give you so much credit for giving up your time to such a worthy cause. It must give you all a great deal of satisfaction when a good home is found. Thanks for the laugh and the reminder to those who might be thinking of volunteering.

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    • Yes, definitely keep your mouth shut when you are around your daughter’s lab! (I have filed that under, “lessons I learned the hard way.”) The golden sounds like a lovely dog, too. Sometimes super needy dogs can get irritating, but they are perfect for families with children, because they love all the attention they get so much that they don’t mind that children don’t always handle them properly. It’s a win-win situation!
      As for the credit, I truly don’t deserve it. For some reason, I’m just drawn to helping shelter dogs and you are right, I get a great deal of satisfaction when I can see the results. And that more than makes up for the frustrations and sorrow when things don’t go as well as I had hoped. Plus, the support of the other volunteers is priceless! Thanks for the comment and kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha, ha, ha, ha! That is a great lesson to share so that others do not have to suffer that same fate. Dog tongue in your mouth. I am not a fan of animal kisses on my face. But I always manage to get them because I do love to give hugs!

    Thank you so much for volunteering and helping make some lucky dogs happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I thought that information was worth passing on, even though it was more than a little bit gross! Like you, I prefer doggie kisses not be on my face, but sometimes that happens anyway. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hats off to you Ann for all you give to these dogs who just want to be loved and share everything they have, including their tongues. I have to admit I kiss my dogs on the mouth and let them lick my face. I often think about where their snout has been and what they may have eaten off the ground (like deer poop now that we’re in the mountains – what is it with dogs and deer poop?!?) but worms, yeah – that would be an unsettling reverence for sure.

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  8. What a great story, thank you so much for sharing!! Volunteering can be hard work, for me, it was and continues to be extremely emotional process. We have two rescues at home and every time I am at that shelter, I get a bit of sadness mixed with happiness, knowing that I get to go home to see my babies and leave the other dogs behind. However, it is so gratifying I will never stop. Thank you again!

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