“So far, we’ve done 72 cats and kittens and we still have 20 to 30 more to go,” explained the woman who sat across the table from me.
We shared coffee and conversation during my recent visit to Oregon for a family reunion. I learned about the all-volunteer pet rescue organization Hope 4 Paws – Grant County from two different people while visiting relatives in Prairie City, Oregon, and after garnering a contact phone number, I was now learning more about the group. With so many feral, unaltered cats in the community of John Day, this group had secured a grant as well as local donations and was working with an area veterinarian to spay and neuter cats in a mobile home park. Most of the felines were being fixed under a Trap-Neuter-Return program, while many kittens were being vaccinated and altered then adopted to loving families. This small group of people (less than 12 volunteers) made a commitment to their community and to the animals of that community to help animals in need. I left a small donation to help toward the next round of vaccinations and spay/neuter as well as two of my books to use as part of a future fundraising endeavor.
Commitment is critical to pet rescue. For the past 10 years in my state of residence, Wyoming, a pet rescue organization has committed to not just helping pets in need, but to saving lives of animals in the state’s kill-shelters. Black Dog Animal Rescue (BDAR) began saving dogs’ lives throughout the state, fostering them in volunteers’ homes, and adopting them to new loving families. During the past decade, the organization has grown, now also taking in cats, and instituting a partnership with a medium correctional facility to implement a program preparing dogs for adoption behavior and training program called P.A.C.K. – inmates work with the dogs on obedience and some agility training. A recent program graduate named Niffy, now christened Tiffy, was adopted by one of my friends.
Barb began looking for a dog a few months ago and asked me for advice on where to adopt. I gave her several suggestions, including BDAR. She was familiar with the organization from a family member living in Cheyenne, the community where BDAR is located, about a 3-hour drive from our town of Casper. Barb and her husband took a day to drive down after putting in an adoption application for this 2-year-old border collie cross they had seen on BDAR’s website. Barb was looking for a dog which would hike, run, and bike with her, and Niffy appealed to her due to the border collie’s nature of being energetic. She also considered putting the dog into an agility program, another activity for which border collies are skilled. Barb was impressed with both the dog and the organization.
“They were very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions,” she told me after adopting from BDAR. “It’s been a long time since I’ve adopted a dog. It was a pleasant and positive experience, and I’d recommend BDAR and do it again. And Tiffy – I just love her! She was shy the first few days but now she has learned the routine of the house. She is smart, she is affectionate, and she learns quickly. I’m excited to see how she does with agility.”
Why do I support animal rescue? For several reasons, including the fact pet rescue is necessary. With nearly seven million animals going into shelters across the country every year, and the many strays and community cat colonies with little to no medical needs met, rescues are critical to the health and welfare of both community animals and humans. All this takes commitment. Many times, as in the case of Oregon’s Hope 4 Paws, it’s a group of volunteers who make that commitment. BDAR began as an all-volunteer organization, but saving the lives of dogs and cats across an entire state is a huge, fulltime job. Therefore, the group now provides a small staff; but, they continue to rely upon volunteers to help, as most non-profit organizations do. The commitment of people to help animals in need inspires and awes me; therefore, I suppport these organizations who do this work.
Without commitment from staff members and volunteers, where would the animals, and the communities, be? I’m so grateful to these and all the animal rescue organizations for what they do, and I will continue supporting pet rescue groups in various ways as long as I live.
How about you? What can you do to help pet rescue groups in your area? For ideas, visit these websites:
Animal welfare organizations, whether rescue groups such as the many breed rescues or animal shelters in your community and mine, need volunteers. From people to help with fundraisers, to fostering animals that are waiting for new homes, from walking dogs and brushing cats to helping transport pets to their new homes, volunteers provide many and varied services. This month is National Adopt-A-Shelter Dog month, providing a great opportunity to help animals in need in and around our communities.
I enjoy helping animals, but there is a limit to what I can do. Yet, with that limit, I have found a few spaces I can fill. For example, I assist my local humane society with fundraising events, particularly by selling my books and donating a percentage back. I also help transport dogs for various rescue organizations. I’ve transported large, medium and small dogs, and each transport has given me not only great satisfaction in assisting an animal in need, but also touched my heart with the pet’s special story.
Recently, I had the honor of transporting an older beagle named Boone to his permanent home. I often travel to Montana to visit my parents, and I happened to be doing so this particular weekend, with a planned stop over at one of my most favorite places in the world: Yellowstone National Park. Boone's new family lives in Yellowstone, so I was able to transport this sweet, older gentlemen the entire way to his new home. What a joy to bring this lad into the loving arms of his awaiting family -- I know he will enjoy the sights and smells of America's first national park!
Volunteers are vital to rescue and other animal welfare organizations. There are many ways a person can volunteer. Some of these endeavors take lots of time, others take only a few hours a week, and some just a few hours every few months (like transporting). Here are some ways in which you can help animal rescue and welfare organizations as a volunteer:
Why not take this month as attention is turned to shelter dogs and give a bit of yourself to assist in some way? Visit with someone at your local animal shelter or rescue organization and see what their needs are. Perhaps make it a family affair and spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the shelter or rescue helping with newsletter mailings, dog walking, cat play time, or whatever else the group needs regarding volunteers.
You will be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of pets who need help by donating just a few hours a week, a few hours a month, or several hours twice a year. Share the love and be part of the positive solution by giving of yourself to help pets still awaiting adoption -- your heart will soar knowing you've helped to make a difference!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.