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I betch’ya don’t know the FULL RANGE of emotional, physiological and mental affects you have on an animal when you volunteer and/or spend time with it…
Did you know that simply reading to a dog or group of formerly abused or poorly socialized dogs can help them get used to people? Your presence alone and the consistency of your voice reading helps them acclimate and, in turn, makes them more adoptable, according to handlers at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary this past June when I visited.
But it speaks to the animal personally, too. It lets him know that you are there and things are kosher. There is nothing to be afraid of, there is nothing to be sad about, there is nothing to be on guard for. Their little (BIG) souls hear your voice and are at peace…
When you volunteer and spend time with rescue pets, it gives them hope, too.
On some days when I volunteer— time spent at the shelter is rewarding because I know that I’ve made a connection with a few dogs or a few cats. I know they’ve come a long way and recognize my voice or the fact that I’m the “treat-bringer.” They follow me around like they do the regular handlers and every-day caretakers. A connection is infinitely made with a dog no one can quite figure out (Yes – We know that Rufus likes to eat treats from your hand not the ground where there is cat competition!). Or a kitten or cat I’ve been tracking for weeks ends up negative for feline leukemia when the first test showed her positive – it’s going into remission – YES! This kitty heads for the adoptions area of the shelter. Even when shelter work is laborious— it’s hot and dry on the walking trails at Best Friends and there are snakes and lizards everywhere or the puppies are partial to pooping on their dog beds and we have to clean them every single day— by the evening I feel like ‘my cup overrunneth.’
The animals feel it too. They are content, clean, tired from the attention, and have been quietly “coerced” into yet one more day of living in a shelter with a seemingly hopeless end… but they’re HAPPY. They just had a jam-packed day of walking, reading, attention, grooming, more walking, eating, and now have a clean blanket and bed and cage to resort to. They know you did that. They understand in their hearts and heads that you have given of yourself to help them. It speaks to their souls in this way.
There are other days when I leave the rescue feeling totally negative, totally hopeless and heartbroken, totally pissed off that we don’t have more money, more supplies, more room, more foster homes, more ADOPTIVE homes, etc. I get so upset I cry and can’t even talk to people about it… I’m exhausted and the distance I’ve moved the needle (in comparison to how far we have to go) is so insignificant and minute, I can’t bear to blog about it.
But I remember those faces looking at me during walk time, or during treat time or cleaning time… I remember those faces looking at me while I do everything in my power to make these animals more adoptable and to make the shelter more appealing itself… I remember those faces watching me as I fill up their food bowls…. I remember those kitty rub-ups or puppy paw-bumps as I exercise and play with them…. It speaks to their souls in these ways.
To steal a line from Leslie at Dogtime.com “There’s something reassuring about contact with an individual [dog or cat] whose every display of emotion you can trust to be genuine… That’s when I realize something about the whole You Give More Than You Get theory. It isn’t necessarily a warm fuzzy feeling or that satisfying I’ve-done-something-nice-for-someone sensation. It’s an accessible, real perspective that only truly comes into focus in the darkest moments.”
Speaking to an animal’s soul at a rescue is something that happens every day that you are there, and I am in tears as I write this post right now.
I recall the faces and places I’ve seen and been; I recall the conditions of some of the rescues I’ve seen and of some of the animals who just can’t be helped yet because they are too feral or too afraid. Volunteering speaks to animals’ souls in that emotional way…
Volunteering speaks to an animal’s soul physiologically by calming them down and lowering their blood pressure – it’s scientifically proven. A human’s presence alone in the room or at the helm of the leash or at the front of the cat cage or in the cattery lets them know you’re there for THEM. It tells them it’s safe for now, it tells their souls that someone cares and someone loves them.
Just this past weekend I had an experience where I knew I had helped an animal on a higher level than just physically.
We had been watching Lionel, a feline-leukemia-positive kitten for weeks. We had brought him special toys because he gets the zooms. We had been flowering him with gifts and special attention to bring him around. He would lie in your arms and purr for as long as you were willing to hold him. We fed him, cleaned him up, cleaned his area, and more.
I started doing research on feline leukemia and talked to my vet . I desperately wanted to bring Lionel home and give him a real life for however long that would be… (feline leukemia positive kitties only live a few years usually…) I found out that he could spread the disease to my other vaccinated kitties though through grooming and saliva so it would be impossible to bring him home.
I had my Dad build him a 7-foot play tower with wings and toys dangling. It’s awesome! (See picture to right)
We went into the shelter just on Sunday and found out by some miracle of God, Lionel got adopted by a lady who had another leukemia-positive kitty in her home. She saw Lionel, and after the work we had done with him to make him more appealing and adoptable, she fell in love with him at first sight just like we did. So Lionel will live out his years in a home now instead of a shelter where he had no friends and a bare-bones living situation.
You can speak to an animal’s soul anytime you volunteer. You never know how it’s affecting the animal on a higher level – but it does.
So get out there and start volunteering with animals today! You’ll be making a difference on a higher level for them and also rewarding yourself