By Judy A.
I have always believed the purpose of life is to be useful. After retirement I considered volunteering at the shelter many times. Somehow, in the end, I always decided it would be too sad and not a good fit for me. It was difficult to find something to commit to doing. I was resistant. In 2014 things changed when my husband and I lost our two 18-year-old tomcats just two months apart. I was devastated. I cried every day. Desperate to be around animals, I decided to give the shelter a go. I might like it. I might not, but at least I could spend time with animals and perhaps help them in some small way.
After going through orientation, I signed up for both cattery companion and dog walking training. Since I wanted to start right away, I began kennel cleaning immediately as it required no formal training. All I had to do was show up and they would show me what to do. On my very first day, I met another volunteer who ended up being my dog walking trainer and eventually my friend and partner in crime. Friendship was not the reason I came to volunteer at the shelter but it is one of the reasons I keep coming back week after week. I have made lifelong friends with likeminded individuals just doing what I love, being around animals. I belong to a group of walkers who get together once a month for dinner and a drink to celebrate the dogs who went to their forever homes. I always look forward to seeing them and talking about dogs.
I try to figure out what a dog wants to do. Some like the ball and I will throw it until my arm falls off. Some like to walk and I can walk for miles just for fun. Some like to sniff and I am very patient. Some like quiet snuggle time and that is where I really shine. I have a nubby blanket, toys, water and treats in the backseat of my car. I call it the Love Cabana. We hang out. We snuggle. We do the tummy tickle, the back scratch and sing silly rhyming songs with their name in it. This is my purpose in life, my second career and I call it, “Making the world a better place, one dog at a time.” I am paid in doggy smiles, snugs, soulful looks and kisses. When I get home from my shift my glasses are so slobbered up I can barely see.
I have performed a variety of jobs since coming to Greenhill. I have cleaned dog kennels, walked dogs, taken dogs to visit seniors in an assisted living facility, served as a kennel team leader, dog walking trainer, dog walking shadow shift trainer, dog handler for the video team, dog handler at special events and a cattery main floor cleaner. Whether I am picking up poop or all dressed up with a dog at An Evening for Animals, I am serving those who are temporarily in our care while finding their forever homes. I am thrilled when they get adopted.
As it turned out, the shelter isn’t a sad place after all. My husband and I found love again at First Avenue when we adopted a 10-year-old male orange tabby. He is typical for an orange tabby: friendly, curious and sweet as sugar. He fills our house with love and that is what makes it a home.