Mike’s Current Goals: Find Community, Make Friends. Rediscover and play around with my passions. Do something meaningful with my days. Volunteering at an animal shelter seems like a great place to start!
Excitedly, I research the Philly area and find 3 animal shelters that are within a 45 minute walking distance from our home. With Derrick, we set out to see Morris Animal Refuge, PAWS, and Saved Me. This is our Fun Friday Night Date Night- the Shelter Tour. When considering where I want to volunteer, I’m looking for the following:
a) A place that clearly demonstrates a high level care for animals, and has a variety of animals. No Kill Shelter is a must.
b) An opportunity where I think I can contribute in a significant way to the animals, and the shelter. Where volunteers are seen as part of the team.
c) Where I can grow and try new opportunities (and where I won’t get bored).
My feelings of excitement trip back and forth with feelings of nerves- this is my first major step “outside of my front door” in terms of engaging with the city in a more meaningful and consistent manner; it’s like my first job interview all over again.
Shelter 1 – Morris Animal Refuge: Located on Lombard St just north of 12th Street, Morris claims to be “first and oldest” organization to shelter and rehome pets; seems like a suitable first stop! I stand outside the door, look at Derrick, and imagine me coming here to work. We walk in, and there is a group of about 10 people gathered in the mid-sized reception area. “Are you hear for the volunteer orientation session?” Derrick and I look at each other, shrug and say “No… but we’ll join!”
An hour later, we had toured the shelter, learned the history, and found out about the volunteer opportunities. It seems that volunteers are very much needed. They offer a lot of flexibility for volunteers to explore what they to do. They have opportunities from caring for the animals, to assisting with veterinary procedures, to helping out at events, and more. There are 2 main cat areas, and 2 main dog areas. They do everything here: accept animals, revive them as needed, care for them, help them find forever homes, and all that’s in between.
It appears that Morris is at an exciting time in their story. They are looking at some major renovations, building a larger volunteer base, and increasing community awareness. As I listened intently during the session, ideas of what I could do run around in my mind. It seems like Morris is interested in hearing any idea. Wendy, the Director of Operations, was the volunteer session leader tonight. Her passion for the work here is evident.
As we leave Morris, I just feel better about life, and I feel encouraged that I could be part of something important here.
Shelter 2: PAWS: Next stop is Arch and 2nd St. Walking in, PAWS feels (and smells) clean, professional, and welcoming. This location is an adoption centre hub, so they can’t accept any abandoned or unwanted animals (they can at the other PAWS location). The staff/volunteers wear matching t-shirts. There are a few other guests, so we don’t get much personal attention. Looking around, there is a wall of cages for many cats, as well as 3 “cat rooms” where visitors and potential adopters can hang out with the cats in a more natural habitat. This is great! It gives the cats space outside of their cages to roam, socialize, play, and … sleep. Lots of sleeping. This PAWS location has space for 1-2 dogs.
Checking on the dogs, I lock eyes, and instantly crush on a little 11 year old chihwahwa named Peanut. I think it was his tongue that stuck out of his mouth ever so slightly; Derrick’s tongue does the same thing when he thinks. We have always talked about adopting a puppy, but there was this intense humbleness that overcame me when I thought about taking care of, and providing a family for Peanut in his senior years. I feel so happy, and so sad looking at Peanut. We need to settle ourselves first… I know we just aren’t ready for a dog.
PAWS seems professional, well organized, well supported, and it looks like they are doing beautiful work with the animals. I just didn’t feel a connection to the organization. As we leave, I turn back and wave so long to Peanut, hoping that he finds a home soon. (Update- he did get adopted shortly after!)
Shelter 3 – Saved Me: Located in the Northern Liberties, Saved Me kind of at the far end for walking for me (about 45 minutes). My gut was saying the location was just a little too far from home, but we’d take a look all the same. It’s located above a pet store, so be prepared for a few stairs. Instantly, we are greeted by many happy dog barks, and by a happy staff member. The space is narrow, clean, and again, welcoming. Unlike the other 2 shelters, Saved Me is more dog-centric. They currently have 2 cats, and about 15 dogs. So many dogs… including one named Katniss (a perfect match for our cat Peeta! What are the odds?).
Our intentions of finding out about volunteering here had wavered by the longer distance from home, and totally disappeared when Derrick and Faith locked eyes. This was now about exploring our readiness to adopt. Faith is this beautiful 2 month old black lab-like puppy who is patient and curious. No biting or nipping. She seemed like a perfect match. The staff let us hang out with Faith for about 30 minutes in this “meet the animal” room. As you can tell from the photos, we got “this close” to saying yes to Faith, but again, we knew we weren’t ready. It hurt our hearts, but it was the right decision. (Update- she did get adopted a few days later!)
As we walk home, we chat about our tour and the volunteer opportunities. Mostly, I counsel Derrick’s tender animal loving heart.
If you are looking at adopting, or helping out, any of these shelters could be perfect for you. PAWS and Saved Me both seem like great places, and there are so many wonderful animals who need homes. After leaving Morris though, I had “that feeling” that I just didn’t get at the other two locations. I think I can make a home at Morris.
Back home with our cat Peeta sitting beside me, I fill out my application to volunteer at the Morris Animal Refuge. Still nervous, still excited, I send it off. I’ve taken one step to finding that community, and I know those animals and I will be the best of friends. Woof!
In the comments below, share about your volunteering experiences! How did you find the right fit for you? Any other animal lovers out there?
Song of the Day: Try Everything, Shakira (from Zootopia!)