Share the Wealth

By Sharon Billings, CVT
Associate Veterinary Information Specialist at Pet Poison Helpline

Studio portrait of silky terrier dog

If you are reading this post, you are probably an animal fan! Perhaps you’ve discovered, as I have, that sharing your life and home with a four-legged family member brings a wealth of joy and enrichment to everyone involved. And maybe you’ve thought it would be nice to find ways to spread that joy around a little. Well, search no more! In this post, we’ll provide a few ideas on ways to share the wealth by volunteering!

Share A Visit

The first time I brought my dog to a nursing home to visit a relative, I was amazed and delighted at the number of smiling faces that greeted us as we made our way down the hallway. Everyone wanted a chance to give my dog a few pats and offer a treat. We ended up staying quite a while and visited with lots of people that day.

Opportunities are as near as your local hospital, long term care facility, hospice, or school. Just give them a call! Companion animal visits may be allowed on a very informal basis (just show up during visiting hours to meet and greet) while others may have a more formal program in place.

If you’re interested in a more structured program, one example to explore is Pet Partners. This organization operates a volunteer-based Animal Therapy Program with community partners in many cities. You and your companion animal become a team providing outreach in a variety of settings. Here’s a link to their website: http://petpartners.org/.

Share A Walk

A friend of mine whose dog had died wasn’t quite ready to adopt again but she was pining for some canine company. So she volunteered as a dog walker at her local humane society’s shelter one afternoon a week – perfect! She loved the doggy companionship and the dogs really enjoyed their walks and the human attention!

So if you find yourself with a few spare hours and craving some other-species company, then your local animal shelter might just be the place for YOU! There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities so there’s bound to be something that’s just right for you. And you’ll be providing a much needed and appreciated service for those companion animals who are waiting for their forever family and home.

As for my dog-walking friend, you can guess what happened next, can’t you? Yep! One of those dogs, on their weekly walks, found his way into her heart and eventually into her home where they are living happily ever after.

Share A Home

Maybe you have a little spare time and space to help out an adoptable cat or dog but you’re not looking to adopt. Fostering may be a great option for you! You get to enjoy the benefits of a companion animal but without a longer term commitment! Many animal rescue organizations utilize foster-based systems instead of a brick-and-mortar shelter. They can take in only as many animals as they have available foster homes. They rely on volunteers to provide temporary homes for adoptable animals. By volunteering as a foster, you could literally save the life of a cat or dog by welcoming one into your home for a while.

Rescues typically pay for the food and veterinary care while you provide the home and day-to-day care plus perhaps participation in adoption events to help pets find their forever family.

Petfinder.com is an on-line data base utilized by many shelter and rescue organizations to list animals who are available for adoption. Their website is loaded with resources and helpful information. Here’s a link to their website which includes information to help you get in touch with shelter and rescue organizations in your area:

https://www.petfinder.com/animal-shelters-and-rescues/volunteering-with-shelters-and-rescues/

Share A Skill

Do you have a soft spot in your heart for a grey muzzle? Are you interested in sharing your skills to help homeless senior dogs? If so, you might want to become acquainted with the Grey Muzzle Organization. From their website: “We are not a shelter or rescue group. Rather, Grey Muzzle funds programs such as hospice care, senior dog adoption, medical screening, and other special programs to help old dogs at animal welfare organizations across the country.”

This nationwide organization works with shelters, rescues, and other non-profit groups to provide funding and resources for at-risk senior dogs. And they have lots of volunteer opportunities for people with a wide variety of skills including project management, writing, editing, graphic design, public relations, and social media (just to name a few)!

Here’s a link to their website with lots of information:

http://www.greymuzzle.org/Volunteer/Volunteer-Opportunities.aspx

I hope this post has provided food for thought to help you find your best choice to share the wealth!