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I Heart Volunteers

Note: Since it’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, I thought I’d share an older piece I wrote a few years ago for StubbyDog (where I was a volunteer myself!). It was originally published Oct. 2011. Be back with new stuff soon!


They’re there first thing in the morning, ready to walk the dogs. In the snow, rain, heat, they put on their sneakers, grab their treat bags and show up. “Hi guys! Who wants to go out for a walk?” they smile and get to work.

No matter what, if the dogs are at the shelter, so are they.

They show up to clean the kennels, wash the bodies, train the newbies, take the photos, do the laundry, update the website, repair the building, stuff the Kongs, sew the adoption vests, mow the lawn, man the event tables, post the Petfinder bios, massage the bodies and hold the weary.

They open their hearts to the endless stream of dogs pouring in through the shelter doors. Bonding with new souls, in just a few minutes, on the kennel floor. Promising, “It’s going to be OK” and hoping that it’s true.

They come as reliably as the sun rises, lifting the spirits of the dogs and shelter staff with their presence. They keep coming, so strong of heart, to care for the orphans.

Photos by Melissa Lipani

They are the worker bees, absolutely essential to the bustling hive that is the shelter. They work together towards a common goal: saving more lives.

They discover that they themselves have found a home among the temporarily homeless.

The work is tough, but they feel uplifted, empowered, and proud. They are contributing to a cause, making a difference in every single life they touch. A community is discovered, new friends are made, a purpose is revealed, a fire is lit!

Then it happens: An adoption. A dog that they helped keep sane, that they walked, bathed and loved on has been chosen. They shout it from the rooftops: “Charlie went home today!”

Payment for all their hard work.

Dedicated, compassionate, strong; their energy fills the halls and helps heal the dogs as they wait for new beginnings.

They are an army of love, lifting up the shelters and rescues, on their strong shoulders.

They are volunteers – true everyday heroes.


You can read my post about shelter workers and foster families. ‘Cuz they rock my world too. 

  1. Joanna Brown #

    What a beautiful tribute! “Bonding with new souls, in just a few minutes, on the kennel floor. Telling them ‘its going to be okay’ and hoping that its true”……Wow. Tears in my eyes. I will share this with my fellow shelter volunteers. I love your blog, I have learned so much and laughed a lot, too. Thank you!

    April 10, 2014
    • Thank you Joanna – for reading and even more so for volunteering! The work that you and your fellow volunteers do at shelters makes my heart full.

      April 10, 2014
  2. Lynn Graham #

    Thank you…I love your blog, your website, your helpful advice on DINOS! Where I volunteer with dogs, we hold our breath for weeks & then months, trying to help DINOS (and other, more well-socialized dogs) get adopted, working with them using every method we can find. Your advice has helped me so many times. Your writing always gives me hope, and your sense of humor saves my sanity. I don’t know if you realize how many folks and dogs you reach! Thank you so much!

    April 11, 2014
    • Thank you so much for your comment Lynn. To say that your kind words made my day is an understatement. And I know how hard it can be to work with reactive dogs in the shelter environment,so thank YOU for the lifesaving work that you do!

      April 11, 2014
  3. This is beautiful – thank you! I’ve volunteered at my city’s shelter for six years and totally resonate with you writing, “they themselves have found a home among the temporarily homeless”.

    April 11, 2014
    • Thank you for your work Chantelle. The animals are lucky to have you on their side!

      April 11, 2014

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