When did you become a Five Acres volunteer?
December 2014 – two months after my fur-kid passed away at almost 13 years old. I missed him terribly (still do) but wasn’t ready to adopt another dog right away. Volunteering seemed like a good way to get my “puppy fix” and love on some dogs that didn’t have a home of their own just yet. Washing dishes, doing laundry, walking/playing with/bathing dogs, cleaning kennels, assisting potential adopters, taking dogs to mobile adoptions… all of it satisfies my need to help and nurture. It’s hard work but incredibly rewarding.
How long have you been a shelter buddy?
I joined the Buddy program in March 2016.
How many buddies have you had?
I’ve had four Buddies so far: Rocco (Pitty, for 2 months), Sophie (senior Great Dane, for 1 month), Ben (Boxer/St. Bernard mix, for 9 months) and Pirate aka “Pi” (Pitty). Pirate and I have been Buddies since February. All the others have found their forever homes!
Do you have any pets of your own?
Nope – my yard, my house, my couch, my lap… they all belong to Pirate right now! LOL
What kind of activities and training do you do with your buddies?
My Buddies spend a lot of time at my home. We work on manners and boundaries but mostly the time there is to let them chill and remember how to behave in a home. If the dog’s manners/boundaries are good, we work on tricks. Other activity depends on my Buddy’s demeanor. I don’t ever want to put me, my Buddy, or anyone else at risk, so I make sure I know the dog well and am comfortable handling them before we venture out in public. I was able to take Rocco and Sophie out very quickly (a doggy-treat store was a fave). Ben took a bit longer. He was young, big and very rowdy, mouthy, and basically didn’t understand anything but “sit” when I started working with him. It took a while to understand him, earn his respect, and teach him manners and boundaries. It was several months before I took him out in public and he did great! Pirate has only been to my home so far. He’s very strong and we’re working on “don’t pull Holly around”. He can be a little dog and people selective. Until he’s less so, and I’m confident he won’t surprise me, we’ll continue hanging around my home, playing in the back yard, and learning tricks. He recently learned “paw” – the best incentive? Pancakes! Who knew, right?!
What is your favorite thing about being a Five Acres volunteer?
It’s hard to pick one thing. The dogs are a favorite because there are so many dog-alities – it’s always a day brightener to meet a goofy pup, a senior who just wants to cuddle, a newbie who needs some reassurance, or an adult who is just so excited to do anything with you, and of course my Pirate is there. Another favorite is the people. Many staff and volunteers have become good friends. Doing something you enjoy with people you enjoy makes everything better!
What is your favorite thing about being a shelter buddy?
Being a Shelter Buddy is a great fit for my life right now. I get to spend time with, teach, and love on a dog who needs some extra attention. My Buddies love and teach me in return and I know they are being loved on and cared for by like-minded people when they’re not with me. Best of both worlds.
Why do you think the shelter buddy program is important?
The Buddy program is so helpful to the long-timers and challenged dogs. Shelter environment is stressful. We do everything we can to keep a routine and to make each dog’s space a comfortable and “safe” place but being out of a home-routine for weeks (or months) takes a toll.
Shelter Buddies give our long-timers a “pack-member” connection, help them maintain good manners, and have a sense of security while they wait for that perfect-fit adopter. We also help dogs with behavioral challenges learn good manners and boundaries, and for those who aren’t adapting well to their new situation, to feel safe and loved. It’s unfortunate but true – confident, happy dogs find their forever homes more quickly than those who are anxious or acting out. The Buddy program makes a big difference in this regard.
When you are not volunteering, how do you spend your free time?
I enjoy reading, writing, home improvement projects, working out and baking desserts. I don’t know if I work out because I bake or if I bake to reward myself for working out!