When did you become a Five Acres volunteer?
- My orientation was Wednesday May 17th. I volunteered the next two mornings for kennel cleanings. I actually used two vacation days from work so I could get started right away.
Why did you start volunteering at Five Acres?
- I had a very deep void to fill after an unsuccessful mission to rehabilitate our family dog from multiple types of aggression. I was spending about 3 hours of one on one time with our dog every day of the week for 8 months straight. Along with the one on one time, I spent countless hours studying training techniques and consulting with some of the best trainers in the area. I needed Five Acres, probably more than they knew at that time.
Why did you want to become a shelter buddy?
- Having the opportunity to become a shelter buddy is just icing on the cake when you see how much joy you bring these amazing dogs by just spending time with them. All of these dogs have a story to be told and when you get to know their story, you want to give them the best opportunity possible to find a home that matches their story. Each dog is unique and I wanted to focus on the dogs that are having a difficult time being adopted. Getting to know who they are and what can be done to improve their adoptability.
What kinds of activities do you like to do with your shelter buddies?
- The most important activity is walking. Not just taking the dog outside and letting the dog walk you but actually teaching the dog how to walk with you. Once a dog is capable of walking with you, the sky is the limit. The bond and trust built through the walk makes all other training and activities much easier. I like to teach walking in many environments like, dog friendly stores, parks, wooded trails, and most importantly around my home and neighborhood. Walking incorporates all other basic training opportunities that a dog will need for a successful showing and adoption.
- Another activity that the dogs love is the massage. Being in a kennel can be very stressful and having the opportunity to get them out of that environment can create an explosion of emotions from the dog, some good some not so good. Either way, a good massage will help relax, calm or just refocus a dog in preparation for an enjoyable adventure. This also helps create trust and gives the dog a comfort level that is needed for successful showings.
What is your favorite thing about being a shelter buddy and a Five Acres volunteer?
- By far my favorite thing is seeing and hearing about the transformation once I start working with a one of the dogs. So when staff tells me how well behaved or they are getting more viewings, I know something is working. There is no better feeling than knowing the dogs that I have touched have found that special family to go home with.
Why do you think Five Acres’ shelter buddy program is so important?
- The shelter buddy is important as this where a dog can get structure and understanding. The staff at Five Acres does a wonderful job caring for these dogs but it doesn’t allow for enough one on one time. Being a shelter buddy is like having a tutor for your studies or a counselor for a specific need. Shelter buddies take the daily love and care that the staff provides to the next level, and provides valuable time. Time is a very important component to the wellbeing of anyone we care about and especially the ones that don’t have a voice to be heard or understood.
- On another level the shelter buddy program provides the staff and management with the knowledge to find the right family for the dog. The information we collect about the dog can be very critical to making the dogs adoption successful well after the dog leaves the shelter. We want the family that takes our dog’s home to know we have done our best to ensure happiness on both sides of the table.
Do you have a favorite memory, animal or adoption story?
- In my short tenure, a favorite memory doesn’t stand out specifically but I’ll never forget my first shelter buddy. Premo, two year old male lab mix with a recovering broken ankle, started it all for me. He introduced me to how well these dogs respond to the extended one on one time and how different they behave away from the shelter. Premo opened his heart to me and my family very quickly. He made us realize how much of a role we can play to ensure these dogs have a wonderful life both while at the shelter and in preparation for their new family.
- My daughter’s role as a helper in has been very memorable to me. She has time and time again shown how to display calmness and a loving touch to these dogs. Knowing she can only be my helper after I build trust with the dog, she displays the patience needed to become a valuable member of our community one day. Like all kids, she would like to be a veterinarian but I believe any field in which she can care for someone like she cares for these dogs will be amazing.
Do you have any pets at home?
- We have two cats, Luna and Stella (formerly known as Salt and Pepper) that we recently adopted as a bonded pair from Five Acres. They have been a wonderful addition to our family and we couldn’t be any happier. We also have a hamster named Goldie and a beta fish named Princess Bloom. These are the tenured members of our pet family and the cats have a blast playing and viewing both. Especially Goldie who typically roams the house in her ball for hours each day.
Why do you think people should volunteer and why is Five Acres a great place to volunteer?
- There is no greater joy than knowing your physical actions are playing a role in improving the life of another being. Not only can you see the happiness (tail wagging) but you can feel the happiness and there is no mistaking it. That moment when a dog knows he can trust you and they let go of their vulnerabilities to give you that kiss or rolls over for a belly rub. If you are like me and want to take on more complex dogs, this will bring a tear to your eye every time.
- Volunteering at Five Acres may have spoiled me with my first experience of such. The staff is very friendly and grateful for what each and every volunteer does. When time is available, management and staff are very helpful and informative when I’m seeking help or an answer to a question.
When you are not volunteering what do you do in your spare time?
- I’m usually busy with typical household maintenance/improvements and family duties when not at the shelter. I have an amazing wife that knows how much this volunteering means to me so I get a pass on delaying some projects till after the shelter closes at night. My teenage son keeps part of my schedule filled with commuting to his band practices (marching and rock band). If I can squeeze a few fishing or biking sessions into the mix, I’m a happy camper.