What Volunteering Means to Me …

By Kristyn Miller, Volunteer Program Manager

According to the Meriam Webster dictionary, a volunteer is “a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service.” For the 1,945 active and dedicated volunteers at Animal Friends, being a volunteer means so much more than simply undertaking a service. When our volunteers were asked to explain their own, personal meanings behind their volunteer service, we were flooded with a variety of heartwarming stories of years of dedicated service to an organization, that to many, feels more like a home.

What volunteering at Animal Friends means to me … is the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of the most helpless of creatures. I love being able to be part of a group of individuals who have dedicated their lives to better the lives of animals. I love seeing these animals flourish, to heal, to trust, to welcome us into their worlds and to allow us to care for them. And the very best part? For me, it’s when they find their forever homes. – Debbie V.

Volunteering is a lifeline for me. I was [a] professional pet sitter [and] dog walker for four decades, until I was struck down with MS. I chose to close my business because I did not want to risk any animals’ life due to my inability to do certain things physically because of the MS. The ability for me to volunteer and share my wisdom and help others helps save my sanity, and I am grateful for that. I’m also quite honored to be part of such a stellar organization that provides a world of good for everybody, both animal and human. – Paula W.

Volunteering at Animal Friends gave us the opportunity to help dogs that have been forgotten. The time we share with them is precious and rewarding. To see them walking and exploring is priceless. It also gave us the opportunity to meet and then adopt Confetti (now Bugsy Segal). He is a wonderful addition to our family and has helped fill the void after losing our Bengal mix, Oscar, of 13 wonderful years. – John S.

I have been a volunteer at Animal Friends for [over] 13 years as a dog handler because it makes my life better. When walking dogs, my world centers around the dog at the end of my leash, what they are doing, where they are going – or not going! – and how they are reacting to the environment around them. For those precious minutes my troubles and worries fall away and my world is the dog. In 2021 I lost my daughter Alicia and last year I lost my beloved fiancée Sharon, and handling dogs pushes those sorrows aside for me, even if only for a short time. In fact, much of the time at the shelter I feel closer to them, especially when handling certain dogs. I also savor the friendship and camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and staff members as we work for the betterment of the animals. When I put my leash and lanyard in my car after my session is done, I am smiling, knowing my life is better because of the time I spent volunteering that day. – Will D.

Volunteering with Animal Friends is my labor of love. As a cat handler, it makes my day when I am able to help a scared cat come out of [their] shell and become more adoptable. My very favorite volunteer activity is [fostering]. I foster kittens and momma cats with kittens. I love watching my babies grow and learn to become fabulously wonderful kittens ready for their forever homes. It’s my soul work. – Mary Ellen A.

Volunteering as a foster means opening space at the shelter, showing an animal what it feels like to have a safe home and a family, while teaching love and respect for animals as well as responsible pet ownership to my children. It’s truly brought joy to our life! – Kristy H.

As a volunteer, time spent volunteering has healed me in a way that I can only express with great gratitude. No-kill shelters like Animal Friends are truly the humane shelters. They are not without their own concerns but that is why it is important to still be a volunteer. Volunteers can express their care in many ways. It is not only rewarding for the animals but also for those who have a heart to mend. – Karen L.

To me, volunteering is a way to spread joy. These past [three] years have been some of the most difficult times for many people of all ages (myself included), and the importance of being there for each other should be a top priority. Volunteering [for] Therapets with my Golden Retriever, Kobie, allows me to bring smiles to peoples’ faces when they are down, ease anxiety when people are overwhelmed and educate the public about how special animals are. I cherish every moment when I can volunteer, and I am forever grateful for Animal Friends and Therapets. – Sarah K.

Volunteering as an Engagement Specialist in the Humane Education & Engagement Center provides an amazing pathway for me to share my passion for animals and compassionate animal care with young faces. I love and cherish the opportunity I am given to build the next generation of animal advocates in the community. – Kate Y.

I have always had a dog, a big dog, but as my disability grew worse it was not fair for me to adopt another one. I missed having a dog so much that I decided to try volunteering at Animal Friends. Surely there was something I could do. I became a Greeter. I pick out a dog from our website and I make [them] “mine.” I follow[them] up until “my” dog gets adopted then I pick another to be “mine.” This helps fill my need. While I can no longer physically do anything for the dogs, I like to believe that I can help to make each visitor’s experience at Animal Friends just a little more pleasant with a smile and a friendly welcome. – Charlene C. E.

While volunteering may look differently from person to person, our volunteers are united in their selflessness, compassion and pure joy they receive from helping others. As Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”… even if the service is for our four-legged friends. Interested in becoming a volunteer at Animal Friends? Visit our website to learn how to get involved at ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org/Volunteer.

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