Having always been an animal person, I’ve known that one of the ways I want to give back to my community is by improving the lives of animals. I had never stepped foot in an animal shelter before, so my entire perception was based off of those sad advertisements with Sarah McLachlan. The Nova Scotia SPCA has a dog walking program, where volunteers can stop in and take one of the adoptable dogs out for a walk. This is a casual volunteer position that allows you to drop in whenever you have some free time. They have more formal volunteer positions which require a commitment of a few hours a week. Being a recent graduate, I know that I don’t have the time to make the commitment right now.
I showed up to the SPCA on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the place was packed. They only had about 10 dogs at the time, and most of them had been out for the better part of the day. The shelter was nothing like those sad ads on TV I had seen. The dogs were showered with so much love and attention, and probably had a better life than my childhood dog who spent most of the day alone while the rest of the family was at work or school. They had photos and descriptions of all the dogs they had so you could request specific dogs. We just asked them for whatever dog had been waiting the longest to go out. Before they brought the dog out to us, they made us sign in and agree to a few rules (e.g. no running with the dogs). We had to stay within sight of the shelter at all times, but it’s located in a cul-de-sac with plenty of green space. Tip: Try to come on a weeknight when it likely won’t be as crowded.
One of the shelter employees brought a dog named Passion out to us. She was a pitbull mix who’s been a long-term resident at the SPCA. She was full of energy and loved rolling around in the grass. Having only owned a small dog, I’m definitely not used to walking a big dog that can throw its weight around. The employee at the SPCA instructed us to use two hands on the leash at all times, and my boyfriend took the leash for most of the walk.
We had such a great time walking Passion that we came back a few weeks later. They had received a litter of puppies and still had three left at the shelter. We thought that a lot of the older dogs might not be getting a lot of attention with everyone flocking to the puppies. We decided to take Loki, another pitbull mix, out for a walk. When we returned Loki and were about to leave, I asked if any of the puppies happened to be available (I couldn’t help myself!). They had a puppy named Betty available (an 8 week old amstaff-boxer-retriever mix), but warned us she likely wouldn’t walk very far. We took her out onto the grass and plopped right down, ready for a nap. All of the puppies were already claimed as it’s not super common for the shelter to get dogs that young.
Next mission: fostering an animal from the SPCA. Let me know in the comments section if you’ve ever done this and what your experience was like.