What I learned from volunteering at an animal shelter.

For the past semester I have been volunteering at BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter). What drew me to this opportunity is that since I was a child I have always had an attachment to dogs. Their mild mannerism, and emotional attachment to humans has always given me a special connection to them. BARCS would give me the chance to walk various dog breeds and show to the Baltimore community that all dogs no matter what size or breed have the right to be loved. As a dog walker, I walked various sized dogs throughout Baltimore, giving the dogs the opportunity to receive their daily fitness exercises, and express their energy.

At first I thought this opportunity would give me the chance to de-stress and relax, but little did I know that I would not be able to. Unbeknownst to me, being a volunteer at BARCS was constantly demanding. As a volunteer my main responsibility would be making sure that the dogs were safe and were walked. Many of the dogs were in their cages all day long, lacking any human attention. Often times, the dogs would be overly energetic to walk, causing a bit of difficulty to put the leash on them. When it was time to walk them often the dogs kept jolting forward out of excitement, and when another dog was nearby, the dog tended to be aggressive and violent towards another dog. At all times I had to be aware of the surroundings of the dog and me to make sure that both of us would be safe. I am about 4ā€™ 11ā€™ā€™ and it was difficult for me to walk a Doberman pinscher or a Pit bull, when those dogs are much stronger than I am. Often times I would be gripping the leash quite tensely to make sure that the dogs would not run away. This experience was quite stressful, but it was fun and enjoyable to interact with the dogs and play with them. As an activist it taught me about responsibility and commitment. There were often times that I was not sure if I wanted to continue with this volunteer experience. But I made the commitment at the beginning of the semester to do this project and it is my job to continue with this experience. Since I have been working on the project it taught me that even if your activism is through volunteering it still requires work to make this experience effective. When I was not volunteering I told many people about my experiences and the moments that I have had in this. Overall, in activism what I have learned is that activism requires effective communication and patience. When you first start a project you cannot expect that everything will go smoothly, you just have to communicate your message and be patient that everything will work out.

What made this project effective was that it gave me the opportunity to become more patient. Dogs are not the same as humans, so I cannot expect them to understand what I want them to do. I have to work with my surroundings and compromise my expectations to make all this happen effectively. What did not work was that I came in with the wrong expectations about what this volunteer experience would be about. At first, I thought that this would be relaxing and an easy four hours. But little did I know that this would be more work that I ever thought. Next time if I could do this experience all over again I would not change anything. This experience taught me how to be more patient, and how to think on my feet. BARCS helped me grow as a person and there is nothing that I would change about that. To me this is an accomplishment because both the dogs and I have grown, and as a result when I gave back to animals it has given me more empathy.

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