This is a guest post from one of our adopters, Sapphire, who also contributes to the blog.
Every day for the last 10 years, I’ve thought about one thing: rescuing a dog. But, like any responsible dog owner, I knew the time wasn’t right even though I was desperate for doggy love. Beyond the fact that my landlord didn’t allow dogs, I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to take on the responsibility and, at times, unpredictability that comes with owning and caring for a dog. However, rescuing a dog remained a priority, and when I finally moved into a dog-friendly apartment I knew it was time.
Our first step was to research and visit different rescues and shelters to find the organization we wanted to work with. Wags and Walks landed at the top of our list, but I was apprehensive—I’ve always had a vision of dogs in less-than-optimal conditions and didn’t know if I could handle that. But upon arriving at Wags and Walks, I realized that was far from the case at this particular organization. We were immediately greeted by helpful, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable volunteers. While we didn’t find a dog that was the perfect fit for us that day, I did find an organization that I wanted to volunteer at.
In the months that followed, here’s how I used my time volunteering to prepare for my own future dog.
Hands-on experience with dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Volunteering at a rescue involves a host of responsibilities that you will be trained on—walking, feeding, cleaning, playing with dogs, and more. These tasks all happen on a set schedule which is critical for acclimating dogs to new environments. As a bonus, Wags and Walks offers dog training classes with a professional so you can learn the basics of dog behavior. This was a win/win situation - it was an easy way for me to get familiar with the different aspects of owning a dog while also prepping pooches for a loving home.
A reminder that all dogs are different.
Going into the process, I had grand expectations of having a dog to snuggle with, take on walks, and all of the amazing things that come with adopting a dog. I viewed my time volunteering as a way to get a feel for the behavior of various breeds to find the right one for me. As I started volunteering, it was incredible to see dogs that may have barked and seemed intimidating in their kennel completely transform into their fun-loving, well-behaved selves while strolling on walks. Volunteering at Wags and Walks reminded me that you can’t go into the adoption process with expectations. All dogs are different, and each dog behaves differently in different environments. It’s important for potential adopters to remember that because a misalignment of expectations after adopting a dog can result in a bounce back to the rescue.
An understanding of what progress looks like.
No one should think that a rescue dog will come into their home a perfect pet. What we should drive towards is to see progress with our pooches. Yet, it can be hard to gauge what progress actually looks like. For example, I spent my first week as a volunteer walking a small dog who pulled a lot. I noticed considerably less pulling the following week that I came in, due to other volunteers using basic training skills to help shape the right leash behavior. It showed me how investing time with the dogs resulted in behavior changes and helped me understand measurable results that I could track in the future.
Early access to adoptable dogs.
Going into the adoption process, I knew that I needed to go slow and find the pup that was right for me. Volunteering gave me “early access” to meeting the available adoptable dogs. I was able to spend quality time with the dogs as soon as they came in, usually before they met any other potential adopters. It’s a great opportunity to find a dog that meets your needs and would be a good fit by actually spending time with them.
Meeting other dog lovers and owners.
Volunteering with other dog lovers and owners opened me up to a community of similar people who provided a wealth of knowledge. I found a space to ask questions and get advice from like-minded individuals. If anything, it gave me confidence that no one has all the answers and adopting a pet isn’t a predictable process - and that’s ok. As long as you prep yourself and are honest about what’s right for both the dog and yourself, you’ll be fine!
Pro tip: Do your research before you pick a place to volunteer and/or adopt from to make sure it’s the right fit for you. There will be different guidelines and environments at each. Look for an organization that provides training before you handle dogs so you know they are committed to the best care for the animals housed there. Make sure you’re comfortable with all duties being asked of you. If hands-on work with dogs isn’t right for you, you can always volunteer for tasks like admin duties, events, and more. If you’re cautious working with different breeds or sizes of dogs, that’s okay, just make sure you speak up about it. Being honest about your comfort level ensures the safest experience for you and the pets involved.