San Diego Humane Society north campus
I went to a volunteer orientation with the San Diego Humane Society. I toured the north campus, which only houses dogs, and I was impressed by the cleanliness and the elaborate systems the shelter has in place for evaluating, socializing and training.
There were 15 people in my group, nearly all women, of different ages. Some had 40 years of experience rescuing and fostering dogs. One woman, she looked about 22, was hoping to kick off her dog training career.
We walked along the kennels, viewing the dogs. It was later in the day, and most of the dogs did not bark. About half were at their gates, reaching with their tongues and paws, seeking any kind of connection. “Are you taking me out?”
The other half seemed to know the drill. They knew we weren’t going to open the gates, so they remained in the backs of their cages on their beds or blankets. Some looked out. Some just slept. Maybe they had adapted to the flow, settling in after a long afternoon as my dog Ace does on his bed at home. Dogs love a routine.
I was drawn to a black and white “Lab mix.” There was no information about him yet, other than he was still on hold for his original family to claim him. He seemed to be getting restless in his kennel, but not yet frustrated. He stuck his tongue through the bars and whined a little, barking only when the next-door dog edged him on. His big black paws had white markings, and he seemed to be trying really hard to sit still, like a kid in church. He was friendlier than some of the others. I’ll be keeping my eye on him.
The visit was a positive experience for me, leaving me energized. Some volunteers whispered sad comments like, “Oh, so many pitbulls. Poor things.” Or, “Look, someone cropped her ears. Poor baby.”
I tried not to feel sorry for the dogs because for the most part, these dogs are safe. While some face serious behavioral challenges and might be euthanized due to aggression, all of the dogs will be getting what seems to be a fair chance. The shelter gives the dogs all the time they need to get adopted and teaches incoming volunteers to walk, train and cuddle with them. It seems like the dogs get quite a bit of interaction, given their circumstances.
If you’re unable to volunteer at your local animal shelter, I highly recommend you schedule a tour anyway. That way you can see where your donations (or in some cases, your tax dollars) are going and whether or not the group is one you want to support. There are plenty of bad shelters out there, but plenty of good ones, too. For me, just seeing the animals in need is motivating. They tell me to keep on doing what I’m doing.