One core problem we have as volunteers is that we are not affiliated with a 501(c)(3) group. We work as a loose network, with only minimal oversight provided by the County. Registered 501(c)(3) groups do work with the Shelter, but we don’t have a dedicated (privatized) group that runs the Shelter. The County runs the Shelter. The head honcho is a Constable, which gives the entire endeavor a police-law enforcement sort of mentality.
Our volunteers end up in an arms race of dedication—with the pressure to do more and more. This weekend, I was at two events, and was gone from my own dogs from 8:30 a.m. to 9:20 p.m., except for a brief stop to feed and run my own animals.
At the second event, a large off-site event, I did not stay to the bitter end with the Off-Site Coordinator, who still had to oversee the return of about 20 animals to the Shelter, plus finish paperwork. Not mention she had the two or three loads of stinky blankets shoved into her van. My guess is that this volunteer didn’t get home, whereupon she still had to tend to her own foster dogs, wash the dirty blankets, and take care of her own needs. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she collapsed into bed about 1:00 a.m.
When new people begin doing off-sites, they plunge in full force—one twenty-something man and his girlfriend hauled 12 large dogs to a Wine Festival and adopted 7, with a “promise” from someone to come on Sunday for one of the 4 remaining dogs. The couple expressed amazement that everyone couldn’t have this sort of “success”—after all, the man told me, they took photos of each dog and made up professional flyers for each animal, plus they bathed all their dogs before the event.
I felt like such a slacker—I don’t bathe my Shelter dogs and only make up flyers for my individual fosters. I did keep my mouth shut, though, and didn’t comment on how many dogs might be returned from that event once the festival-attendees lose the glow from their wine-tasting.
Between the volunteers who bathe and haul, the ones who spend hundreds of dollars out their own pockets to provide outside veterinarian care for the Shelter dogs, the ones who hijack their family’s bathtubs and fill them with newborn puppies, and the ones who create “kitten hotels” in their spare bedrooms, we aren’t lacking for dedication. But sometimes I wonder if our volunteer work is actually hurting more than it helps.
Certainly the animals benefit, but one fact remains: no matter how much we do as volunteers, the dogs and cats, puppies and kittens keep coming in to the Shelter. Our local Craigslist brims with animals up for sale or re-homing. Backyard breeders park their pickups on busy roadsides and offer purebred puppies for sale. We have a “Puppy Store” in the area and another pet store that sells puppies and kittens in the local shopping mall. Our newspapers are chock full of classified ads peddling animals.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep plugging along—I may not bathe the big dogs I haul to Off-Site Events, and I don’t take home litters of puppies to nurse along, but I’m in this for the long haul. Pacing myself is the key.