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Tag Archives: volunteering

For My Birthday

 

This year, for my birthday, I wanted to write up a list of charities and foundations and organizations that I wish I could donate money to, like: Alley Cat Allies, North Shore Animal League America, The Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and on and on. But I feel overwhelmed by all of the rights I want to protect. I’ve been exhausted lately and maybe that’s why the fear hit me so hard after the election. I know how little energy I have left, to fight for my rights and my safety, and I just wanted someone else to take care of it. Some people are out protesting, and others are donating money to good causes, and still others are signing up for newspaper subscriptions online, to support actual journalism over the fake news we’ve gotten used to in our post-factual world. I want to do all of those things, except the protesting. It just looks so exhausting to have to walk through the city like that. Maybe if I had a golf cart…

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“I’m good here, Mom. You go without me.”

I’d love to support an organization that helps people of all ages learn how to volunteer in their communities. This has been a lifelong difficulty for me. Where can I volunteer? Who wants my help? How can I find them? More often than not I feel rejected before I even apply, because the brochures are so complicated, and the application process makes me feel unqualified. I know there are groups for kids and teenagers that encourage them to volunteer, I just wish there were more of them, and that they were more sensitive to the less outgoing and confident among us.

I’d love to support an organization that brings pets to home-bound seniors, as well as seniors in nursing homes and rehab centers. Not everyone can take care of a pet full time, but everyone deserves the chance to absorb some of the joy my dogs bring to me.

I’d love to see better education, for everyone, about the services available at the local, state, and federal level, to help people in need – so that you don’t have to be at the end of your rope before you find the supports our society has to offer.

I’d love to see Human Rights and Social Justice classes at the high school and college level instead of just in social work school, so that we can learn the history of oppression in our country, and how we have worked to combat it, and how we can continue to work to move our country forward. Then maybe we could reach a point in our society where we don’t have to deny the history of one group’s suffering in order to take on the suffering of another group as well.

What else do I want for my birthday? I want to lose weight. I want a very long nap. I want to feel hopeful about the future. I want people to stop checking their phones every two minutes while they are talking to me. I want chocolate frosting to be good for my health. I want my dogs to be healthy and happy. I want my Mom to live forever. I want a Harry Potter coloring book. Better yet, I want to go to Hogwarts, or at least get a letter, delivered by an owl, telling me that I have all of the qualifications to go be a witch.

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“Mommy’s a witch!”

 

I’m pretty sure that Cricket and Butterfly have already received their letters. Cricket’s is probably hidden under the couch in the living room, and Butterfly may have eaten hers (she loves the taste of quality card stock). I have to say, I’m flattered that they have chosen to stay with me instead of going off to become mini-witches themselves. It’s just not the choice I would have made myself. I mean, magic wands? Spells? All kinds of new creatures to meet, some of them fluffy? Who could say no to that?

 

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“You can’t come in here, Mommy. Moose will stop you.”

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“Did you know that this one tastes different from the TV Guide? Not better, just different.”

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“I’m sorry, Mommy. I was desperate.”

 

I want to live at Dogtown

There was a show on the National Geographic channel a few years ago set at an Animal Sanctuary in Utah called “Best Friends.” They have separate enclosures for birds and cats and rabbits and horses and pigs, and the section for dogs is called Dogtown.

dogtown

The show focused on their work with last chance dogs, and how they try to give them better lives. Each dog has a team of veterinarians and groomers and trainers and volunteers looking out for them, and coming up with creative ideas for how to help them with problems other shelters couldn’t solve. So a half-blind, ten year old dog, who couldn’t walk on a leash, had people brainstorming ways to help him live his best possible life. And, if they couldn’t find him a forever home, he would always have a home at the sanctuary.

The Dogtown staff

The Dogtown staff

Dogtown represents the kind of safety net I wish we all had, pets and humans alike, because the volunteers and groomers and vets and trainers at Dogtown seemed to be infused with a level of compassion and persistence you don’t find in regular life. The problem is that most shelters are not Dogtown. Some have the compassion, but not the skill, or they have the volunteers, but not the money, or the space.

            The shelter where we got Butterfly subsidizes her medical care, and sends buses to pick up dogs from puppy mills all the time, but they have no mandate to train the dogs, or help them overcome social deficits. Their goal is to send the dogs out to new homes as soon as possible.

My Butterfly, with her Duckie

My Butterfly, with her Duckie

Dogtown, the TV show, went into different aspects of dog rescue work: fostering, volunteering, emergency interventions off site, veterinary care and training. And I kept wanting to be part of what they were doing. They made it look possible, even when they were crying, or struggling to come up with answers. I imagined myself in all of the different jobs, but I couldn’t quite believe I’d be up to the challenge. I don’t think I would be good at short term foster care, for example. My heart would keep breaking without enough time to heal in between dogs. I know myself well enough to know I don’t have the Teflon for that.

            I’ve wanted to work with dogs for a long time. When I was in my early twenties, I volunteered at a small no kill shelter, because I thought it might be something I’d be good at. But the established volunteers made me feel like I was in the way and they were doing me a favor by letting me help out with the cats. Dogs were too advanced for a beginner like me, they said. I started to believe that my need to be helpful was actually selfish and a character flaw.

            Recently, after watching repeats of old episodes of Dogtown, I was inspired to look into volunteering again, and found a class advertized at a nearby shelter. Mom wrote to them to ask for information and the email they sent back said that we could take their class in how to volunteer, but we’d be damn lucky if they had an actual spot for us in their schedule, ever. I’m paraphrasing. But the message I heard was, of course you want to volunteer with dogs, so does everyone else. What makes you so special?

            My dream would be to have my own menagerie of dogs to take care of at my own home, without other people around to tell me I’m not good enough. I’d need more money, and time to make sure the dogs have all of the love and medical care and training they need to thrive. I think I could be good at that.

Butterfly and Cricket

Butterfly and Cricket

My Dina

My Dina

Delilah

Delilah

and one of her many puppies

and one of her many puppies

Rachel dog, my first babysitter

Rachel dog, my first babysitter