A Volunteer’s AgendaPosted by Angelina Martin, ALDF's Bookkeeper on April 9, 2012
I recently began volunteering at the local animal shelter as a dog walker/trainer. My friends and family have praised me with thoughtfulness and compliments of which I have completely denied. They attribute this denial to modesty, which makes me smile, as I am only volunteering for the most selfish of reasons. Qualities of selflessness and humility are not within my character. So I am writing this blog post seeking a redeeming clarity; I have an agenda.
I was extremely nervous for my first two hour shift at the shelter. I spent the first half hour walking around, trying to gain a familiarity with the dogs. Once calmer, I chose to walk with Quinton, an amazing boy. While outside with him, I couldn’t stop smiling. There is a certain feeling a dog gives you when they are calm and happy. It is love in the purest sense and I am so open to it. You see, about a year and a half ago, my Newfoundland was diagnosed with lymphoma. Without cause, reason, or blame for her cancer, I was absolutely devastated. She was simply the love of my life. It was only through her that I learned how to love and to genuinely care for someone other than myself. She opened my heart. After diagnosis, I treated her with a cancer-fighting diet which consumed hours of my day. I was so proud to be helping her. After five great and unexpected months, I gave my darling girl back to heaven. It was a strength I did not know I had. I awoke the next morning with nothing as significant to do; no girl to worry about or to take care of. I felt an emptiness within, a void that I did not know how to fill. I joined a yoga class, a zumba class, took up meditation, hiking, and countless other hobbies to keep busy, but I still felt so incomplete.
After a year had passed, I considered getting another dog but living conditions were not suitable. I then saw an ad for the local animal shelter. I drove there the next day, not knowing what to expect, but once there realized that I wanted to help, I wanted to contribute. I asked for a volunteer application, only because I felt it would be good for me to spend time there. I hesitated before faxing my application in, not knowing if I would have the time – but I figured it would all work out.
Upon that first day and after spending time with those first few dogs, I realized what was missing from my life. I was so happy to be there, so happy to be walking with the dogs, who in turned shared their happiness with me for walking them. The transference was amazing. On my second day, I met Maggie, a pit bull cross. I was a bit intimidated so I stood at her window watching her. I could see how pretty her face was. I loved her bright pink collar. In looking at her, my eyes slowly blinked while I was in thought. She was watching me and as I looked up, she was slowly blinking back to me. I felt a connection. I walked around and entered her room. She was so shy and so gentle. While on our walk, she looked up at me and her whole demeanor changed. She seemed as if she was smiling. She bounced a bit now when she walked. Within this past year, I have never felt such happiness. It filled that emptiness within. I walked with seven dogs that day, watching the transformation take place in each one and within myself. What those dogs did and do for me on a daily basis I just cannot describe. They give so much love and appreciation – if only I could be like that.
Today is much brighter, as I have found more happiness in life than I could have ever imagined. It’s just from taking the dogs at the shelter for a walk or two. It’s spending time doing something I love while being surrounded by people who love what they have chosen to do. It is a special place of warmth where love just doesn’t exist, it embraces and enables one to realize that a broken heart can mend for humans and animals. In rehabilitation one finds greater strength and courage through love. And this local animal shelter is such a place for this. So it is for these selfish reasons that I am a volunteer. I wish I was aligned to the greater good but this just isn’t the case. I’m just an everyday human being who found a great place for sharing what I love to do.