All this week, we've been celebrating our volunteers via our social media channels, and volunteering will also be the focus of this column.
Our volunteers are essential to the care of our animals while they're in the shelter. Volunteers can help by walking dogs, socializing cats, assisting with customer service and completing our cleaning routines.
Our new virtual fostering program also offers the opportunity to develop a close bond with one or two animals residing at the shelter. It is excellent for people who would like to foster but cannot bring animals home at this time.
Virtual fosters also help us market their chosen pet or pets to help them find the perfect forever home, so it's great for anyone interested in photography, public relations or animal advocacy.
PetSmart cat care volunteers
Our PetSmart cat room, which was generously provided to us by the PetSmart of TigerTown, is entirely maintained by our volunteer cat care team, except for a weekly staff deep cleaning and restocking.
Our PetSmart cat care volunteers provide all of the TLC for our cats, including keeping their kennels clean and providing fresh food and water, as well as daily playtime and socialization.
Mindy Taylor and Mary Ellen Belcher are two of our dedicated PetSmart cat care volunteers who visit the PetSmart cat room each week to care for our kitties.
When asked about her most impactful experience volunteering, Taylor said, "Lorelei will always hold a special place in my heart. Grey tabby cats get overlooked and seem to stay longer in the shelter than the young, fluffy cats. It's heartbreaking because they really have the best personality. Lorelei loved jumping up on my back and would give the best hugs of any cat I've ever met!"
Taylor added, "The one thing I've learned is that there is a perfect family out there for every single one of them. I'm just the lucky one that gets to enjoy them while they wait for their forever home. For anyone that has time and love to give but maybe isn't able to have a pet of their own, this is perfect!"
When asked about why she started volunteering at the Lee County Humane Society, Belcher said she had already gained quite a bit of experience volunteering with cats at another shelter.
"So I started with something I was familiar with and loved to do…caring for kitties at PetSmart," Belcher explained. "It's stress-relieving for me, and I really look forward to my morning at PetSmart each week!
When asked what aspect of volunteering is the most rewarding, Belcher said, "My favorite part of volunteering is being around different animals and helping to get them adopted!"
Volunteer dog walkers
Our dog walkers are immensely helpful in providing enrichment, exercise, training and snuggles for our shelter dogs. After completing a training program, our dog walkers can leash-walk dogs at the shelter and take them to our play yards for a fun game of fetch or tug-of-war.
Volunteer dog walkers serve at our adoption events by walking a dog, introducing that animal to potential adopters. Through our jog-a-dog program, volunteers can also take them offsite to places around town where dogs are welcome. Volunteers can even enter Chewacla entirely free of charge when accompanied by one of our shelter dogs.
Several of our volunteer dog walkers are Krista Wignall, Roderick Wheeler, Cassie Powers and Jenny Head. These volunteers stepped up a few weeks ago when we were unexpectedly short-staffed at the shelter. With only an hour's notice, they agreed to come in and walked almost all of our adoptable dogs, which meant that our one kennel staff member at the shelter that day could assist adopters with meet-and-greets.
Krista Wignall has been with us for five years now and is an experienced dog walker and foster. Wignall shared that her favorite aspect of volunteering is "giving a dog or cat some much-needed love, comfort, exercise or outdoor time - even if it's just for a short amount of time at the shelter or an offsite event, or for weeks or months at a time by being a foster and having an animal in my house.
“I know every animal that comes through the shelter doors needs love, and I want to help them feel that."
Roderick Wheeler is another long-time volunteer who has been invaluable to our mission. Wheeler said that one of his favorite aspects of volunteering is "meeting different animals with completely different personalities. It also allows me to appreciate my own pets and their unique "personalities." Also, being able to discuss the shenanigans my pets get into is a bonus."
Wheeler added that volunteering has given him the opportunity to forge bonds with new people.
Cassie Powers and Jenny Head are newer members of our dog walking team who have helped with walking at the shelter, offsite events and jog-a-dog. When asked about why she became a volunteer, Powers said, "I graduated vet school last summer and moved to Alabama to start training in pathology. I found this work very rewarding, but it meant that I was inside in the lab most days. I really missed that animal contact I received during school.
“I wanted to volunteer so that I could spend some time with the dogs and cats at the shelter. It is also just a part of my own personal philosophy that I believe I should always strive to be a force for good in the universe."
Head mentioned that she had volunteered at the shelter years before and wanted to return now that she had more time. Head enjoys "just getting to be with dogs and cats that I can't claim as my own. It's a rewarding experience!"
We always welcome new volunteers at LCHS. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer, please start by filling out an application at leecountyhumane.org/volunteer. I'll reach out with instructions for completing the volunteer orientation and signing up for a shelter tour.
Column by Kelly Daniel, volunteer coordinator with the Lee County Humane Society.