The animal shelter I volunteer at has a program called, The Buddy Program, where during non-shift hours volunteers can buddy up with a dog and take that dog for car rides, walks to parks, or give them just some extra time playing in yards. This program is especially beneficial to the dogs who have been at the shelter a long time, or the dogs who have behavioral issues and need some extra training.
I enjoy the buddy program and have adored the bond I have created with the dogs I have buddied up with.
This is Sevvy. She was at the shelter for over two years. She was my buddy. She loved car rides and trips through the drive thru for cheese burgers (no onions or pickles) and vanilla ice cream. This girl has finally found her furever home and I hear she gets car rides to parks every day (weather permitting) and I couldn’t be happier for her. Sevvy doesn’t live far from me and it is my hope that one day I will run into her.
Gypsy was a sweet pit bull with the most gorgeous clear eyes. She loved snuggling with her blankets in her kennel. Whenever she’d see me walk into the shelter, she’d raise her front paws onto the chain link and wait for me to come to her. I’d pet her through the fence and she’d try to clasp onto my arms and lick my face. She was a snuggler that was finally adopted after two years.
Rupert was a brindle boxer mix that spent around a year or so at the shelter. He was a typical boxer in his crazy and fun (unruly at times) demeanor. He came to the shelter as just a young untrained boxer who wanted to do nothing but run and jump and chew and tug on everything, especially your sleeves. He needed a lot of extra training. He became my buddy and I took him to a lot of training sessions. The progress was slow but steady, and eventually Rupert calmed down and he was adopted last year. I’m so happy for him. I ran into Rupert at an event for the shelter last summer and it was so awesome to get dog kisses from him and know that he remembered me.
Sable was my first buddy, and as they say, you never forget your first. I was a couple months at the shelter when I took her on as a buddy. I was still getting used to being around a lot of dogs at once, mostly highly stressed dogs who were very unsure of me. I’ve learned some dogs will take to you quickly while others, pending on how they were treated in their past, take some time. Sable was a dog who I just loved the moment I saw her and she showed no reservations toward me. We simply took to each other from the start. She was a sweetheart and she became my buddy. I spent extra time with her in the play yards and it got to the point where every time I’d walk in the shelter, even during my regular shifts, she’d jump up and stand in front of her door, waiting for the guillotine door to open. I always felt so bad because she couldn’t understand that I was there to clean the kennels, not take her out to play. So she’d just watch me with perked ears, waiting for me to walk to her dog run and open the door.
When I got word she was adopted after many months of loving my time with her, I went and said goodbye to her. I brought with me a bag of treats for the family to take and sat with her in her dog run and cried. It was my first goodbye with a dog from the shelter that I had grown attached to, so I was a bit emotional. I handle these things better now. I still cry, but they’re happy tears now.
I once asked a man who’s been at the shelter over twenty years how he handles saying goodbye to long-term dogs. He responded, “It’s like sending your kids off to college. You know they’re on to better things.”
Very good way to put it. That’s what every volunteer at a shelter hopes for. That every animal that leaves finds a better life. I’m grateful that I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and know all the animals there will get all the time they need to find a home. Dogs in kill shelters sometimes only get days.
If you’re looking for a pet, please consider you local animal shelter. If there’s a high-kill shelter near you, visit that one first. A dog’s life is running out somewhere.