When I started putting out the call for volunteers to share their stories in this column, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’ve gotten submissions from across the Valley, from groups as diverse as the Warhawk Museum and Simply Cats.
Not surprising, considering the number of animal lovers in the world, I was flooded with stories from volunteers at the Idaho Humane Society. Numerous volunteers, including Kendra and Betty Hollar, wrote about their realizations that helping animals ended up helping their own mental states and well being. One, Jaymee Peterson, wrote about parlaying her volunteer experience into a job at a local kennel. Nearly all of the volunteers who wrote in mentioned the organization’s helpful staff whose members treat shelter animals as if they were their own.
“I don’t know if there are enough superlatives to describe our volunteers. They all apply,” said Melanie Larson, director of volunteer services.
More than 1,400 volunteers and foster parents support the Idaho Humane Society’s work. Every month over 300 volunteers come to the shelter giving over 2,500 hours of their time. Volunteers are welcome in every area of the shelter and are the “backbone” of many community programs, said Larson. Those programs include Pet Food Pantry, Pet Meals on Wheels, Mobile Adoptions, IDAPI (inmate/dog program), SPOT (low-cost spay/neuter program), See Spot Walk, See Spot Splash, and Frisbee Fest. Volunteers comfort animals, and build camaraderie among themselves and with staff, said Larson.
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Thanks to all the IHS volunteers who took time to send me emails and share their thoughts. Here are a few selections.
From Holly Evans: My husband and I moved to Boise from Ohio in October of 2013, and by the end of the month we had already adopted a 5-year-old German Shepard mix from the Idaho Humane Society. Moving to a new city and not knowing anyone can be tough, and our dog Keyla helped us get adjusted to our new life. Because we had such a positive experience with IHS and because I felt the need to help more animals find homes, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for the volunteer training I found on their website.
This year I have shown dogs to potential adopters at mobile adoptions, introduced IDAPI dogs to their new owners, staffed the bake sale at the shelter, and played/walked with numerous lovable dogs. My favorite thing about this opportunity, besides getting to spend my weekends with huggable dogs, of course, is the amount of options you have as a volunteer. I love that you can sign up for huge community events such as See Spot Walk, or you can go into the shelter on your own time and walk the dogs that are waiting for your attention. The options are endless, and even if you aren’t wanting to interact with the animals, there are several other ways to volunteer; making packets, web writing, answering phones, and more.
The only part that can get frustrating is that things at the shelter and mobile events get so busy, and sometimes you feel like you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing as far as paperwork and answering questions. However, I welcome this frustration. The fact that the shelter is busy and there are so many people at events is a great problem! If it takes me being unsure of a couple of tasks for another dog to go home, then bring it on.
From June Disotell: I volunteer for the IHS, occasionally at the shelter itself when they have special needs, but mostly as a foster for dogs that, for one or more reasons, are not adoptable as they are. I bring the dog home, evaluate it, and try to solve its problems so it can find a forever home. Most often it is a small dog that has been frightened at the kennels with barking dogs all around. All the dog needs is to be in a quiet home and be given food, affection and confidence. These dogs are often adopted within a week or two after being fostered.
I specialize in hairless dogs, so I have had litters of puppies, as well as mothers with new puppies. On some occasions, the dog needs extra training, which I try to give. Sometimes, the dog needs to be in a home situation for several months in order to learn to trust humans or just to be a pet. This is especially true for dogs from puppy mills.
From Susan Robinson: I started doing a bit of everything such as, aluminum can crushing, front service desk, hanging up See Spot Walk flyers, taking part in mobile adoptions, laundry (there’s always laundry), and just hanging out with the dogs, or giving the cats a tittle TLC. Plus I did chores in the shelter clinic and now currently I am cleaning surgery tools for the clinic every Wednesday morning. I also do meals on wheels for the Pet Food Pantry.
I’ve met some great committed people during my time here. The lady who always shows up to do can crushing is amazing. She gives me a hug every time we meet. Casey helps adopters when they’re interested in a dog, talking to them about that dog, helping with the doggie play groups, exercising dogs and keeping everything in place. You’ll see him in his jogging clothes, running the dogs outside, or playing fetch in the playgrounds. This is a high-stress, tense job. This guy works all day, keeping track of who goes in and out of the kennel area, cleaning up smelly accidents, watching every dog to keep them safe. I once saw Casey come in to volunteer on his day off. He ended up staying for almost the whole day.
Barb, the volunteer coordinator for the shelter’s clinic, has retired but has left an impression. Everything she did seemed from the heart. The clinic staff is also so great. Jamie is wonderful. I love how enthusiastic she is. She makes me feel so welcome and appreciated. Lisa always helps when I need it. The whole clinic staff is constantly rushing and breaking their backs to get everything done. Dr. Koob thanks me every time he sees me. I appreciate that.
From Jennifer Ryu: I am 16 years old and I have been volunteering at the Idaho Humane Society for about four months. I decided to volunteer at IHS because of my love for animals. I actually waited since I was 14, so that I could volunteer by myself (younger kids need a parent to accompany them).
As soon as I turned 16, I took the volunteer orientation class and the kennel and cattery classes. I started by walking the shelter dogs, then learned about other volunteer opportunities at the shelter. I became a summer camp intern. The IHS summer camp helps kids learn about animal responsibility/safety, pet care, and ways to be involved with animals in the future. It has been, so far, a great experience working with kids and animals.
Other volunteers and a few staff members have been welcoming and helpful. In fact, somehow I got my cell phone stuck in a locked paper shredder (I don’t even have an explanation for this.) So, I quickly told a nearby animal control officer that worked at the shelter about my predicament. He and another volunteer helped me get my phone out. Throughout this whole situation, I was stressed out because I felt like such a burden, causing a commotion over a phone. Yet, at the end when I thanked the officer and the volunteer for spending their precious time helping me, the officer — having seen the dog leash in my hand — thanked me for helping the shelter dogs.
Contact the IHS online at idahohumanesociety.org to get involved.
Quick takes: More from the nonprofit community
▪ Jameel Syed: 50 Mosque Man: Syed has traveled to all 50 states, making calls to prayer at mosques across the country as part of the Muaddhin Fall Tour 2015. He visited the Islamic Center of Boise in April. He returns to the Valley at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 in the Berquist Lounge at the Boise State University Student Union Building to speak about his experiences and present an interactive and visual presentation of his journey. Free and open to the public, hosted by the Islamic Center of Boise and the BSU Muslim Students Association.
▪ Rake-Up Nampa: The city of Nampa seeks applications from Nampa residents who need their yards raked and volunteer teams who want to help on Saturday, Nov. 14. The deadline to apply to have your yard raked or to register as a volunteer team is Nov. 2. Call 468-5407 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Find applications online at cityofnampa.us.
▪ Kudos to Roosevelt Elementary: The school stepped up for Pajama Day. Assisted by Girl Scout Troops 803 and 444 as well as teachers Mrs. Bronner and Mrs. Clark, the school community sewed 213 pillowcases and collected donations of over $300 for Ryan’s Case for Smiles! an organization that provides colorful pillowcases for kids in the hospital.
▪ Idaho Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger: The food desert task force meets at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3 at Whitney United Methodist Church, 3315 W. Overland Road in Boise to plan its next steps to help make sure everyone in the Valley has access to healthy, affordable food. The public is welcome.