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whether to volunteer at animal shelter
Old 07-05-2014, 06:13 PM   #1
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whether to volunteer at animal shelter

I will probably be retiring around the end of this year.
I have considered the idea of volunteering at an animal shelter for a few hours a week. Has anyone had experience, or just have thoughts, on this?
Part of my reason is that our cat died and we plan to get a new one next year, after taking a trip. It's my partner who wants a cat - I'd rather not have the expense and responsibility, even though I like cats. (Also I'm terrified of mice, which they might bring in.) If we're going to have one at all, I'd want a really good one. Our last one was wonderful, but we chose him on sight and just got lucky. I thought volunteering might give me a chance to get to know the cats and choose advisedly. I know that might sound like going to extreme lengths.
It also might give me some human interaction. We moved to a smallish town about 8 years ago. I've been working from home, working very hard, and I haven't made any friends.
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Old 07-05-2014, 06:26 PM   #2
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Why not give it a try - you may find you really enjoy it. Unlike a "real" job, if you find it isn't enjoyable you can always quit without suffering any financial setback.
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Old 07-05-2014, 06:37 PM   #3
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I don't do it because I know what will happen. I'll be smitten by a pair of big brown eyes. I'll bring those eyes home.

And my life will end, because DW will kill me because I PROMISED that I "won't bring one home".
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Old 07-05-2014, 07:11 PM   #4
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I started volunteering soon after ER (at Habitat for Humanity). I quickly became tired of having a schedule. Once they find out you are a worker, they want more and more of your time. Try it, but don't be surprised if you get resentful of others taking your time.
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Old 07-05-2014, 08:15 PM   #5
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I started volunteering soon after ER (at Habitat for Humanity). I quickly became tired of having a schedule. Once they find out you are a worker, they want more and more of your time. Try it, but don't be surprised if you get resentful of others taking your time.
That's why I'm not volunteering for ANYTHING for at least two years after I FIRE.

I want a couple years of complete and total selfishness, where it's all about "me". No job, no boss, no customers, no set hours, no responsibilities, no timetables, etc, etc, etc. Just whatever I want to do, and when I want to do it.

After I get a couple years of complete "me time" under my belt, then I'll start to think about maybe volunteering some time somewhere. But one thing I'll always tell them...if/when it ever starts feeling like a job, I'm outta there.
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Old 07-05-2014, 09:27 PM   #6
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Thanks for the thoughts. After writing my first post I was thinking about it some more myself, and maybe it isn't the best way to choose a pet, if I was only there once a week, as the turnover might be faster than that. And my partner says I'd probably end up feeling sorry for one of the pets quite early on.
LoneAspen is probably right, and I should take a bit of time for myself, then give it a try if I feel like it.
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Old 07-05-2014, 09:48 PM   #7
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You are either an owner or a volunteer. When you volunteer when you really want to be an owner you will see a lot of animals die and you will feel guilty. When you are a volunteer and you think a few animals will live because of your service you will feel better. Different mindsets. Never volunteer to become an owner.
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Old 07-05-2014, 10:08 PM   #8
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Pick the shelter carefully and it can be very rewarding. Look for a low/no kill shelter with a lot of innovative programs. Several of the City and County shelters here have gone to low/no kill models and are focused on positive projects such as low cost spay neuter programs and TNR of feral cats to cut the reproduction rate and shelter admission rate for cats. Shelters are always at the bottom of the list for funding, and they can use people with everything from fundraising to carpentry skills.

If you don't have a good shelter system in your area, you can always volunteer with a rescue group that pulls animals out of the shelter and places them in foster homes until they are adopted. Can you raise kittens or puppies? There is always a need for people that will do that. The rescue pays your costs, you provide the home and the care. No long term commitment.

Look around, you will find a good fit for you.
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Old 07-05-2014, 10:48 PM   #9
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Thanks again for the responses. Posting on here does seem to help, even when I have been thinking about something for some time myself.
I have found the death of our cat very upsetting, so finding a shelter with a no-kill policy is a very good idea. I'm not sure about raising kittens or puppies - something to think about. It would be fun, but a little messy!
I think retirementguy1 is probably right too - I should keep the two things separate.
I am thinking it probably is a good idea to volunteer - just give it a go and see if I like it. After working at home for so long, it would probably reactivate some social skills and give me something relatable to talk about. I've got a very academic background and I'm living in a semi-rural community, and people here might warm to me more if I was helping in a shelter. I'm sure it is something I would want to talk about it I was doing it.
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Old 07-05-2014, 11:03 PM   #10
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They can always use supplies if you can't bring yourself to work in the shelter, blankies *towels and toys.
I only look at kittens that are too far away to covet. My current vice/time killer The Dancing Kittens on Livestream
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Old 07-05-2014, 11:31 PM   #11
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Thanks. That's cute. My partner is always watching animals on You tube, and he likes Furry Friday, which has photos every week. Furry Friday: A ray of light | Stuff.co.nz
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Old 07-05-2014, 11:41 PM   #12
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Rescue groups and some shelters often hold weekend adoption events at the local Petco or Petsmart. Stopping by and striking up a conversation with the volunteers at a couple of adoption fairs would give you a feel for what is happening locally. The volunteers would be knowledgeable (and opinionated) about your local shelters as well.

It's the height of kitten season, so shelters and rescues are looking for foster homes. You can foster a single kitten, an orphan litter, or provide a place for a mom to raise her kittens. Foster homes are also needed for adoptable adults. Being in a home gives the cat time to distress from the shelter environment and find a home.

Once you have fostered a few, it is easier to give them up. You know they are going to good homes, and others that need you will take their place.
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Old 07-06-2014, 04:40 AM   #13
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Thanks for your suggestions, but I don't think I'd want to foster while I'm still working. And I'm in New Zealand, so it might not be kitten season here. I'm not sure if there are adoption events here, but as far as I'm aware there are only two shelters in my town, and I don't drive, so I wouldn't have a lot of options. I might just do better to talk to them both when I am ready.
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Old 07-06-2014, 10:54 AM   #14
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I worked as a volunteer for awhile and enjoyed it but seems like most of the work involved walking the dogs a couple times a day and cleaning out their quarters. The dog pens were not too bad but I really grew to dislike cleaning up after the cats. Yuck! Anyway, gave it up after that became too much of a grind.
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Old 07-06-2014, 11:36 AM   #15
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I volunteer at a local no-kill shelter taking pictures of the dogs who are eligible for adoption and writing a small description that goes on their website. As you say, there are only 2 shelters in your area, and you will need to check out their need for volunteers.

A good shelter is well-organized and knows how to use the volunteers to boost the efforts of its staff. They should ask you for a minimum commitment of time, and a promise to serve as a volunteer for a minimum duration (like 6 months).

You should be offered a specific time to volunteer (how much time you give them beyond the minimum commitment is up to you). They should provide training in animal handling, and other training for specific jobs you would be doing. You should know who you report to and who you ask for help when you are working on-site.

If you like animals and people, you will find it a rewarding experience knowing you are helping them in their mission to place good animals in great homes. I have been doing this for 5 years (after retirement), and haven't brought an animal home yet - but I've been close! I just know that the animal will get good care in the shelter and go to a good home in the end.

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Old 07-06-2014, 12:52 PM   #16
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Thanks Rita and BTravlin. Training in animal handling would be good for me, as I would like to get more confident with dogs as well.
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Old 07-06-2014, 09:06 PM   #17
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An alternative to working at a shelter is fostering animals until they are old enough to be adopted.
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Old 07-07-2014, 08:36 AM   #18
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If you have web, photography, or writing skills, often the shelters (and rescues) can use your help in those areas. I don't know how active rescue organizations are in NZ, but that's what I do instead of working with just one shelter. I do transport, a bit of fostering, and my most useful job is acting as treasurer for the border collie rescue group I help. Keeping up with taxes, payments to vets, and depositing adoption checks is an easy way for me to help, even when I don't have bandwidth for fostering.
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:06 AM   #19
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Thanks Rita and BTravlin. Training in animal handling would be good for me, as I would like to get more confident with dogs as well.
The vast majority of the dogs were very easy to deal with as the ones in the shelters have often been neglected or abused. Being the social animals they are, they desperately wanted affection and eagerly looked forward to their time out of the pens with the handlers. That was easily the best part of the job.
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:27 AM   #20
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If the volunteering schedule works out for you, why not? Just heed the warning of those who say you might take something home with you that requires feeding.
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