How volunteering can change an organization.
Every year Pets Alive hosts an annual "Volunteer Appreciation Day". It is the one day of the year that we take time out of our very busy days to stop and truly recognize and thank the volunteers that make what we do possible.
So many people view Pets Alive as a huge organization, but the truth is that we have only about a dozen staff members. The rest of the force that is Pets Alive - is made up of volunteers.
Volunteers that take time from their own lives, after working five or sometimes six days a week, and still come down to Pets Alive on that one day off to see where they can help. How many people really work all week and then the little free time they have, give it up to help those in need? To help an animal reach a home or to help improve their life?
At Pets Alive our volunteers chip in and help with everything. And every day we walk past all of these people and we might nod, or smile, or utter a word of greeting...and we walk around, we often wonder if they really know. Do they really know how much we admire them?
We have seen our volunteers fight hours and hours of rush hour traffic to retrieve dogs at the airport and bring them to us.
We have seen volunteers clean the most disgusting bodily fluids and solids, while smiling and chatting with other volunteers at the same time.
We have seen volunteers sleep at Pets Alive, when a dog needed 24 hour assistance.
We have seen volunteers take home old, senior, or dying dogs - to make sure they had a home and so they would die with love and respect.
We have seen volunteers come in from home in the middle of the night when we had an emergency and put out a call.
We have seen volunteers risk getting bitten, to take the chance to befriend a dog with aggression issues.
We have seen volunteers take dogs home overnight or for the weekend because the dog was getting stressed, or tense, or upset, or scared or (fill in any word here), in the kennel.
We have had volunteers text me late at night to ask me how a dog or a cat did that day because they knew he had surgery and they were worried.
We have seen volunteers give us money to help an animal...money that I know they didn't have to
We have seen volunteers put aside the desire to lay in their hammock, and instead come to Pets Alive at 5 am to help load and drive animals hours to an offsite in the hopes of seeing them go home.
We have seen volunteers come to the aid of a crippled, injured, dog. One that was stubbornly unwilling to give up on his life - and nurse that dog back to health and his own family.
We have seen volunteers cradle the head of a dog or a cat in their arms or in their lap, or stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we had to let one go...and then stay and cry along with us as we each walked over to give them that last hug or that last pat.
We have seen volunteers work their job for 8 or 9 hours, commute an hour or two each way, and then STILL stop by Pets Alive to help when we appealed for assistance.
We have seen volunteers sit in a urine soaked run with a dog that just arrived, terrified and shaking like a leaf, and after they urinated all over themselves...I have seen volunteers go in and pull that dog into their lap and sit with them and whisper to them and stroke them.
We have seen volunteers help unload hundreds of dogs from a transport, late at night, in the cold and in the dark, and then still fire up hoses and dip their hands in freezing water to wash crates and water bowls.
We have seen volunteers reach out to other volunteers in their time of need and be there for them as well.
We have seen volunteers risk their lives and drive our Magic Bus. :)
Most of all we have seen volunteers cry at our loses, laugh and rejoice at our victories, stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the trenches and fight for what is right.
We have seen volunteers quietly cry in their cars, as their favorite dog was adopted - knowing it breaks their heart, but hiding their own loss from that family, only to come out with a huge smile and congratulations and warm pats and happiness as they watch their favorite dog drive up the driveway to his new home. Only a volunteer really understands both that mixture of joy and grief.
We have seen volunteers take Pets Alive from a small, back woods organization, to one that is respected, praised and copied nationwide.
And we have seen volunteers with tears streaming down their faces at the loss of one small little life that we couldn't save.
And we have seen volunteers light up with joy as another life takes a breath, or an emaciated animal eats a morsel of food. To our volunteers we say this to you.
- We have seen volunteers come to Pets Alive, and pick up a dog, and drive that dog four hours EACH way to bring them to their forever home.
You humble us. I look at you and see the heart that all of you have. The giving that falls freely from your hands and your souls. And all we can do is humbly thank you.
Please know that we could never make it without you.
Interested in volunteering? Visit our website at petsalivewest.org to learn about becoming a volunteer. Help save a life!
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