Monday, April 13, 2015

Volunteer of the Month: Carol – a dog’s best friend

After a hiatus, we’re back with the Volunteer of the Month series. In this series we celebrate our volunteers, and show appreciation for how much their work means for Berkeley Humane and the animals we rescue. Many of the hours worked at Berkeley Humane, are worked by volunteers and it is no exaggeration that without them, we could not be the organization we want to be.

Monday morning, 7 AM. Carol arrives for her usual shift of volunteer work at Berkeley Humane’s adoption center. In the next two hours she will spend time cleaning the kennels of those dogs unable to stay with a foster family throughout the week, for instance when they need medical care or are under evaluation. Caring for them is the main job of Berkeley Humane’s Canine Volunteers. This means cleaning kennels, but also training and socializing the dogs, assisting with adoptions, or just giving a dog some loving company.

If Carol has time left after cleaning, she will also take the dogs for a walk through the neighborhood. She might just let them sniff their fill of trees and street lights, but sometimes she also walks them past her house. If so, her grandkids, who she often cares for when their parents are at work, are happy to lavish the pooch in question with pets and hugs. This allows Carol to socialize the dog to interactions with children, while also teaching the kids how to politely and calmly approach dogs. Canine Volunteers receive training on how to handle the animals, and Carol loves how she continues to learn and always find opportunities to learn more about dogs and their behavior.

Carol has been with Berkeley Humane for about 18 months. She picked up her first shift after Jack, her doggy friend and fellow East Coast transplant, passed away. Helping animals by giving them clean kennels and a much-needed walk, became a wonderful way to honor the companionship she got from him. Carol’s volunteer work also led her to adopt a new companion: Pearl, a sweet white terrier mix, who Carol encountered during her work.

Carol and Pearl at Pearl's birthday party - complete with dog friendly peanut butter cake

When asked about the nature of the work, Carol shares that it helps to not to be squeamish. Cleaning kennels does involve dog poop, after all. Still, the gratitude of the dogs more than makes up for the less-than-rosy-smelling parts of the job. She also says that while cleaning takes up the most time in her shift because she is the first one to come in, she considers the walking of the dogs to be at least as important. For dogs who make do without a foster family, a walk is often a very welcome break from the kennel and an opportunity to get some extra attention.

One of the hardest parts of Carol’s job is seeing loving, sweet dogs who take a while to get adopted. She shows up on Monday morning hoping that the weekend’s adoption hours have emptied out the kennels, but sometimes finding the right family is not a one-week deal. Doing what she can to make their kennels comfortable and cozy helps, but in the end, she feels, every dog deserves a loving family. Life in a kennel, no matter how clean and regardless of the amount of walks, is not as good as a comfortable basket in a living room and a place in the heart of a family.

Our Canine Volunteers are highly treasured. Their work makes a world of difference, for the workload of Berkeley Humane’s staff, but especially for the quality of life of the dogs awaiting their adoption. As long as we cannot offer foster families to all our dogs – something we do aim for – it is the Canine Volunteer on who these dogs rely for much of their stimulation and fun.  

Do you want to become a Canine Volunteer? You will be trained in dog handling techniques and we offer shifts between 7AM and 7 PM on every day of the week. For more information, and for an application, please visit our website

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