Volunteer to Play with a Puppy

Kevin Abke, Cactus Writer

Students across the country are filling out scholarship applications to meet the fall deadlines.  One of the major categories on the applications is about volunteering and community involvement.  Most of us have participated in food banks or landscaping for charities.  The benefits of this labor are obvious, but rarely do the volunteers continue to work in those places after they accumulated the needed hours for the scholarship application.

Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) located in Phoenix next to the airport and the Chandler Mall Pet Match are always looking for volunteers to help socialize dogs and cats.  This is a fantastic chance to be able to walk a dog or play with a cat for those whose schedules are too busy to own a pet.

Volunteers need to be at least 18 years of age for insurance reasons.  AAWL asks for a minimal 8 hours a month commitment, which is very easy to fulfill.  Helping to find a home for a dog as an adoption counselor is a very rewarding opportunity for both the dog and the volunteer.

The application is available on the website.  From there, you attend an orientation session held typically the last Wednesday night or Saturday morning of the month.  They give you a slide show that helps you understand how things work there.  Then you set up a 2-hour “buddy day” with a mentor and that’s it!  You will be off and playing with dogs and cats!

I have been a volunteer at this shelter for almost two years.  As an adoption counselor, I have had the privilege of matching families with a dog on many occasions.  The feeling of being directly involved in helping a life find a home is not only an honor but a priceless memory.

On several occasions, I have been a team leader for “Dog Days of Summer,” the Arizona Diamondbacks PetSmart charity event held in downtown Phoenix.  I could attend many baseball games for free and got free hot dogs and soda.  We would take 5-6 dogs of all ages to the park in hopes that they would be adopted on the spot, and many were.

On those long hot days in the summer, I would lay down in the air conditioned “cattery” and attempt a nap while 10-15 kittens would play on me, chewing my name badge, untying my shoes and wrestling with each other while climbing my pant legs.

My favorite task is training new volunteers.  As an individual, I have a limited amount of time to devote to the cause.  When I train each new volunteer, my efforts are multiplied.  I have trained hundreds of new volunteers.  That means 100 times more dogs and cats that get attention and help than I can deliver by myself.  I have watched some of my buddies become mentors and adoption counselors themselves, adding to the magnification of effort given to the shelter.

AAWL in the Phoenix area is over 45 years old and is the oldest “No-Kill” shelter in Arizona.  The shelter was founded by Amanda Blake known for playing Miss Kitty of the hit television show “Gunsmoke.”

AAWL has its goal of finding a FURR-ever home for 4000 dogs and cats before 2017 ends.  They are currently on track to accomplishing this task.  They could use your help.  If you are looking for volunteer work that allows you to see and feel the difference you are making and have fun while doing it, this could be a wonderful opportunity for you.

You can learn more by visiting their website at AAWL.ORG.