Sharing is Caring
Our parent company is big on community involvement. There is a whole Season of Sharing campaign, supporting multiple causes with donations of cash and goods. While it is always nice to give to a good cause, sometimes we forget that giving our time is another viable option that is just as important to a lot of charities. In fact, we are encouraged to log our volunteer hours and, on the whole, Sandy Spring Bank employees have logged almost 5,000 hours in 2021 alone. Pre-pandemic, the number of volunteer hours was more than 12,000, collectively. That’s a good amount of time spent helping out in the community.
Now that my kids are living (somewhat) independently, I find myself looking for ways to remain relevant. One of the ways I came up with was volunteering at a local animal rescue, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation (@lostdogandcatrescue), walking dogs who are currently staying in the kennel while waiting to be adopted. I like to watch Pit Bulls and Parolees, so I was familiar with the set up and thought it was something I could do that would allow me to hang out with dogs, my favorite pastime.
Perhaps I should back up here and provide some context. I love animals, and dogs in particular. We have two dogs, an older golden doodle who we took in when my father-in-law died (we call her our inheritance). And a pit/lab/shepherd mix who is my introduction to the world of reactive dogs. If you have one, you know what I’m talking about. Never have I spent so much time and money on trying to deal with a pet’s mental health issues.
I thought my particular experience here might be useful to the task at hand at the kennel. And it has been. I try to get to the kennel at least once a week and spend an hour or more walking different dogs. We walk in the parking lot behind a strip mall (not the most inspiring route) and, at some point, I try to get a good photo of them so that I can post it on the volunteer Facebook page to get the dogs more exposure. You can also take a dog out on a Dogventure, basically an extended leave, or field trip, from the kennel. And they have occasional pack walks, with multiple volunteers taking dogs on a group hike. Extra hands are appreciated at the adoption events, handling a dog and talking up his or her finer points to potential adopters. I’d like to try it all at some point.
While I’ve loved most of the dogs I’ve walked, I have a preference for the older dogs, who I just want to take home with me. That’s my next project – figuring out whether I can foster an older dog. Considering my dog’s reactiveness, it’s probably a long shot.
What I’ve learned from my brief experience volunteering at the rescue kennel is that any time you spend helping out is appreciated. It might not seem like a lot to you, but you are allowing full time staff an opportunity to get other things done or take a break, and it gets the dogs out into fresh air and away from all of the noise and commotion. And while donations of money and goods are always welcome, sharing the gift of your time is something precious. As you consider your own charitable intent in the New Year, think about whether you have time to spare that might be used to help out in your community. It may not give you a tax deduction, but it does have its own benefits to your well-being.
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