Sorority volunteer day at the Shelter

On Friday I got to the shelter about noon and picked up “Farley,” a dog that resembles a miniaturized Rotty.  Our HSOV staff doesn’t list anything on their website or on petfinder.com as a rotty or rotty mix, probably because they think they won’t get adopted, but I’ve found the rotty mixes there to be pretty solid citizens overall.

Farley got loaded into my dog crate in the back of the Tahoe, along with 3 beautiful little cats, and we headed off to We Luv Pets in Lafayette Square. Once again we were welcomed with open arms by the terrific staff and manager there, everyone made a big fuss over Farley, and he had an exciting 90 minutes greeting visitors and schmoozing with the staff. Farley walks beautifully on a leash, so I spent time walking the aisles of the store with him.

I needed to buy dog food before I left, so I loaded Farley back into the crate and returned to We Luv Pets for a bag of Nutro Senior. It took me about 5 minutes and, upon returning to the truck, I was greeted with a familiar smell.

I still don’t know if it was vomit or poop (the shelter’s food is a cheap mix of whatever-gets-donated so it could have been vomit, but the shelter only feeds once a day in the afternoon so it must have been poop) but there was a big pile of it in my crate.

Poor Farley had stepped in it once, so there were footprints on the bedding, but I got his leash on quickly, got him out of the truck, shook off the bedding quickly, then got a poop bag and picked up all the little bits I’d missed when I pulled out the bedding. A benefit of layering bedding, of course, is that you can capture messes in the upper-most layers.

I generally layer old towels and blankets in my truck crates. Poor Farley was, I believe, certain he was going to get punished but I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t give him an opportunity to take care of business before loading him into the crate. I was thinking of him like he was one of my dogs, not a shelter dog, with their constantly unsettled digestive systems.

I returned to the shelter, got Farley happily back in his kennel (he was such a good boy!) and used shelter cleaner and paper towels to finish the clean up in the back of the truck. All in all, I’ve seen much worse, and it was a pretty easy mess to deal with.

Upon returning home all the bedding got laundered, then returned to the truck, so Saturday morning I was good to go with no residual smells in the truck.

Saturday I got to the shelter about 11:30 to prepare for Marietta College’s Chi Omega sorority work day. Our shelter gets a great deal of casual assistance from Marietta College students, and a couple of these girls are in the group working up PR material for the shelter for their writing class as well.

Angie, at the shelter, had a list of things she wanted done. When the 20-30 girls arrived we wrote the jobs on slips of paper (for example, if 3 girls were needed sorting food in the garage we wrote up 3 slips with “food in garage”). Each girl drew a slip of paper and we started dividing them up. Since Angie was more knowledgeable than I as to where supplies were, what needed done, how to do it, etc., it took us 15 minutes or so to get things started.

As my big 2009 donation, I stopped on my way to the shelter at Lowes and picked up a 5-gallon bucket of white primer (good for drywall as well as masonry) and 5 cheap brushes. While Angie settled 20 girls into cleaning and sorting tasks I got 4-5 girls painting the back hallway of the shelter with white primer.

We dug up a few little step ladders, so we were able to do upper trim AND the metal strips holding up the dropped ceiling. The ceiling panels themselves are going to be replaced, but we put a coat of primer on the grungy metal framework which holds the panels in place. These strips will, no doubt need another coat of primer or (better yet) a spray-coat of white Rustoleum.

By 12:30 the shelter was BUZZING with college girls. They were scrubbing the walls of the lobby, laundering bedding, folding and sorting towels, climbing all over pallets and shelves sorting food, organizing the donated plush toys and rawhides, unfolding and folding newspapers, scrubbing the outside sidewalks with disinfectent, cleaning the doormats, picking up poop and trash, scrubbing and hosing out all the transport crates, stacking the transport crates in the storage room, cutting donated bedspreads in half and folding for bedding, scrubbing the ceiling vents, and (of course) painting the back hallway.

When they finished the shelter just FELT better. It looked brighter, smelled better, like a breath of fresh air had blown through. The shelter staff were, at first, a bit shell-shocked. The guys who spend their days cleaning up after dogs and cats were shuffling around, not knowing what to do or how to get involved, but I believe they appreciated having everything organized and straightened at the end of the event.

As volunteer coordinator, I think I’m going to try to find someone who would like to go to the shelter every week or so to put the garage in order. The job involves stacking dog food and cat food, sorting kitty litter, folding and stacking pee pads and newspaper, etc.  Not exciting work, mind you, but I’ve got a couple of people who want to volunteer but can’t bear seeing all the animals in cages and kennel runs.

This would be perfect work for an organized, soft-hearted volunteer. I’ll make that my job for this week (among other things, of course <g>).

As for the guys who work at the shelter — they’ve got a dirty, low-paying job and (like most guys, sorry if I’m generalizing) they’re not big on organizing and beautifying. Other than one older fellow who took charge of the transport cages and back walkway (providing supplies and leadership to 3-4 girls), the guys shuffled around doing animal care and generally avoiding prying eyes. One middle-aged woman could outwork 2 of these fellows.

Hopefully they’re not interested enough to read a blog about HSOV and be offended. In my years at Fenton Art Glass I saw this phenomenon quite a bit. I believe this lack-of-motivation is a leadership problem so perhaps our new shelter manager (Sue Goff) will change the attitude of the shelter workers.

After the girls started trickling out I started showing a new volunteer, Marlene, some of our SMART techniques. We talked about dog training in general, rewarding the behaviors you wish to encourage and ignoring the behaviors you wish to extinquish.

I got to meet with a young mother and her small daughter who were looking for a new dog. “I promised my daughter a dog as a birthday present and as a potty-training present.” We walked through the big-dog room and talked a little about dear “Farley.” We put Farley on a leash so Mom and daughter could take him for a walk. He got to show off his marvelous leash manners, greeted the little girl calmly, and generally was a gentleman.

The young woman said, “my parents had Rottweilers, and I always loved them, so he might be just perfect!” We returned Farley to his kennel and the woman’s husband will be brought back next week to see him. Such a nice boy, I hope he finds a good family with kids.

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