Recently I began volunteering at Wayside Waifs, a no-kill shelter for cats, dogs and random small mammals (at the moment that random animal is a black rabbit named Andy). As a dog-freak — that’s two steps up from a dog-lover — I’ve wanted to volunteer with dogs for a while but, due to Wayside Waifs policy, was unable to until I turned sixteen. Now that I’ve turned sixteen I’ve been spending as much time as I can at Wayside.
The reason I volunteer at Wayside Waifs is simple: puppies and cleanliness. Though the latter seems odd cleanliness is very important in dog shelters. Have you ever walked into a pet store or pound and been assaulted by the smell of ammonia? That doesn’t happen at Wayside. The environment is warm, friendly and the dogs listen to classical music on the radio all day.
The first few hours I volunteered were all smiles, wagging tails and mastiff puppies, but on Sunday I saw yet another side of Wayside Waifs.
This weekend I drove the thirty minute drive out to the center to walk and play with the dogs. As I walked up and down the isles trying to choose which dog to get out, a miniature dachshund in a sweater caught my eye.
Her name is Charity and, like all dogs at Wayside, she has a story and her story is on the front of her kennel for all that walk by to read. Charity is a recent intake from the Agricultural Center of Missouri. A recent puppy mill bust landed Charity, along with about fifty other dogs, at Wayside Waifs.
I read her file and got into her kennel with her. She scampered over to the opposite side of the pen and refused to come sit with me. I waited and, after about 10 minutes, Charity began slinking over to me, shaking the entire time. I lifted her into my lap and tried to stop her from shaking.
Thirty minutes later another volunteer came to get Charity for a checkup. I left to walk another dog and afterwards, while putting back one puppy, I saw Charity without her sweater. Her teats were engorged and hung almost to the floor. At three years old, Charity has been forced to have litter after litter, leaving her physically and emotionally damaged.
Charity may not be adopted for a long time because of that. The constant reminder of the pain she endured is, unfortunately, off-putting to a potential adopter. Because Wayside wants to send every dog home with the right person, they made Charity a sweater, in hopes that hiding the damage will help her be adopted.
Even though I know Charity is happier now I couldn’t help but still feel terrible about what I had seen. My drive home was in complete silence, a frown on my face as I scanned the forest-hidden road.
That’s when I realized how hard it is to be a volunteer. Giving up my time and playing with puppies doesn’t sound difficult, but seeing dogs that have been tortured and exposed to unimaginable horrors, it does something to you. It’s hard just to look at certain dogs, the ones that are missing an eye or the ones that cower in the corner. Every dog has a story and it isn’t always a nice one.
Even though I’ve only volunteered a couple days now, I feel completely different. It isn’t just the joy of hugging a dog or smelling puppy breath that has changed me but the stories I’ve heard and the sadness I’ve seen in a dog’s eyes.
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend checking out Wayside Waifs. They adopt out over 6,000 dogs and cats a year and have so many amazing animals. For more information check out http://www.waysidewaifs.org/site/PageServer
Photo Courtesy of Wayside Waifs website.