An AAPS volunteer Michelle L., shares her experience…

I have always loved animals and felt very passionate about their welfare. A few times over my life I have considered volunteering at a Shelter but I always dismissed it as something that I could never do because it would be to sad and depressing. Now that I have actually volunteered, I realise what a mistake I made assuming this would be my reaction.I don’t know what made this time different from any other, I guess the older I become the more passionate and concerned I grow about such issues. After my 15yo Blue Heeler (who was a Pound rescue) passed away March 2006 I became involved in a Dog Forum on the Internet and realised what was going on in the world of Pound animals and rescue around Australia. I knew I had so much to give because loving and caring for animals is something that comes naturally to me. I had a few hours to spare each week and the timing just seemed right so I attended a Volunteer Information Day and started to volunteer the following week. I really wasn’t sure how I would manage and if I could do this but at the Information Day one of the ladies said to just come along for a few times and see how we feel so that’s what I did.

I am pleased to say my first visit I was pleasantly surprised with my reaction. I wasn’t sad or upset, quite the opposite, I actually had fun doing something I loved to do so much … talk, play, interact and just enjoy the company of animals. They are so happy to see you and all it takes is a dog wagging his tail or giving you a lick or a cat purring when you pat them and suddenly this became an extremely rewarding experience, not the sad upsetting one I imagined all these years! I realised I could never change the big picture, these animals are homeless and what happens is beyond my control but I can immediately have an impact on the quality of their life by spending a bit of time with them whether it be for a pat, belly rub, throwing ball or going on a walk.

Each time I go and each time I meet a new animal I am completely amazed by these creatures and how, given their circumstances, they are living in the moment and still managing to wag their tails. It feels so incredibly warm and special to give these animals some one on one time and just be their friend. I am constantly surprised how their real personality blossoms the moment you take them away from their enclosure and out for a walk.

As the weeks go by I have met some beautiful animals and I always keep an eye on the web site. A hidden reward I never anticipated is reading the words “I have a new home” written next to a dog you were walking the week prior. If I get tears, it is normally tears of happiness hearing my friends have moved to their forever homes.

There is no denying sometimes you see and hear some sad things and I had a little dog recently that broke my heart because he looked so incredibly sad and emotionally empty. That did effect me because I started to think about this little lost soul but the sadness turned to happiness the following day when I checked the web site and saw the magical announcement “I have a new home” written next to this sad boy.

The sad side of a Shelter for me is far outweighed by the happy, rewarding experiences and knowing I can and have made a difference to the unfortunate animals who find themselves homeless is all it takes to keep me going back.

Michelle L.