You love animals. You want to contribute to society. You want to make a mark bigger than yourself. Check, check, check! Awesome! Start volunteering at your local pet shelter instead of wasting time being a potato couch. Here are a few tips extracted from my personal experience to help you get started with volunteering at a pet shelter.
1. Acceptable attire
There are a few general dos and don'ts when it comes to attire at a pet shelter. When in doubt, go with sport shoes, and comfortable t-shirt and jeans that you don't mind ruining. Do not wear slippers and dress up as a fashionista. I'd say rubber boots would be pushing it a lil', because unless you're in charge of cleaning the kennels (normally a janitor will take care of this), sport shoes will work just well enough. When I first joined as a volunteer at my local SPCA, I thought I needed rubber boots because I signed up for kennel cleaning as well (I had to fill out a compulsory form before volunteering), but turns out I didn't need to clean the kennels because they have a janitor who uses professional equipments for cleaning.
2. Don't be scared of getting shit on your hands and pee on your legs
It's like magic how someone like me who used to be so disgusted by poop have no problem with touching poop at SPCA. Of course I'm not implying that you should purposely touch shit, but things like that happen when you volunteer enough times. Depending on how you decide to contribute to the pet shelter, you might need to feed dogs in shit-bombed kennels, or bring them out for walks. I don't see people bringing cats out for walks here. Once I took a puppy out for a walk; she sat on her own pee, and proceeded to sit on my feet. So that's that. Another time I accidentally squashed some green shit when I was putting food into the kennels. No big deal; just wash your hands. If the dog doesn't care and it bathes only once a week, then you shouldn't care as well because you've got an refreshing shower waiting for you at home.
3. Offer more
Don't just settle with being the mediocre volunteer whom the staff doesn't even recognize or know. Offer more than just regular volunteering services. If you have a special skill up your sleeve, offer it, be it graphic design, photography, baking, or even writing! I offered to design pamphlets, flyers, posters, small graphic design stuff for the SPCA I go to, and eventually, they started to entrust me with bigger projects, including drawing a mural for them! Obviously I don't get paid to do these things because it's called community service for a reason, but if you gain their trust, they will be willing to sponsor any materials you might need (as long as it's under a reasonable budget)!
4. Make friends
If you're anti-social like how I used to be, volunteering at a pet shelter is a great opportunity to socialize. One thing to note is to know all the names of the staff and greet them every time you volunteer. Another important thing to remember is all the names of the people you've made friends with. It sucks to forget someone's name and having to ask again. Just shows how much you didn't listen, even if you genuinely tried to. Volunteering at a pet shelter is like joining a club. You meet like-minded people who would rather spend time tending to shelter animals than watch TV all day. I have a blogpost on how you can get over your anti-social habit.
Volunteering at a pet shelter has changed me in many ways. I still remember the first time I took a dog out for a walk, and I was shocked that a dog that looked shy and angelic behind the grills was in actuality so hyperactive and uncontrollable. I went back home that day and for the first time ever felt like my dog, Charlie, wasn't as naughty as I thought him to be. At least he knows to sit and wait. Jumping over a hoop without food as bait is a little pushing it, because my dog hates to do tricks unless there's food. Anyway, back to the topic ... It got easier for me to handle the shelter dogs the more I volunteered, because I got used to their behaviors, and at one point felt so, so sad to see them behind bars, jumping excitedly at whoever comes by. People might see them as cute dogs, but I know they're just doing what they can to find a home. Have a heart; adopt, don't buy!
You're awesome for considering to help out at the pet shelter! If you have any questions, leave a comment below. I would also love to know about your own experience at a pet shelter! Why did you decide to become a volunteer? How has it changed you? :)