It is Saturday, and as I make my way around the kennels I see Bideawee volunteers prepping the dogs from the Adoption Center at Bideawee for their morning walk. They are discussing the animals and checking with staff regarding behavior plans that are in place for some of the dogs. A smile comes across my face, because I know that our volunteers understand that they are a part of something incredibly special, something bigger than any single individual.
In the catteries, two kittens walk the overhead boards while others follow volunteers to a sitting area, where they know they’ll soon be showered with attention and affection. Down the hall, there is a volunteer tidying up ensuring that the facility is spotless, someone helping the staff by making copies of adoption papers, and another answering the phone. It’s another day at Bideawee in Westhampton and the volunteers are working, helping make it a great day for our pets, awaiting their forever home.
My role as the Volunteer Manager at Bideawee is varied. One of my key responsibilities is finding good volunteer candidates that can be assets to and seamlessly integrated into the organization and our various programs. I also ensure that our volunteers are well trained and set up to have success when providing support services to our staff. We make certain that all volunteers walk away feeling positive about their contribution to the animals and the organization.
Making sure volunteer interests and opportunities are aligned and accommodating individual schedules is a critical component to our successful volunteer program. Volunteer commitment ranges from once a month to once a day. Some volunteers have logged over 50 hours a month, and one in particular has logged over 100 hours in a month!
Volunteering at Bideawee can be very diverse, ranging from socializing with the dogs or cats, to assisting in the maintenance of the facility. There are many volunteers who come in quietly, sit with our cats and kittens, petting or combing them. One volunteer is always greeted first by a particular cat that comes over for affection and when she is sufficiently gratified, she returns the love by sitting across the back of his neck. Another cat volunteer has developed a connection with one of our most reclusive cats. To the amazement of the staff, this reclusive cat will always come out of her hiding place for some affection form this particular volunteer.
There are dog volunteers that spend hours walking dogs or playing catch in the Dog Park at Bideawee. This simple activity is incredibly cathartic for both the dog and the volunteer. One of Bideawee’s volunteers summarizes what many volunteers feel when she says, “I know that I am making life easier for a dog that has come to Bideawee and it always fills a special place in my heart”.
Volunteering at Bideawee can also mean fostering an animal that requires specialized attention or working in our isolation building with animals under special care protocol. We offer opportunities to work with teen volunteers through Humane Education, support services at our Animal Hospital, represent Bideawee at events in the community and assist with various administrative duties. Some long term volunteers have advanced to assist the Bideawee Matchmakers in placing our pets in Forever Homes.
Pet Therapy and Reading to Dogs are another way to volunteer at Bideawee. Local communities recognize the benefits of the unconditional love and acceptance from these dogs provide the elderly, the homebound, and children who struggle with reading and self esteem. One Pet Therapy volunteer tells me when she and her dog enter the nursing home client’s smile and call the dog’s name. It is awe inspiring that a struggling reader could get so engrossed in reading to a buddy dog that he would stop occasionally to show the dog a picture in the book.
Bideawee volunteers continue to be an integral part of Bideawee’s success and efforts in supporting and cultivating the life-long relationships between pets and the people who love them. If you want to become a member of the Bideawee community please call 866-262-8133 and find out how you can become involved.