Finding a Place to Volunteer, and One Million Dog Photos

I had a running post for you today (err, there’s one half-finished that I planned on rushing through this morning) but recent exciting news says put it on the shelf for a rainy day and talk about something maybe a little less “on topic” but even more important to me than running.

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good volunteer organization to join. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there are “bad” organizations, but there are some that are a little rough around the edges, a small passion project desperate for traction, offering services so in demand they can’t keep up with the manpower, and so forth that could really benefit from an extra pair of hands moreso than others who get floods of help.

I began my search with the local animal shelters. If you didn’t know, I am a HUGE softie for four-legged furballs. Sad puppy eyes, those damn ASPCA commercials, and stories of pets overcoming great odds to stay by their human’s side (the dog lost on vacation that traveled across the country to get home, the dog laying on its owner’s grave, etc) melt my cold, emotionless heart in an instant. It’s like when my “feelings part” was being built they overflowed it with animal stuff and forgot to leave room for human stuff.

We have two rescue dogs at home – Frankie and Chico, who make casual appearances on the blog here and there – and I’ve always been an advocate for adopting. Not every person or every person’s current situation is a good fit for a pet, but when that situation does come up I beg and plead they’ll consider a discarded pet from a shelter instead of a shop or breeder. There are so many out there on “death row” desperate for loving homes! Most of which unfortunately found themselves there because of their owner’s circumstances (health, finances, relocation, finding out they’re “not a dog person”) and not any fault of their own. And it breaks my heart.

After I graduated from college I moved back in with my parents, who had a dog at the time. Brian was still away at grad school for another semester and I wanted someone to take care of and be my buddy. I was working regular hours (no more night + weekend waitressing) and had oodles of spare time, along with people around me willing to help out. So I searched until I landed on a scrawny little terrier mix that had been at a nearby shelter for a while. I guess a scraggly adult dog amongst litters of fuzzy puppies and discarded purebreds just didn’t stand much of a chance.

So I went and got him.

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Chico’s first day home in Corntown, chillin with my mom’s dog Jamie

Eventually Brian and I moved to Cleveland, and Chico learned to hang out without his buddies from “Grandma’s” house. Which obviously meant whenever we were around, so was he…

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When we moved to California a few months later (May), Chico made the trip via Delta Pet First cargo carriers, a service offered in a pressurized cargo plane (not below passengers with suitcases) where they’re walked and fed/watered during their layover. I’m not sure how much of that actually happened, and I stressed all damn day over it, but thankfully he made it to us on the opposite coast in one piece, just a little shaken and bitter.

* If you need to transport a pet and can’t drive them or fly them in a bag, I’d suggest looking into this and other similar pet-specific services.

A few months after that (August) I went back to Ohio for an unplanned trip to support and grieve the loss of my best friend’s mother. While I was home my parents found a stray dog running around their property, without a collar and covered in matted fur, feces, and bugs.

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the picture I sent to B including “isn’t he cute” to which he replied “yes…” and not “…but we can’t keep him” so I took that as “why don’t you bring him home with you?”

We cleaned him up and put out bulletins with the police, vet, and local shelter to see if someone had lost their pet, but I secretly hoped no one would claim him. He obviously wasn’t being taken care of, and I thought he’d really like it in California.

When no one claimed him a day before my scheduled departure, my mom called her vet to get him in for neutering, shots, and a check up. He got clearance to fly, and the next day I put his still-slightly-drugged shaved ass into a bag and flew the friendly skies with him staring at me from under the seat in front of me the entire time.

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And we all lived happily ever after.

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photo 3

We can’t adopt any more dogs (fresh out of space in this 900 sq ft apartment) and we’ve always wanted big dogs (but couldn’t, because, apartment life) so when I found German Shepherd Rescue Orange County and saw the help they needed, I jumped on it. On top of regular caretakers and playmates, they were seeking a volunteer with writing and marketing experience to help support the organization behind the scenes. I set out looking for some new walking buddies and a use for my rusty old ball-throwin’ arm, and happened upon a very appreciative and deserving group that can use my professional skill set as well.


That, my friends, is what they call a win-win. Or kismet. Serendipity. Something.

I thought about holding off on writing this until I actually got my hands dirty and spent some time with the group, but couldn’t contain my excitement. If you’re in SoCal and are considering a dog, I urge you to check out, or any of the other local shelters listed here. And if you’re not around here, do a quick google search of “animal shelters/rescues” in your area. So many deserving animals looking for the right home to love!

Ok I’m all out of sap. Back to running and swear words tomorrow.

Sarah OUaL


23 thoughts on “Finding a Place to Volunteer, and One Million Dog Photos

  1. Totally love this. I am a total believer in rescue animals – we got my cat from a shelter and he is without doubt the best thing that ever happened to me (after parents/husband/child etc). So many animals out there need a new home! Just invest in some kleenex because if I were you I’d cry every time I went there. I did volunteer at a shelter when I was 10…and we came home with two cats :)


  2. I think I had my overfill of animal sappiness too. Your dogs are adorable! We have two rescue cats, who are bonkers. We would love a dog but work and living situation just doesn’t allow us. If we get the chance in the future our first port of call is going to be our local shelter.


  3. As a doggy-mama to 4 mutts of my own (plus 1 foster dog), I love this post!! I love that you rescued your munchkins and that you sought out an opportunity to give back to dogs who, as you put it, are in their situation through no fault of their own. I wish you well with your new volunteer position.


  4. Love this! I have two shelter dogs (and one of them is part German Shepherd, we think) and they are absolutely the best. While I loved the purebred dog my parents had when I was growing up, I never intend to go that direction. Of course my dogs will live forever so I don’t have to think about it again ever, right? Enjoy the volunteer opportunity and sounds like a good thing that you don’t have room for another, it would be very hard for me to take that position and not bring one home with me!


  5. those damn aspca commercials get me every time, I SWEAR. I cried during the last one I saw…
    I think this is such a great organization! When we were seriously considering getting a second dog, the Irvine Animal Shelter is the first place we considered. But in the end, we decided one medium sized dog was enough for us.


  6. Love this. You and I are the same when it comes to animals. My heart is just ripped out when I hear a sad story and I wish I could save all the pets. I just tweeted at you, but your Frankie looks JUST like my Moose, and I have yet to see another dog that looks like her. She was the only one in the group of puppies at the rescue that looked anything like her – so no idea if she had liter mates or what…


  7. The ASPCA commercials kill me, too. We have two Basset Hounds, and whenever those commercials come on, I cover their eyes with their ears. If we had any extra space, we’d probably be bringing another one home! Kudos to you for volunteering at a shelter.


  8. I have zero self control when it come to dogs so I could never work anywhere where I would have the opportunity to bring them home. Growing up all of my dogs were from a shelter or were living with someone who couldn’t take care of them anymore so my family took them in.
    My Mom was walking by a pet store one day and they were taking 3 puppies to get euthanized because they couldn’t get them a home. She couldn’t save all 3 but she was able to save one and brought it home. Clearly the crazy puppy love runs in my family.
    Bodhi however was my first dog from a breeder. We really wanted a doxie and after looking for 6 months at shelters and rescues, we couldn’t find one anywhere. He is 100% our baby and I can’t imagine not having him in our lives.


  9. I love dogs as well. We have a rescue dog and I loved seeing the transformation in him. He went from a scrawny and scared dog to a “I own and run this home” dog. Yes, I followed the Dog Whisperer to heal my previously abused and neglected dog and now have created a monster…hahaha. But I am so happy he is happy!!!


  10. I volunteered at a local animal shelter when I was in high school. Since then I’ve adopted one cat and one kitten from the organization. They even put on a local 5k each year to raise awareness and open adoptions for their dog department. I always push someone to rescue rather than buy from the breeder, the animals truly appreciate it.


  11. So cute! My fiancé and I have been considering a dog for a while. I think its so neat that you’re able to help out in such a unique way!


  12. Great story -thanks for sharing. I recently learned about rescuing endangered animals in SE Asia. They have the cutest small bears which locals thought it was cool to keep in cages as pets and status symbols. They also liked to whack off a paw to make soup on really special occasions. It wasn’t until 2001 that the Prime Minister of Cambodia finally asked businessmen to stop eating bear paws after their golf tournaments.
    So sad.
    But there are NGOs like Free The Bears that are doing for these little guys what you’ve done for Chico and the new black cutey. For some inspiring stories about folks making a difference as volunteers see
    Here’s to more big hearted folks like you – you make our world soooo much better! You’re my hero


  13. LOVE this. I didn’t grow up with rescues (pure bred labs are very big in the south) and can’t imagine my life without Olive now. Rescuing was eye opening and now that is all I will ever do.


  14. All my pets (two cats and one dog in a 700 sq ft apt) are rescues and I feel so lucky to have all of them. Even the cats, who honestly don’t seem to like us much, unless there is no food in their bowl. You totally hit on why animal stories get to me, too, just like abused children stories — they’re totally helpless and haven’t done anything but are being put through shit. What a cool organization to volunteer with.


  15. Oh man. I’m so glad you linked to this from your other post cause I totally missed it. I read people’s rescue stories the way some ladies my age read people’s birth stories. (And by that I mean with a fervor and then I usually cry at the end because i’m so happy.) I don’t have anything really worthwhile to say but I’m glad your pups found you and thanks for using your small corner of the internet to promote adopting!


  16. I rescued my kids and bought my dogs from breeders–am I messed up or what? My husband took my kids to an event at the local shelter the other day and pronounced, “if we were to get a 2nd dog, it would be from there.” Since I am moving soon from a home office to a real office, I hope I can talk him in to one to keep our dog Rosemary company… But it will have to be a puppy. I am done adopting toddlers as they are hard to housetrain :-)



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