When I volunteered at our local shelter and ran a ‘working with the dogs’ orientation for new volunteers, one of the suggestions I made was to give dogs a break. When most people volunteer at a shelter they usually think in terms of walking or playing with the animals. Both are wonderful things to do, but along with exercise and stimulation, animals living in shelters often need the chance for some down time. A dog spending all day alone in a kennel may look like it’s relaxing but often they are experiencing high levels of stress.
Instead of going out for a walk, why not find a quiet room where you can sit with a dog or cat. Give the animal time to settle into the space, this may take a few minutes while they sort out what’s going on. Get comfortable and invite the animal onto your lap or sit on the floor while gently and calmly stroking them and speaking quietly to them. Look for indications they are decompressing. Some will sigh, lie down, even close their eyes. Gentle massage or TTouch can be soothing as well.
The opportunity to have a break from a cage or kennel run, doing what we hope our shelter animals will end up doing, spending quality time with a human, is a gift we can afford to give them.
This post was written for Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society. Click here to donate!