Volunteers are the backbone of any animal shelter. They are counted on to walk dogs in all types of weather, clean up messes, and of course the hardest part of all, socializing puppies through play and cuddling. There are some truly awesome volunteers who deserve a medal for their dedication and determination. Then there are some who could use a few lessons on proper volunteer etiquette. This list is for anyone who strives to stand out as an extraordinary volunteer; compiled by a seasoned shelter employee who has worked alongside the best volunteers ever.
Listen and Do
Excitement and anticipation looms as a new volunteer begins their first shift at a new facility. Whether they are a seasoned volunteer with a different shelter or a seasoned dog owner, it is best to remember that most shelter staff are protective of their charges and know what’s best for them. After all they spend more time with the dogs than the volunteers do. Always listen to the advice staff has to offer, never presume to know more than the employee on the floor. If the volunteer feels there is an issue with care or conduct concerning an employee, then it should be taken up with the shelter manager in a private meeting, not discussed on the floor in a group setting.
More often than not volunteers come by, walk the dogs, and go on their merry way; the staff may have a full double load for that shift, an extra set of hands would mean the world to them. An exceptional volunteer would stay behind to see what else needs to be done. Picking up poo outside or washing and folding a couple loads of laundry is not as fun as playing with the dogs, but the staff member on duty would certainly appreciate the extra effort.
Keep the Date
Staff relies on dependable, punctual volunteers. In the case of a no show, a wrench gets thrown into the works. When signing up for a particular day and time show up, on time, ready to work. Life does occasionally interrupt set plans, it’s a given. If something comes up, a quick phone call to the shelter to let staff know is always appreciated.
Read the Rules
Rules are set in place for the safety of the volunteers, staff and of course the dogs. When volunteering at a shelter; read the rules and adhere to them. If a staff member asks a volunteer to modify their conduct or change clothes to comply with shelter policy, there is often a good reason for doing so.
Love the Work
One of the keys to being a great volunteer is to love the work involved. Being a shelter volunteer is more than walking a dog once a week; it is being part of that dog’s social development and emotional well being. Spending time with a shelter dog, giving it attention, praise and love brings that dog one step closer to finding their “fur-ever” home. Volunteers matter!
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