This weekend, I volunteered at a pet adoption event hosted by Best Friends Animal Society. Rescue groups from around the tri-state area, and as far away as Georgia, brought their furry adoptables to the two-day event. More than 700 cats and dogs were looking for their forever homes.
Each rescue group had its own volunteers or staffers on hand, so the Best Friends volunteers, like me, were there to lend extra hands. I have no idea what in the world made me sign up for the first shift. When I left my apartment at 5:00 am, it looked like this.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that dark, but it might as well have been. The auditorium of the Westchester County Center was already set up with tall cages for the dogs. The cats were happy to be in a separate room, away from all the barking.
Those rescue groups who’d traveled long distances had their cats and dogs in place on Friday. When we arrived, one of our first tasks was to walk the dogs and make sure everyone had clean water. The individual rescue groups were responsible to feed them. Along the perimeter of the auditorium each rescue group had a table to meet adopters and hand out information about their organization.
After we walked them we were supposed to tie bandanas around their necks to indicate who’d been walked. This was a no-go for some of the dogs. One wire-haired daschund tried to pull it off and ended up getting the knot caught between his teeth. He was pulling, pulling to get it dislodged. When I took it off there was a little blood, but he was no worse for the wear.
One little pup, I think he might have been a Jack Russell mix, maybe six months or so, was terribly scared. When I tried to take him out of the kennel he shook and flattened out on the ground. The whole experience must have been pretty intimidating. There were so many people in and out of the kennels, plus all of the barking and other dogs around make for an overwhelming experience for such a little guy. I ended up carrying him outside. He improved a bit, but even then he didn’t want to walk around. I walked him around the enclosure while he clung on my shoulder. Who was getting the walk here?
Most of the dogs were much more relaxed, trying to put their best paw forward.
After all of the dogs were walked and watered, we had to sweep up. The woodchips that lined the bottom of the kennels got soiled or tracked through the aisles. It was important to make sure everything was neat so that potential adopters would feel comfortable picking their new best friend. Also, with disease and germ control being an important issue, if a dog was adopted (yay!) and a new dog moved to that kennel, all of the woodchips had to be removed and replaced.
After a few hours, my hands were chapped and raw, not from shoveling, but from all of the antibacterial lotion. The staffers couldn’t have been more insistent about the need for disease and germ control. Everyone couldn’t resist saying hello to the dogs and cats and patting them. We tried to ask the public to do this as well. It would be so easy to spread a parasite or illness from one kennel to the next.
Once the doors opened, people rushed in to look for that special dog or cat. I got to meet a woman who worked with one of my fave organizations Stubby Dog. (It was so busy, I’m sorry I don’t remember her name!)
I noticed one woman had a bag of treats in her purse. She was tossing a treat into each cage she passed. (Why? Lady, they’re not starving.) This is one of the top five no-nos. I’m sure she meant well, but some dogs and cats are on special diets for various reasons. Imagine giving a person with a nut allergy a peanut butter sandwich.
At the end of the event, 316 dogs and cats went to new homes! That number is still growing, too. Some rescue groups require a background check or interview, so the adoption isn’t finalized for several days.
But this has to be my favorite photo of the day, taken by one of the Best Friends staffers: a boy and his dog.