On a really good day, I am encrusted in muddy paw prints; I have murky brown dribbles of an indeterminate origin on my shoes, a pulled muscle in my right arm, and the widest grin you’ve ever seen across my face–all at the same time. No, I am not (technically) in a mental institution. I am volunteering at the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia shelter (ACCT) at W. Hunting Park and Front Streets! It’s true that I live about 40 minutes away (on a good day), but I keep coming back here because of the giddy joy I get out of helping these animals, the variety of (human) friendships I have made, and the wonderful chances volunteering has given me to develop skills and talents that don’t normally see the light of day.
I started volunteering in animal rescue when I was just out of college and working in retail. I wanted to use more of my skills than I was currently using at my job. After making my way through the worlds of no-kill rescue groups and Facebook crossposting, I found my way to ACCT. Before I officially was a volunteer, I was a “regular” on the volunteer-run Philly Urgents Page on Facebook, sharing and reposting animals available for adoption and contributing to fundraisers. I also greatly admired the work of the pen pals, who are paired up with a special dog one-on-one or two-on-one and spend time with that dog, devoting more time to getting him or her adopted. I saw a posting on Facebook asking for transporters, so I thought it seemed simple enough to do. One snowy, slushy day in October, I had the wonderful experience of escorting the biggest puppy I had ever seen and an injured Chihuahua to the Delaware County SPCA near my house. Everyone at ACCT was so kind and grateful for my help that I knew it was a special place. That following March, I signed up for volunteer orientation on a whim. It was definitely one of the best impulse decisions I have ever made!
Almost immediately, I was welcomed into the ACCT family. I was paired with a mentor and welcomed into the closed Facebook pages for ACCT volunteers, where we can all talk about the animals and help each other. There is so much support here, it is incredible. A few months later I felt ready to officially join the Pen Pals program. I have met some incredible friends here and learned so many things about dogs and people. I have gone on pen pal hikes, gone to events (and become an event leader), graduated from the mentor program so to speak and just recently became a mentor myself, drive many miles to transport animals to the safety of rescue groups, and celebrated my one year anniversaries as a volunteer and as a pen pal volunteer. I help out in adoptions handling dog meets and processing adoption applications. The joy I get pairing a pet with a new “parent” is absolutely indescribable. I think I’m known around the shelter as the girl who runs squealing and jumping around so much! I also love the variety of people I have met here who have become friends, people I think I never would have met if I did not decide to make that impulsive decision to drive 40 minutes and go to that volunteer orientation in March.