Pets on the go: Staff writer shares a first hand account of volunteering at the Humane Society

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's the day before Halloween, and Albert the tiny black poodle couldn't look cuter prancing around the mall in his pumpkin costume. He's not my dog, but I love him to pieces. He's up for adoption at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau, and I hope the busy shoppers will stop to meet Albert -- or any of the dogs at today's mobile adoption event. Sometimes we bring cats or bunnies or guinea pigs, but today it's all dogs. We have Betsy the heeler mix, dressed up as a princess. Duke and Dell, brother-and-sister golden lab puppies, who were too playful to leave their costumes on for long.

Mobile adoptions are about getting animals out to meet the public and hopefully find new owners. We do this once a month on Saturdays. You might have seen us at Petco, West Park Mall or, most recently, the River Valley Craft Fair. Our mobile adoption coordinator, Diana, always reminds us that it's OK if the pets aren't adopted right away. The idea is to raise awareness about the Humane Society and all the great pets there. That passer-by might not adopt a pet today, but a few months from now, when he's ready for a pet, maybe he'll head to the shelter first.

Volunteers start on Saturday mornings at the Humane Society, where we bathe and brush several pets before loading them into the van and taking them to our mobile adoption site. Once there, we set a table with information about who we are, the pets we have with us and how to adopt a pet. We spend a few hours introducing the pets to the public, walking them around the area, and giving them the love and attention they crave.

As for the rest of the month, volunteers can take photos of pets for the website, serve as a "foster parent" for pets that aren't quite ready to be adopted, or just spend time with the animals in the shelter. My volunteer buddy loves to walk the dogs and play with them in the outdoor fenced-in area. I prefer to cuddle the cats.

Like many other volunteers, I work full time and can only volunteer on weekends -- but the pets are there every day! If you're retired or have a flexible schedule, think about popping out to the Humane Society and "socializing" the pets, as we call it. All you need to do is fill out an application and go through a brief training.

Albert the poodle is 7 years old. Lots of people admire him that day at the mall, but a few comment that he's "already" 7 years old, as if he's too old to be adopted. I assure them that he has lots of love and energy left in him.

A few days later, Diana tells me that Albert's been adopted. I'm so happy for him! Betsy found a home, too. Diana needs volunteers for next month's mobile adoption, so I sign up immediately. Will I see you there?

For more information about volunteering at the Humane Society, call (573) 334-5837, go to www.semopets.org, or visit the shelter at 2536 Boutin Drive.

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