This month we are featuring one of our most devoted volunteers. Radar likes to call her "My BFF", but everyone else calls her Anne. Anne has been taking Radar to BAD RAP classes for several months, and these two class nerds have just been promoted to the advanced group. But Anne is an equal opportunity employer - you never know who she might walk next.
What do you do when you're not at the shelter?
I am a member of that fast-disappearing breed of employed journalists. I cover science at UC Berkeley, which is great, because I get to talk to researchers and write about what they do. I also love to cook and write fiction.
Why did you initially decide to volunteer at BACS?
Well, at the time I wanted to be a “cat whisperer”. I have been working with a nonprofit to trap and neuter feral cats (Fix Our Ferals), and at one point I decided I wanted to gain experience taming and handling feisty felines. Well, I never got past the first row of kennels. How can you say no to a dog who’s staring up at you with such hopeful, soulful eyes?
What are your favorite things about volunteering?
Whenever one of the staff thanks me for volunteering at the shelter I think, "Really?" I get so much out of the experience I feel like I should be the one thanking them! There are so many things I love about it. One of the most rewarding things, the thing that makes me feel all gooey inside, is when a dog greets me with a play bow. I also love the challenge of Bad Rap class, of learning how to become a better handler and how to help these dogs learn how to deal with humans and all our peculiar protocols and demands. I’m so grateful to all the other dog trainers who come by to teach their techniques, which are often more like life lessons. I love that the volunteers don't necessarily recognize each other but they know the dogs immediately, and I love that there’s this implicit understanding that we’re not there to socialize—we’re there for the animals. I am daily inspired by the staff, who have to cope with a lot of challenges on a very tight budget. But most of all, I love that feeling of coming home after a full day at the shelter, exhausted and smelling of dog but just absolutely fulfilled and content. It sounds corny but we volunteers really do make a difference, and you feel it, with each dog that you touch and each walk you take.
Who are your favorite dogs, past and present?
Right now, it’s got to be Radar. As one of the staff members jokes, he’s my special project. I’ve been working with him closely for several months, both at Bad Rap and on our walks and time in the play area. He’s bursting with so much energy that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. But he's got a rock-solid temperament at his core. He’s been at the shelter almost as long as I’ve been volunteering there (last July-ish), and he’s still fundamentally okay. That says a lot about his ability to cope. I also fondly remember Miley (now Edie, happily adopted). She was the first pit bull I ever walked, and man, was I intimidated. (Editor's note: here is a very scary picture of "The Intimidator", along with one of her adopters)
Those of you who know Miley will laugh at me (and rightfully) because she really is one of the sweetest dogs you will encounter. These days, of course, almost all the dogs I handle are pit bulls, and I don't think twice about it. They're just all such great dogs.