Mari comes all the way over from San Francisco to volunteer with us. And she does a great job with those big boy dogs like Cecil and Leroy. Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication, Mari!
What do you do when you're not at the shelter?
I'm mainly engaged in the current national pastime; looking for work. And since I'm not working currently, it gives me the time to pursue some of my other interests. In addition to volunteering with BACS, I also spend time volunteering to work with people who are recovering from substance abuse issues. Recently I've been exploring doing some entrepreneurial work in my field (nursing) creating educational seminars for nurses about substance abuse and recovery topics. (When the mountain won't come to Mohammed...) I've had the opportunity to work on art that I normally don't get as much time to do; I paint images of animals (mainly pit bulls) which are allegorical commentaries about the issues with which I see humanity struggle. I do a spot of writing as well. And love on my cat, Eamon, who returns the favor.
Why did you initially decide to volunteer at BACS?
Over the years I've worked in animal sheltering for a long time. When a friend of mine mentioned that he volunteers for BACS and that approximately 80% of the dogs there at any given time were pit bulls, I knew this was the place I wanted to volunteer for, even though I live in the City. I have, in the past, been involved with pit bull rescue and the idea that I could devote my time to this wonderful breed again was exciting. I've been impressed with the quality and strength of BACS's volunteer program; it really shows up in how well the dogs do at the shelter. Not only does the training, socialization, and positive attention allow the dogs to remain adoptable for very long periods of time, but many of them transform from dogs who had undesirable behavioral issues to well-mannered animals ready for new homes. In my experience, this is really exemplary and helps me feel that my small contribution plays a part in a larger goal.
What are your favorite things about volunteering?
Well, the dogs of course! Spending a day with a dog always makes me feel like I'm well loved - dogs are good for that. Also, beyond that, I feel a need to contribute back to the community, and doing this type of service work benefits both me and the dogs reciprocally. Several times a week, I get to stop fussing about the minutia my own life and really focus on the needs of the dog I am with. Since I participate in the training and socialization classes that BAD RAP provides to the shelter pit bulls, when I am walking with the dogs outside of class time, we are working in addition to just getting out and about. By staying in tune with what's going on with the dog that I'm working with, I get the opportunity to have constant teaching moments with them, whether that's teaching Leroy to roll over (he thinks this is great fun!) or watching an under-socialized dog like Godiva figure out that the world's not such a scary place by walking her around the 4th Street shops. To start working with a dog that may not even know how to walk on a leash and end up with a dog that's well on their way to being a Canine Good Citizen is a real reward for me!
Who are your favorite dogs, past and present?
I've been working with Leroy for the last few months and he's a really sweet, stellar guy. A little stubborn sometimes, but I like a dog with moxie! When he's on, he really knows how to shine, and he's got a lot of love to bless on his future owners.
Blue, who's also at the shelter right now, is another rock star in the making, and boy, if anyone was ever looking for a high-octane candidate for agility training, Blue could be your boy! He loooooves to run up and down and all over things and is very proud of his abilities and wants to show them off at any given time.
I quite like Miss Godiva, and when this little chocolate flower fully blooms she'll be the kindest, happiest dog. Dogs like Godiva, who have only experienced lives of horrible abuse and neglect, but still trust and love people despite their histories are one of the many reasons why pit bulls in particular so appeal to me. Ironically, my all time favorite dog was Cecil, who was not a pit bull, but a dogo argentino. Cecil was so shut down and indifferent to people when he first came to the shelter, people thought he was deaf. Something about him, however, spoke to me from the first time I walked him (and he was the first dog I walked at the shelter), and I was hooked.
Cecil was at the shelter for a very long time before he finally made it into his forever home, and was a miracle he turned out to be. His transformation from aloof, depressed, and uninterested to a happy, engaged, and a human-oriented dog was so much fun to watch. Each milestone he past was a celebration. I don't think that it's a stretch to say that up until he was homed, the shelter was the best life that he had ever experienced.