Have you ever had the opportunity to tour your local animal shelter? Even if you have, I will bet it was not like this.
On Saturday, June 24th from 5:00pm -11:00pm, DuPage County Animal Care and Control (DCACC) staff and specially trained Orange Paw volunteers are inviting you to tour the shelter after hours, all from the comfort of your couch. I truly hope you join them for this rare glimpse of shelter life.
The goal of Caged for Canines, is twofold: to increase shelter awareness while raising funds to provide needed enrichment items for animals while in DCACC's care.
Orange Paw volunteers are among the hardest working (and least visible) people I know. These are the volunteers who work with shelter dogs right from the start, when they first arrive at the shelter. They meet the dogs in their most confused, vulnerable, heart-breaking state and work tirelessly to help them adjust to being in the kennel. From confidence building, to providing stress-relieving exercise, to teaching basic commands and skills to help prepare the shelter dogs for successful adoptions (or transitions to foster homes with area rescues), these volunteers put in countless hours. When they aren't working directly with the dogs, they can be found in classes and working with shelter staff to hone their training and handling skills and learning about new and creative ways to help mitigate the effects of shelter stress on the pups.
In fact, Orange Paw volunteers also work with other volunteers to help them gain confidence and proficiency in working with the shelter dogs. It was one such volunteer to whom I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. From helping me learn how to walk a dog properly, to teaching me how to de-stress a long time kennel resident, to helping me get my eyeglasses fixed (again) when an exuberant canine BFF sent them flying, to stopping for a Puppuccino on a rescue 'freedom ride', she was with me for all of it. As a result, everything...this blog, my pet photography, my having a filled-to-the-brim pet sitting business...all exist because of the encouragement I received. Susan changed my life. And the many dogs that have followed...they continue to change my life!
And THAT is why I really hope you peek in on this event, even if you are nervous about seeing dogs in a shelter. I get that. I do. I was TERRIFIED that walking into a shelter would wreck me. I didn't think my heart could take it. I could not have been more wrong. The best chapter of my life began when I walked through those doors. I can't even imagine who I would be now if I hadn't.
Susie Blaho can relate. Caged for Canines was her inspiration. It all started when she was sitting with adoptable Helga in her kennel where she found herself compelled write the blog about kennel presence. That created a spark. As she describes it,
"I wanted to help people understand what its like to live in a kennel environment from the animals perspective. Then while attending a dog training seminar in Wisconsin, the concept came to me. All the way home I just kept throwing ideas out to the other volunteers I was with. By the time we were back in Illinois, Caged for Canines was created."
She reached out to Dupage Animal Friends (who support the shelter through fund raising activities) and DCACC Management. Both welcomed the concept and have been extremely supportive. Julie Cooper, the Foundation's Marketing Chair has been thrilled to assist in the effort, adding,
"The Orange Paw volunteers are the hidden heroes at DCACC. Under the guidance of staff, the OPs work tirelessly with the dogs at the shelter, preparing them for success with a new family. We at DuPage Animal Friends are honored to help the OPs get ‘Caged for Canines’ to raise funds and advocate for the dogs."
Susie had this to say about the impact she hopes the experience will have, "I hope people take away from the event that shelter animals are no different than the dog sitting next to them or the cat on their lap. They are just homeless. They are waiting for a new family. For someone to love. And while they wait, staff and volunteers fill in. We try to meet all their needs. Which is why we are raising funds for enrichment items."
I followed my passion, opened my heart and found my soul. That may sound silly to some. But the animals teach me so much. They give to me much more than I could ever give to them. They have taught me patience and acceptance. Their resilience always amazes me. There are no words to describe the emotions of watching a scared dog trust you. Then helping them find their confidence and smile. Or watching a dog play for the first time. People always say "I could never do that." Or "how do you do it." I always respond, I can't imagine not doing it.
While you are able to attend this online event for free, DCACC hopes to raise money for much needed equipment. Among the priority purchases are canopies known as "shade sails" which will provide much needed protection for both dogs and humans in the exercise yards. You know how hot it can get (has been getting!) in Chicago in the summer, and the dog's gravel play yards have no protection from the sun at all. Shelter dogs desperately need to have time out of the kennel cages to de-stress, making comfort and safety in the hot sun a critical need. The shade sails total cost for the three yards would be $750.
To learn more, or to make a tax-deductible donation to help the shelter purchase much needed enrichment equipment, please visit this page.
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Filed under: Shelters & Rescues: Behind the Scenes