Rescuing animals can rescue people, too – from isolation and loneliness. Animals are a great bridge to meeting others.
Some 25 years ago I left a message with a cat rescue organization advising that I would be happy to foster. I expected a call-back – and a cat to foster — but I didn’t expect that over two decades later I’d still in touch with the volunteer who delivered little Coco to my door – and two other volunteers besides!
If you volunteer in some capacity to help animals, you will meet people, in many different ways.
Bonny, Dan and Cara
Bonny Redlich, husband Dan, and Cara, their terrier, were trained to make nursing home visits. Residents relish petting the dogs and chatting with their owners.
Interestingly, Cara has favorites – residents who really get her tail wagging – and so does Redlich! One favorite was a former dancer. “Cara was always happy to walk into Madeline’s room – and so was I” says Redlich, a theater buff. “Not only did she tell great show biz stories but she once partnered with Rudolf Valentino – and had the photographs to prove it.”
Animal rescues of many kinds
Most of us think in terms of dogs and cats, but there are groups that focus on a variety of animals: guinea pigs, rats, exotics like chinchillas, hedgehogs, and reptiles (“less than six feet” notes Thomasville, N.C.’s Exotic Animal Rescue), rabbits, birds of all kinds and more.
Finding A Rescue Group
How to find the right animal rescue group for you?
Petfinders is a huge searchable database for animal rescue organizations by geography, including Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico.
Name organizations like the ASPCA readily appear; to find smaller ones, keep scrolling. If you live in a really small town (a few thousand population), find nearby groups by entering “near” plus the name of your city or town.
Breed Specific groups. Do you have a “thing” for a particular animal or breed? No surprise there are rescue sites for dachshunds (https://www.littlepawsdr.org/ ) – everyone loves dachshunds – but sites exist for substantially unknown animal breeds. Ever hear of a Ragdoll cat? Now you have! (https://ragdoll.rescueme.org/ ).
Ask veterinarians. Many vets volunteer their services and/or slash their fees to help rescue groups. They’re most likely to know which are the best “mom and pop” groups that really need your help. Ask.
Other Volunteer Options
If you can’t foster an animal, there other ways to volunteer, including:
- Work with animals. Shelter-living is stressful for animals, one reason many seek cat “socializers” (they play with felines) and dog walkers. Most animal shelters, (including the ASPCA) need people to walk dogs or help them socialize.
- Be a dogwalker for the homebound elderly. In New York City, PAWS NY helps low income seniors and others keep their pets. Besides offering some financial help, organizations like PAWS sends volunteers to walk dogs or other animals when the owners can’t. Go online and inquire at local ASPCA or animal shelters to see if there are similar services in your area.
- Like to party? Organize a fundraiser! Even if the amount raised is small, the fun and pleasure of meeting fellow animal-lovers can be huge. KittyKind in New York City, a small rescue group for cats, held a fundraiser outdoors at a local restaurant. Several cat-loving artists and artisans donated paintings, drawings, hand-made pottery and jewelry for sale. We didn’t raise a lot of money but we surely had fun.
- Virtual volunteering. If you’re passionate about animals but just can’t be hands-on or even on-site for whatever reason, check out https://bestfriends.org/stories/features/virtual-volunteering
The community of people who love animals is huge. Join us!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.