Did you know that the staff here at Adopt-a-Pet.com has decades of volunteering experience helping homeless pets? Be inspired by our stories (and yours!) in our brand-new Volunteer Newsletter! To subscribe, and lend a helping paw to shelters and rescues near you, fill out your Volunteer Profile at http://www.adoptapet.com/volunteer/signup. Make sure you check the box next to: “I want to receive Adopt-a-Pet.com’s special quarterly newsletter all about volunteering.” Now, read on as Katya Friedman, Adopt-a-Pet.com’s Director of Partnerships and Promotions, shares her journey into volunteering…

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“How can I best make a difference?” – written by Katya

I got bitten by the volunteer bug at a young age. In high school, I was the kind of girl who was always making announcements about how to get involved in after-school programs that help at-risk youth or reading to kids. I started a Community Service Club, and began my journey as someone who wanted to be involved, work with community, and turn awareness into action. I think I knew even back then that I was on the right path. Working with children remains one of my greatest joys.

Although my family always had dogs and I always loved our pets, it would not be until years later that I focused my volunteerism towards the animals. About five years ago my friend who is a screenwriter (I live in Los Angeles so its par for the course!) wrote a Cinderella-type story about a Pit Bull at a shelter. He visited one of our local shelters to get a better idea of the reality for his writing, and I had the good fortune of going along with him; from that day on, I truly would never be the same.

I saw the best and the worst in humanity, all wrapped into one day. I saw a world of hurt for the animals, but I also saw hope in the hands of volunteers. Confusion and anxiety hung like a cloak on so many discarded pets, but volunteers brought comfort and peace in the walks and talks they offered. There was fear in the eyes of dogs, cats and bunnies, but volunteers were there to quench that fiery fear with love. All around me, I saw caring shelter staff who supported their volunteers, and volunteers who in turn supported their shelter staff. It was symbiosis at its finest and the beneficiaries were the animals.

volunteer-Katya2I signed up for orientation, and I was off and running. When I began volunteering at the shelter, I was worried about where I was needed most. Where could I make the biggest difference? Where could I help other volunteers do what they’re doing? Where could I most efficiently put my time to help more animals? I started with dog walking, and I even lost a few lbs right away (nice perk!) Walking dogs who are living in kennels is so rewarding. The exercise, the sunshine, sitting under a tree in the shade and letting the dog just be. It was bonding and felt invigorating, as much for me as it did for them.

I moved onto taking pictures of dogs and cats to update the shelter’s website. The photos sessions were a blast because I got to know the personality of the animals. Even though it can be challenging to convince a cat to warm up to a camera, or get a young pup to sit still, I came armed with treats and did my best. These new glamor shots helped many animals get seen better – and we all know that when animals get seen they get saved.

Next I attempted crafting pleas to network animals whose time was up. I think the creativity and vulnerability required to effectively network shelter animals comes easily if you spend a little time getting to know them. It all comes from them, and what fun it is to craft their story! That’s when it hit me: even the small things we do can be efficient and useful and important when it comes to saving animals. Even one hour a week of Tweeting Critters from your lunch desk at work – every single bit helps. Being involved isn’t about a time minimum or the perfect activity, it’s about opening your heart. Whether you can volunteer every day or at one adoption event a month, being a part of the solution to end animal population and inspiring others to do the same IS the best way to make a difference.

volunteer-Katya3A little less than a year ago, I was lucky enough to begin working for Adopt-a-Pet.com. I am so grateful that every day I get to think about what can be done to help animals most, and how we might be able to help make that possible. Moreover, I’m so grateful every day that there are volunteers like you. Without you, the shelters and rescue groups could not do it. They need our support and help to do all they do, as it really does take a village. It takes a volunteering community.

These days it’s not easy to find a sense of community in a city as large as Los Angeles. Often it’s not easy to find a sense of community anywhere, be it the town is small or sprawling. With our computers and phones and cars and automated everything, we’re moving fast and we have less and less time for one another. The beauty of volunteering is that volunteers come together from all over, just to help the animals; and that is exactly how we will save more lives. In doing so, it’s also how we will save each other. We cannot live in isolation and change this problem alone. We need everyone’s strength to move this mountain. By working with shelter staff and rescue groups, working together, and working for the animals, we’re also working to better our own lives as a community.

If you’re not already, I’d like to invite you to be a part of Adopt-a-Pet.com’s Volunteer Community – or as I like to think of it, our Community Service Club! Thank you for doing all you can do, however you can, and know that you’re the answer.