This is in response to the Jan. 12, 2019 article, “Support is great, but WAIF still has its critics” in the South Whidbey Record.
I am currently a senior dog behavior volunteer at a shelter off the island, and work with some of our more challenging dogs as well as with the general population. The shelter at which I volunteer relies heavily on volunteers, as do most shelters. It provides training and guidance to help volunteers progress in their skills.
There is never a day when dogs do not get a walk. The routine is two long walks and two or more potty walks as needed for every dog in the kennels every day.
We have an active foster program for dogs and cats, which helps them to learn to live in a home environment, making them more adoptable and giving them a break from kennel life.
Not all dogs and cats are appropriate for fostering, but those that are do well and are not “confused” when and if they return to the shelter.
A website and online sites keep the available dogs and cats in the public eye and we make them readily available if someone expresses an interest in a particular animal. We also have overnights, which give the dogs a short break from the kennel routine.
Enrichment is vital and can be as simple as challenging toys, food puzzles, kongs stuffed with treats and peanut butter, or even ice cubes with treats frozen into them.
These are simple and cost effective, and they work!
Shelter staff evaluates possible matches and sets up buddy groups and buddy walks that can be done by volunteers. This takes little time and effort to set up, assists with socialization and is a source of enrichment.
Volunteers take dogs for off-site visits to parks, the beach and other walking trails to break up their kennel time. The dogs always come back tired and happy.
We partner with other shelters and breed-specific rescue groups to offer additional opportunities for adoptions.
The animals that I work with have a happy, healthy environment, caring staff and dedicated volunteers.
There is no reason that WAIF cannot accomplish the same.
I am confident that I made the right decision many years ago to volunteer at a more progressive, enlightened shelter.