I am a big fan of community service, and raising a helper. So much about parenting is thinking about what kind of grown ups our babies will be someday, and focusing on who they will be as parents and spouses (and veterinarians, in my case). As a child, one of my nicknames with my family was Ellie Mae (as in, Clampett), because I would talk to all kinds of animals. Back then, my parents did not allow dogs or cats in our home, so I spent a great deal of time either sneaking them in, or corroborating with them outside. I went on to later have an iguana and a ferret (both got snuck into my dorm and lived for bit….don’t tell Arkansas Tech University). As an adult I adopted a mean cat and a couple of sweet-faced dogs from the Humane Society in Fort Smith. I can proudly say I have never bought an animal from a breeder, they have always been rescues or adopted from the shelter. There are too many animals sitting in shelters and pounds needing homes to purchase one from a breeder.
Taking care of an animal teaches kids so many lessons about kindness and responsibility. Cole’s daily chores include taking care of his animals. Keller Farms currently has three dogs, three cats and two very fat guinea pigs, so this is a good daily task for him. We need a bigger house for all of the furry residents. In all honesty, Cole has two homes, and so do several of these spoiled rotten animals.
When trying to decide a good avenue for all of Cole’s mad love for animals, of course we first considered the Humane Society. We had volunteered there before, and ended up with not one, but two, long-haired, very fat, male cats, Stitch and Poseidon. (I was relieved to see that the cat rooms were empty, as all of the cats have been adopted out!) So this agreement to volunteer weekly had to also come with the agreement that we would be only giving these sweet animals love, and hopefully helping them find good homes, since we currently do not have any pet vacancies (even though I am dying for one of those city chicken coops). It is difficult to walk away from them, especially now that Cole is getting to know their personalities and they perk up when they see him.
We checked in that first day and made eye contact with one gorgeous, sad eyed dog, named Echo, who was in a crate in the waiting area (waiting for Cole, he says). Echo is a large breed, gorgeously gentle male dog. Everyone seems to want a puppy when they go to adopt, instead of a grown dog, but Echo has lots of love to give, as to so many of the dogs we have met. Official volunteers have to be 12 years old, so I signed up to volunteer, and Cole would just be with me. He was ok with this agreement, so off we went to take some dogs out to the potty and to enjoy the sunshine on their faces. I think the employees were just as excited as Cole was to have him there. As we walked down the dog aisle to meet the dogs, he greeted every dog with a smile and a hello (I do this too, I blame genetics and a kind heart), even the ones who didn’t seem very friendly. Several broke our hearts as they cowered in the back of their caged area, frightened of people. I digress, but I really think there is a special place reserved for those who harm children and animals, sweet creatures who love you unconditionally and cannot fight back.
Cole got to walk (and hug) four dogs that first day. We took pictures of them and I posted them, in the hope that someone would see in those faces what we saw, and would give them a chance and a home. We agreed on a certain day to be our volunteer afternoon, and promised those dogs to see them the next week. When we returned, we saw friends from church who were also going to volunteer, and hopefully adopt a furry family member. They let us interact with more dogs this time around, and we got a lot of hands on time with them. I believe that working with animals (and children and the elderly) is such a calling. I love to hear kids’ stories when they come into my office, stories about how they got to be the amazing and unique little people they are today, so I guess that’s why I loved hearing the dogs’ stories, as well as the ladies who work and volunteer at the humane society. I would love to blog about each of the dogs and how they got to the shelter, in the hope of finding the perfect home, perhaps a home with a little boy or little girl who says good morning to them every day, and sneaks them “extra chicken” off of their dinner plate.
With summer coming, your children will have lots of time to give. Ask them what they care about, and what they love. Your child has a calling too. They might love books, they might love art, or they might be a little Ellie Mae, or Cole Keller, and love animals. Volunteering and giving of their time will give them so much more joy than you can imagine, and you will raise a helper. Imagine the difference your little one could make if they volunteered just an hour a week doing something they truly love.
*My sweetness is not always sweet. Sometimes he can be quite the goblin without adequate sleep and food, and with too much screen or youtube time, ay ay ay.