No, Really, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Recently I have been making a bit of an effort to do more in our community. I called our local animal shelter and spoke with some very nice person about volunteering. They told me I needed to come in and fill out an application, discuss my skills and availability, get a tour, and then they would tell me where I would best fit in. I made an appointment for yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday I drove out to the little shelter at the appointed time. I’ve been there before, to drop off blankets and towels for the animals. I know it’s a very small ramshackle building, likely fit to be condemned, but God bless’em, they do really good work.

But there was no one there. The door was locked. I peeked in a window and was met nose-to-nose with a meowing tabby cat on the inside sill.

I peeked around the back. There were several dogs in runs, and all barked like crazy as I nosed around.

I wandered back up front and sat down to wait. Soon, four young volunteers arrived, high-school aged, likely doing community service hours. They were all there to feed the animals, clean cages, play with cats, and walk dogs. We chatted.

It seems it was very odd that no one was there. No one was sure if the animals had been fed and watered. We commented on how hot it was and hoped the animals had water. We chatted about what to do. We sweated.

After about 45 minutes, I wandered out back again and checked out alternative entrances- like, could we break in through a dog run?

It looked like you could: the dog runs were made of chain link fence and looked really, really old, with some gaps between runs and no locks on the gates. The runs led right into the shelter building. It was do-able.

It would mean, however, going into a dog run WITH A DOG IN IT, as they were all occupied.

There were ten runs and ten dogs, eight of them pit bulls. Two were fluffy Benji-like dogs, but one of the volunteers told me they were in quarantine for some reason, so, not a good choice.

Now, I am not really a dog person. I like dogs fine, but some dogs scare me. Like, pit bulls in a shelter.

BUT these young folks had all been volunteering for some time and had an idea which dogs were “nice”. I mentioned this, like Hey, if one of you is familiar with these dogs, maybe you could pick a nicer one and go open the door from the inside?

They all looked at me like I had five heads. I mean, yes, I was suggesting breaking and entering, but if it was for the benefit of the animals, wouldn’t you do it?

Not these law-abiding teens. Me as a teenager, I would have been in there within the first ten minutes.

So we waited some more. The incessant barking and meowing was disconcerting. Were these poor animals hungry and thirsty?

We ended up calling the police, as the shelter is a branch of the town’s animal control unit. I spoke with the police dispatcher- obviously an animal lover, and someone familiar with our town’s pitiful little shelter. She was alarmed. She said she would call around until she found someone who had a key, and if she couldn’t find someone, she would send an officer to break in.

I waited a bit longerm but by that point, an hour had passed, and I still had to get groceries… I felt guilty, but I left the teenaged volunteers waiting for the police.

And, the dispatcher came through… The same gentleman I had originally spoken with, a longtime volunteer with a key, got a call and went to open the door. I know this as he called me to explain that so-and-so who was supposed to work that day couldn’t, and so-and-so who took their place forgot, and so on.

I haven’t given up on the shelter though… I made another appointment for next Thursday… Glutton for punishment?

4 thoughts on “No, Really, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

  • Ack. Sounds like some of my experiences with the PTO at my kids’ school. Unfortunately, a lot of non-profits operate this way. I find it too discouraging to feel like I’m wasting my volunteer time (or my time to do something else), so I’ve sort of “shopped around” for a volunteer opportunity that is well-run. For me, it’s the marriage prep program at my church. I am able to give more, and with more enthusiasm, because the director of the program keeps it operating smoothly. Most important for me is that I know exactly what the time commitment will be, and exactly when it will take place. I even can predict easily the amount of time it will take me to prep materials with my husband beforehand. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking around for volunteering that feels like it works for you. You’ll be more likely to stick with it if there’s not a big hassle on top of the time and energy commitment you are making.

    • Hi Lara- Thanks for reading so thoughtfully- I thought about this, actually befeore you suggested, but think I will give the animal shelter another chance, as it seems they really need the help. And it’s for the animals… But if it’s crazy, then I agree, better to put energies where they won’t be wasted…

  • Sounds like they could really use some help…maybe some organizational skills to make a good schedule/back-up schedule, emergency contact list, etc… In any case, I am really in awe of you taking on these extra commitments with work and babies and all. I keep telling myself, maybe when the kids are older…but maybe that’s a cop-out and I need to just commit to something because life never really slows down, does it?

    • Thanks Ana, you know, don’t be in awe… I just have been feeling like that part of me has been unfulfilled, and it makes me feel empty, and I don’t like it. I’d rather over extend myself than feel that nagging, ucky, empty feeling every day… and I also envision getting the kids involved in volunteer work very young… I think it will help us all… even if it drives me crazy!!

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