Friday, September 3, 2010

Volunteering, it's good for the soul

Now that I've calmed down a bit from my rant on what happened last night at work, I wanted to share my volunteer gigs with ya'll. (Actually, I'm still rather upset about it all, but my Mom, Jewels, and Cinderita are right - I have my priorities, and donations are supposed to be given willingly). I think doing something for your community is important. Even if it's small. When I was little, growing up in Old Station (Read: Home again, home again jiggity jig), my parents were volunteer EMT's. It was a tiny town, and in such towns, most things are volunteer - like the firefighters and EMT's who could save your house or your life. In larger towns and cities, people volunteer for Humane Societies, Salvation Army, etc. There are so many things in life that run on volunteer efforts; people who willingly sacrifice their time to help someone or something. And they don't consider it a sacrifice, they consider it a privilege.

I'd been in Sacramento for a couple years at least before I decided to volunteer. I went to a website (found it off Google), and it listed organizations looking for volunteers for certain jobs. All I knew was that I wanted to work with animals, since I no longer do in my current job. I found a couple ads that
interested me. One was for Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, and the other for Saddle Pals Therapeutic Riding Center.

Homeward Bound was founded by a couple named Jody & Mike about 10 years ago. It's their life. Night and day. Jody tells me about the nights she'll sleep in the barn on the futon if she has a sick dog. Mike constantly works on projects - fencing, pens, etc. It's run completely by volunteers, and it's all for the dogs. They try to save as many dogs as they possibly can, and it tears them up when they can't. The recent economy and housing crash hit pretty hard last year. They rescued well over 800 dogs, and their vet bills are nearing $400,00/year. Some dogs have been there since I started in May of 2008. Most aren't, thank goodness. Most have found homes, whether it be foster or adopted. Some are "Sanctuary Goldens" meaning they will live their life at Homeward Bound because their seniors or have severe medical issues. They have yet to turn a single dog away, not even Cooper who was a Pit Bull. Or the few Labradoodles that have come in. Or the one that looked more like a Corgi than a Golden. Every week, I go in on Friday mornings after work, and I help Jody clean the kennels and feed the dogs. There are 30 kennels, at least three of those are large enough to comfortably fit two or three dogs if they came from the same household. When the housing crisis hit, and many owners were facing foreclosure, the influx hit. Suddenly we not only had the 30 regular kennels to clean and feed, we had dozens of crates in the main aisle, some double stacked. And out in the barn area were more kennels, again, in some cases, double stacked. It's the only Golden Rescue in the state of CA, and they have a volunteer network that shuttles dogs from San Diego to Sacramento. They have even gotten dogs shipped from Asia! Even though the kennels are loud with the dogs incessant barking, just looking in those dark brown eyes, you see they still just want your lovin'. To learn more about Homeward Bound, I invite you to visit their website:

Left: Looking longways down the kennel during a "busy time" during the foreclosure crisis. Right, by on the of the kennel entrances, more dogs.

Saddle Pals is a part of United Cerebral Palsy (or UCP) of Greater Sacramento, and offers horseback riding lessons for people with developmental disabilities, from small children to adults. I work on Saturday mornings for about 3 hours; I'm a "leader", meaning I lead a horse in a lesson, and I'm in charge of the horse, making sure it's safe for the rider at all times. Most riders require at least one side walker, a person who walks right next to the horse, making sure the rider is safe and follows instructions. Some kids require two side walkers, some are independent enough they don't require a side walker at all. Some lessons are private, others have two or three students in a lesson. I confess one of the major reasons I wanted to volunteer with Saddle Pals was the horses. I have been a horse lover as long as I can remember. I owned my own until I moved away from home for college, and don't get to be around them much anymore. However, after getting to know the kids in my lessons, I grew to love them just as much as the horses. One girl, "T" is legally blind, yet rides independently. The first time I saw this, I was more impressed than words can say. There is a volunteer in each corner of the arena, and serve as "talking cones"; they're assigned a number/letter and as she comes toward them, they repeat it until she passes. She's nearly my age and has been riding since she was a teenager. Another girl, "K" is one smart cookie trapped inside a body that refuses to listen to her. She works so hard and in the two years I've been there, she has improved a great deal. She's moved on to using a saddle and stirrups. When I first started with her, it was hard for to vocalize "Walk On" for her horse, I often had to look for her hand signal. Now, she never uses her hand signal, but says fairly clearly - "Walk On". And it's adorable when she tries to impress her family from out of town. Other kids teach more patience than anything; if you get frustrated then they get frustrated and can't or won't work. It amazes me every day how hard the kids try. And it amazes me what the horses put up with. I have my favorites, of course. Tex is my man, a gorgeous Quarter Horse with a sweet temper. Rio is my old Stud Muffin, who is just about as old I am, and that is an old horse. Tiny, who is a Belgian Draft and incidentally, the largest horse in the barn is a big cuddly teddy bear who is also afraid of water (mainly sprinklers). Dudley is my "Mr. Pokey", and also gave me my only kiss for Valentine's Day this year (which made "K" laugh during her lesson). Niner is sweet, but can't be without Angie, her gossip buddy. Angie's the biter. Sandman is just a sweet ol' guy who apparently doesn't like wind. And then there's CR, who's name is C.R. Appy (and what does that spell?), he is slower than molasses moving uphill in the middle of winter, and he headbutts a lot. But, I love them all - their sweetness and patience. To learn more about UCP of Sacramento and Saddle Pals, I invite you to visit their website:

Left is Tex, and Right is Rio.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...two new foundations I didn't know about. Thanks for giving me some new information to check out. Like I said I try to dedicate my time and money to only one to make it count more...but really whats the harm. I often volunteer at Ronald McDonald house and Children's Hospital as well...and you feel so good after you help others! There is something to be said for being active in the community and aiding those in need. Something about animals, something about giving them a voice and an advocate is so powerful. Good job.
    PS...Check out my "Whoopsie" blog...I gave you a much deserved award! :-)


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