Sergio’s Volunteer Diary: In-Shelter Training
Animal Care Centers of New York City
Did you know that a dog’s tail wagging is not always a sign of friendliness? The position in which a dog holds his tail is equally as important as the movement of his tail. This was one of the few things we would learn in our training session.
A few minutes after I sat down in the waiting area for our in-shelter training, a man entered and started screaming and cursing at the staff to give him his dog back. The man alleged that a woman had reported him to Animal Care Centers (ACC) after leaving his dog tied up. I suspect there was more to that story. He left the building after realizing that the police were on their way. It was pretty scary stuff. I turned to a woman next to me and said: “Cursing and screaming at the staff is not in any way going to get back your dog.” At that point I honestly started to question if this was the right place to be. I would soon find out.
The volunteer coordinator entered the room and brought me and two other volunteers-in-training to the volunteer room. During the session we would review a variety of handling/safety techniques as well as getting an introduction to shelter policies and some medical insight. During the first part of the training, the coordinator covered canine communication using the nose, tail, eyes, ears, mouth, fur, and general body carriage.
I don’t want to bore you with details so here’s a cute illustration from our training pamphlet showing what we learned about a canine communication.
The next part of the training was identifying medical issues and the procedures to follow if an animal is showing symptoms.
The last part of the learning list was learning proper dog walking techniques. Our coordinator discussed how important it is to properly open the gate and leash the dogs.
As this was being discussed, I noticed a staffer looking under the crates in the adoption area. Apparently, one of the dogs got out of its crate and was hiding under one of other crates. This of course, was causing ruckus among the other dogs!
After the verbal part of the training ended, it was time to head out to walk some dogs. We entered the adoption area and the coordinator chose which dogs we would walk. I volunteered to go first. As we passed the crates with leash in hand, most of the dogs were jumping and barking and probably thinking: “Please pick me!” I was given an adorable seven-year-old Pit Bull mix named Bambi. After properly leashing her, we were quickly on our first walk. She was very excited to get out of the shelter. The coordinator instructed us on the proper walking route which takes about 20 minutes. Bambi pulled a bit, but with some slight corrections, she ended up being a great walker. The other two volunteers repeated the process and our training came to an end. I remember how amazing I felt while walking the dogs; they all seemed to be so happy in those short 20 minutes.
A few weeks have passed since my first interaction with the dogs at the shelter. I was coming home from dinner on a Friday night and I started getting emotional; I felt sad that the dogs were alone for the night. All I wanted to do in that moment was head over to the shelter and give some love to those amazing animals.
I recently received an email stating that my volunteer package was ready. The final step in the process is to schedule my first volunteer dog companion session with a volunteer staffer. The staffer is going to train us on how to log in and out of volunteer computer system and also be with us on our first official dog walk.
Stay tuned for my next installment!