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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Interview with Animal Farm Foundation Volunteer

For this interview with an Animal Farm Foundation volunteer I wanted to explore the experience of helping out at the Foundation and gain knowledge of the process and techniques used. The reason I chose a volunteer is I hope to inspire others to take action and to volunteer with shelter dogs, especially Pit Bulls.

The truth is many organizations could not survive without their faithful volunteers. Many times volunteers out number the paid staff. It is important to remember that volunteers do their work out of good will and deserve much respect. While many Executive Directors receive the credit for excellent work, it is the actual volunteer/workers that are the true hero's. They are truly an asset to any organization.

The way I connected with volunteer Vivian is through the Foundation. She has been a top volunteer for a while and has a lot of experience working with Pit Bulls. Previously, I have discussed the Animal Farm Foundation in my blog and wrote about their website and work they do with Pit Bulls. To view the blog on the Foundation click here. Below is the interview with Vivian. Thanks to Vivian for making time to educate me and you on the process of volunteering at the Foundation.

If you are interested in volunteering for the AFF after reading this interview, please click here.

Q: How long have you volunteered for the Animal Farm Foundation?

A: From March 2009 to September 2011

Q: What was the process you went through to become a volunteer?

A: Filled out an application

Q: How long have you been volunteering?

A: I’ve always done some sort of volunteering on and off in my life.  I think the first volunteering I did was as a teenager for Meals on Wheels.

Q: How do you feel about the volunteer program at the Animal Farm Foundation?

A: I think they have one of the better volunteer programs that I have dealt with.  They foster a relationship with their volunteers by providing training and education and giving acknowledgement and praise for the services volunteers provide.  They work with the volunteer as an individual to make the best use of that person’s time and abilities.

Q: Can you explain your role as a volunteer in the dogs training, life, adoption, etc?

A: I began volunteering at AFF as a way to use my community service leave by spending a day per week over a few months. During that time I did a lot of dog walking!  I would walk 4 dogs a day, one at a time for a mile or so each, giving them the opportunity to get out of the kennel, have some leash training and human companionship.  I also did some computer work for them consolidating and updating contact lists, etc.  They also hold training classes for the shelter dogs and I would work with one of the dogs in the class.  Lastly, if I had extra time, I would spend some snuggle time with one of the dogs.

After spending time there and getting to know some of the dogs I discovered that one particular dog had been there over a year, probably because she needed to find a home without other animals.  I had a particular fondness for this dog, as did many of the staff, and asked if I could begin to bring her along to work with me one day a week to give her time away from the kennel and work on her training in an environment that would give her more exposure to people.  Not long after that she was adopted and I continued bringing a dog to work one day a week.  At first it was a different dog each week which was more difficult because it was an introduction to something new for them each week requiring more time and energy from me, taking me away from my work.  I then requested to work with the same dog each week until they were adopted and that worked better. I also fostered dogs at home some of the time.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at this organization?

A: I was interested in Pit Bull rescue, they are conveniently located, and they were willing to work with my skills and availability.

Q: What best do you like about the volunteer work?

A: I like the satisfaction of knowing that I can lend a helping hand to someone whether they are human or animal. 

Q: Did it require special training, classes, or certification to work with the dogs?

A: I didn’t have to go through formal training, but I chose to learn their methods of working with the dogs so that the dogs had consistency.  AFF also invited the volunteers to attend any programs for other organizations and the community that were held at their facility.  It also helped that I have a lifetime of working with and training dogs.

Q. Do you own your own Pit Bull?

A: Yes, and he is a rescue from Philadelphia.

Q: What has been your experience with the dogs from the Foundation?

A: They have all been great dogs to work with and on more than one occasion it was difficult not to adopt one for myself.  I have never worked with a dog that made me uncomfortable, but I have worked with some dogs that had some issues to work around.

Q: Where are some of the places you take the dogs?

A: Mostly to work. Some of the dogs that we fostered at home went hiking with us and joined us when we were out in the community.

Q: What is the most challenging about the volunteer work at the Animal Farm Foundation?

A: Dealing with my allergy to dogs.

Q: Do you have any advice for Pit Bull owners or important things to know as an owner?

A: I personally feel that every dog owner, not just Pit Bull owners, should have a well mannered, well trained dog.  A dog that has a job and knows what their role is in the household is a happy dog.  Having a well mannered dog is even more important for owners of Pit Bulls because of the exploitation these dogs have had to endure.  I encourage owners to strive to have their dog be an ambassador to the breed and work to end discrimination against these dogs.  I’m not trying to say that every dog will be the socially perfect, but if you have a dog with less desirable traits for social situations then owners need to be sure that the dog isn’t put into a situation that makes him uncomfortable or where other people or dogs could be at risk.

Pit Bulls are great dogs but they are not for everyone, as with any other breed of dog the personality of the owner should be compatible with the personality of the dog.  Each dog should be looked at as an individual.

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