UI students, residents pitch in at shelters

By Ellyn Newell

Many kids ask their parents for pets for their birthday. They promise to take care of them, feed them and walk them every day until they get a new toy the next week. This, however, is not the case with the volunteers at the Champaign County Humane Society. They are keeping that promise they made to their parents all those years ago.

After Ashley Scott, senior in Media, lost her own dog, she decided that the best way to share her love of animals would be to volunteer at her local dog shelter in Grayslake, Ill. When she returned to school last fall, she found the Humane Society and has been volunteering there ever since.

“Seeing these dogs with no homes be happy for a half hour is what it’s about,” Scott said.

While Scott’s main volunteering focus is “dog socializing,” which includes walking and playing with the dogs, she also has had her fair share of messes when it comes to animal care. Last year, she volunteered to clean the kennels where the animals were kept.

“They needed extra help,” Scott said. “The dogs live in such small quarters that I felt like I had to pitch in.”

In the four hours a week that Scott volunteered washing the kennels, she had to clean up puke and diarrhea. Bodily fluids were not the worst part about the cleanup. While she has never been injured by a cat or dog, she has had a run-in with a rabbit. During cleanup, the rabbit bit her.

“The bunny had just got here, and it was a little scared,” Scott said.

While Scott helped in the kennels to improve the living conditions of the animals, her true passion is for dogs.

“I like dogs because you’re usually able to judge what they’re thinking based on the look on their face,” Scott said.

Laura Davis, second-year graduate student, also enjoys spending her volunteering time with the dogs. The two girls work together Friday mornings to help two or three dogs learn how to interact with each other.

“It’s really rewarding to watch the dogs socializing with each other,” Davis said.

The girls bring the dogs out to play even when it is raining out, which can prove to be less than sanitary.

“Sometimes the dogs will kiss you after they have eaten poo or mud but you learn to deal with it,” Scott said.

Many students choose to volunteer after they leave their pet at home to come to college, said Greg Lipes, volunteer coordinator and events planner of the Humane Society.

“The most common response I get from students when I ask why they wanted to volunteer is ‘I miss my pet,'” Lipes said.

The shelter offers volunteer opportunities, from cleaning the kennels to interacting with the animals and working on the décor of the shelter. Scott said seeing the dogs excited to play makes the dirtier aspects of volunteering all the more worthwhile.

“Even if you are not an animal person, there’s an opportunity to volunteer here,” Lipes said.