I chose to do my service project at the Utah Animal Adoption Center, which is a “no-kill” shelter. This means that the animals are not euthanized if there is no room for them, or if they have been there for a certain period of time. Instead, the shelter holds on to the animals and does their best to find a home for them (one where they are treated humanely). The shelter is nearly run entirely by volunteers who offer their time, services, and money to provide for the animals in their care. I chose to do this project with some of my friends: Stephanie Robinson, Cierra Hildebrand, and Ashley Simmons. They have worked at the shelter before, but I have not; this was my first time. I learned many different things during my time working there (one of which being that I am severely allergic to cats). But overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it.
On my first day working at the Utah Animal Adoption Center, it was a Saturday and I arrived around 10:00 A.M. Stephanie arrived shortly after me and we were first tasked to clean. On that particular Saturday, it was their “deep-clean day” where everything had to be scrubbed down and sterilized with bleach. We did some clean-up in the kitchen but we mainly worked on a small room next to the area where they performed surgeries, with sick felines. During this experience cleaning their cages, I soon discovered that I am incredibly allergic to cats (as is Stephanie, but she was already aware of this). Although we suffered (inhaling cat hair and bleach chemicals), we managed to survive. Our next stage of cleaning involved the surgery room with even stronger amounts of bleach. The entire time we wore masks, were coughing our lungs out, and scratching at our irritated skin. We also survived that experience, and later doing a last minute clean of the cat room. After all that, we were finished with about 4 1/2 hours. We decided to spend our last 30 minutes walking two dogs in the dog park and getting some much-needed fresh air.
Afterwards, the people at the shelter offered us some pizza for lunch (as it was 3:00 P.M.) and then we went home. To get some lunch, rest, and Benadryl.
The last three time we worked (although I worked one day alone) I won’t break up into different paragraphs because it all vaguely resembled itself. We decided after that first day to stick with the dogs and help clean out their areas. Some of the tasks involved cleaning the cages of the small dogs: getting them food, water, new bedding, and toys. We then cleaned out the big dogs’ kennels, doing roughly the same thing: feeding them, giving them fresh water, new bedding, some toys, and etc. We also mopped and sweeped the floor. Some interesting (or different) tasks we did during those three days were: putting bandannas on the smaller dogs, so they would look presentable for prospective owners;
putting bandannas on the larger dogs, which was way more difficult and involved me getting mauled by a giant wolf-dog in she-heat, and Stephanie and I cuddling with a mastiff;
Stephanie being “locked” inside the dog area;
and finally, Stephanie and I cuddling with the cats and the brand new kitten, while I was very much drugged-up on Benadryl so that I could survive the ordeal, somewhat unscathed and incredibly sleepy.
All in all, I felt this service project did help the community. It taught me a few valuable lessons and helped me realize what people can do to help others (not just humans) by taking a few hours out of their day to better another’s. It was a powerful thing realizing you could make an animal’s life better by just interacting with them and giving them some love and affection. A lot of the animals at the shelter had been abused, neglected, or lost by humans so it was nice to be on the side helping them learn that all humans aren’t awful and make meaningful connections with them. The only real obstacle I faced was being allergic to cats and I faced that by taking a lot of allergy medication, and then feeling dead-on-my-feet tired while volunteering.