In addition to my printing job, I also volunteer at an animal rescue. Most often my efforts revolve around fundraising with my wife (SHE is the coordinator, I am just manual labor and occasional brainstormer). We run all sorts of things to raise money for the shelter such as charity poker tournaments, candlelight bowls, bake sales and even did a comedy show one year. There are also a lot of what they call ‘tag days’ where we get to go be the annoying people out front of the grocery store begging for money. We usually have 2 teams of 2, each with a dog, and probably make a few hundred bucks for a few hours work. occasionally someone comes out and hands us bags of dog food, which is also appreciated.
Most of our volunteers don’t like these type of events, but I do. I get to spend a few hours with a nice dog, and occasionally meet some nice people while I am at it. I am not a pushy person while there, I just say hi and make sure the dog is front and center. I always make sure to take the cutest one I can find as they always get people to stop and want to pet them ( about half way thru someone from the shelter comes and picks up the dogs and brings us 2 new ones, especially if it is hot out). Once stopped they always feel guilty and give you a few bucks.
So we had one of those events last year in July. I started out with a beautiful beagle named Oscar. Beagles always get people to stop and want to talk and pet the dogs so it was a wise choice. Oscar was friendly and very appreciative of the attention so all went well. About 2 hours in the van shows up with the relief-dogs for round 2. Oscar goes away and now I am stuck with whatever random dog they brought me. For the second half I now get Carlos, a 10 month old Lab-mutt that only has 3 legs! Apparently he was hit by a car, brought to a vet and when told of how much the bills would be, they abandoned him! The vets ended up having to amputate his left rear leg and he then ended up in our shelter. I wasn’t too sure about this. He was only a few months removed from the surgery and with the trauma of that and being let go by an unappreciative family, I had no clue how good he wold be. Sure, he would get the sympathy people to stop, but what kind of a dog was he? Friendly?
Well, it didn’t take long to have any concerns that I had to fade away. Carlos was by far the happiest dog I have ever seen! He was a bundle of joy, reveling in the sun, in the people and all the attention he got. It seemed as if every person that passed by had to stop and pet Carlos. He was excited at the attention, but not to the point of being ‘jumpy’ on people. He gave back at the level he got, and then just a little bit more. I swear he was smiling. For 2 hours Carlos was free and the center of attention. For two hours every kid that walked by fell in love with Carlos. For two hours this dog displayed more joy in life than most people I know, including sometimes myself, display in a week. (And just a note, we made over $600 that day in large part due to Carlos!)
When I first started volunteering at the shelter it was difficult. I wanted to bring home just about every dog I saw! If it was one that I myself had out for an event the draw was even worse. Thankfully my HO only allows me to have 2 dogs or I would have a shelter myself. At the time we had a beagle and a pug, and the pug is such a bitch to other dogs that we aren’t getting another dog until she passes. But I soooo wanted to bring home Carlos! However it was not to be. I was very happy to hear, however, that the next day Carlos had 3 different families stop in and fill out applications for him! He did get a new home later that week and I am sure he is still as happy today as ever. Being around such pure, unbridled joy can be infectious. Petting dogs has been found to reduce stress by releasing oxytocin in your brain. There has to be something similar from being around pure joy that isn’t diluted by anything. Despite my blog title name, I TRY and be happy. And I usually am. I vent my frustrations here or in massive swear-filled diatribes, then I go on. I have lots to be thankful for and try and remember it when I can. And when I am having trouble in that area, I like to bring out my Carlos memories to keep me grounded. We should all be happy like Carlos.