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Volunteering at the Austin Humane Shelter: Part 5

Continuing from Part 4 while I thumped on about the shelter, I tried to make the point that doing volunteering of any sort can only be good for everyone involved.  I told you about another project I do regularly as well as a couple more I may get involved with through a friend here.  I want to sum up that piece quickly: it doesn’t matter what you do volunteering, just do something.

But this series is about the Austin Humane Shelter mainly and I’m going to finish up by moving (mainly) back to dogs.   Originally there was only going to be one picture but something came up as I was writing it that has modified that to two.  I’ve shown you plenty of beautiful dogs already and today is not the time for showing non-specific dogs; the two I’m going to show you are for very specific reasons.

But before we get into it.

Warning, Will Robinson

But I’m not going to ambush you with this.  I’m going to warn you up front.  Because today is where I’m going to do what I promised at the outset and make you cry.  I know originally I said I’d only try but if you can make it through this piece without crying, you’re inhuman. Or dead.  This is the only warning you get.

So if you’re not somewhere you can bawl your eyes out without funny looks, don’t read on.  I’m not kidding.   Or be mean and call over all of your workmates and make them read the series so they can cry too.  Because I’m going to hit you where it hurts and I’m going to hit you hard and don’t say you weren’t warned if you keep reading.  Make sure you have tissues handy and/or a strong shoulder to cry on.  You may need both.

Get Our Yer Hankies

Because I’m going to play the emotional manipulation card and I’m going to play it HARD and I’m going to make last one plea for the dogs to get you to do something to help them. And because I’m obsessive like that,  I’m going to do it in two parts, first generally and then specifically.  By the end, I bet you’ll want to do something.  Here’s the general bit: someone posted this from Facebook (I didn’t write it) and to get the emotions rolling I’m going to start by quoting it in full.

Do realize that my situation wasn’t quite the same  as this but it was close enough for government work:

I rescued a human today.
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid.
As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.
A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well. Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today

It’s ok, you may cry now and wait to read the final section until you’re back to normal.  Just realize that I’m not done with you yet and you may cry again before it’s all over.

I Still Miss Her

Now, people often think of me as an emotionless robot and, in some ways, I am.  But under certain circumstances I’m, if anything, overemotional.  And this is one of them; when it comes to people I care about (or in this case a special dog), I go to the other extreme.  I love completely and it gets me hurt; many people can’t even handle me because it’s just too much for them.  They pull away because I’m as obsessive about people I care about as anything else.

Because when I am there for someone, I am there completely for them (or not at all).  My handful of real friends over the years feel the same.  When they need me, I’m there for them; when I need them, they are there for me.  That’s the only way it works for me: all or nothing.  I have no middle speed.

And this summer when I was sinking, my friends were there for me.  My local friends gave me support and finally a much-needed kick in the ass to go get medication, see a therapist, come back to the weight room.  I didn’t want to do it but they were right; and I thank them.  Another, my mentor, could only provide long-distance support giving me feedback and support in my time of need.  There were others who were there for me in my time of need and  I thank all of them for it.

But Babe was there for me too, even if only for a little while.  Even though she didn’t know it (and couldn’t have cared anyway).  I loved babe, I cherished every minute I spent with her and wish I’d had longer.  And while I was going to say that Babe gave me back everything I gave her, that’s wrong.  She gave me far more than I gave her because I had so little to give.  All I could do for her was what any volunteer could do for her; I was nothing special in her life in the big scheme of things.

That was enough for her; it was more than enough.  And look at what she gave me in return: in a time where my entire life was nothing but never-ending unhappiness and constant misery and I was sinking deeper into it day by day, Babe brought a bright spot into it albeit only for a little while.  My time with her gave me a reason to leave the house, to go to the shelter, to escape briefly from what seemed like unending pain.

And sometimes that’s all you need, just a sign that all isn’t pain and misery and suffering and that you can feel happiness again.  That even when your brain is telling you that everything is simply awful, it’s not true. You can still feel joy if only temporarily and that tells you that it will eventually come back.

My time with Babe made me happy, if only for a moment; and the sadness I felt after it was gone was still ok because I knew the dog I loved was happy now.  Sure, you shouldn’t rely on someone or something else for your happiness; that’s not healthy.  But sometimes you can’t do it on your own.  Sometimes you need someone else, a special person, or in this case, a beautiful dog to help you out.

At that time, I hated my training, had no life, I was bored senseless, my personal life was in shambles, my professional life was in question.  I had nothing and that makes it hard to care about anything. Part of me really wanted to just move somewhere where nobody knew me and just disappear; to just sit around and wait to grow old and die.   It wasn’t a good summer at all.

And then I met Babe.

Babe gave me something to look forward to doing in my day and in my life when I didn’t have a hell of a lot at the time.  She gave me something to care about and that started to pull me out of the hole.  And she did it without expecting anything but the simplest things in return.  A stroke of the snout, being allowed to potty outside, a treat, a chance to sit next to me and cuddle for as long as I’d let her.  She asked for so little and gave me literally everything.  Because she gave me something that is nearly unheard of in this day and age; when everything has an undercurrent of ‘Yeah, but what do I get out of it?’.

Babe gave me unconditional love.

So Volunteer: Redux

And that’s why I wanted to take this entire week to write about the Austin Humane Shelter and promote it and why I will continue to volunteer there (or at another shelter if I move) for the forseeable future.  My time there generally, and my time with Babe specifically, contributed more positively to my life this summer than I can begin to describe. It helped me get my life back.  It’s not a debt I can ever truly repay. But that won’t stop me from trying.

So go, go to your local shelter and help.  Volunteer, walk some dogs, adopt a dog.   Give whatever you can give, just do something.  Do it for personal reasons, do it for altruistic reasons, do it to meet girls, do it because the head monkey who runs this site asked you to and you want to pay him back for giving you 300+ no nonsense articles for free to read.  I don’t give a damn why you do it, just do it.

If you aren’t in a place to adopt a dog and simply can’t volunteer, make a donation.  This is the link for the Austin Humane Shelter Donation Page where I volunteer but find your local shelter and donate something.  Don’t get hung up on how much you can or can’t give.  Every little bit helps and, trust me, the shelter will thank you for anything you can give of yourself. Even if you can only spare $5, every bit matters.  It means that another dog gets to eat for a day or has a warm kennel to live in rather than being alone on the street.

A Plea to My Readers: Please Donate

In fact, as I was putting the finishing touch on this, I got an email from the Austin Humane Shelter about a very special dog who just came to my shelter.  And she’s going to let me put a very real face on my suggestion to donate something.  Realistically, if even a portion of the regular readers of this site were to give a paltry $5-10 to my shelter, the dog I’m going to tell you about could get the help she needs and still leave more money for the other dogs.

This is Loretta and her story.

Loretta needs your help, please.
Loretta needs your help, please.

“Young Loretta has seen more hardship in her one and a half years than any animal should ever have to — she was found abandoned with two couches by the side of a rural road and taken to Town Lake Animal Center, but they were unable to treat her medical issues. Luckily for Loretta, AHS saw past her health problems and her sad appearance to the light in her eyes and the loving look on her troubled face and rescued her from certain death.


Loretta is now safe here at AHS, but she is still in desperate need of help — she has severe demodex mange and irreversible cherry eye which will require extensive skin treatments, surgery to remove her right eye and treat her left eye, and months of hard recovery with a foster home. Despite the discomfort she faces every day, Loretta’s tail continues to wag, and she bestows gentle, loving kisses on anyone within reach.


We are trying to raise $3,000 to provide treatment for Loretta’s medical problems so that she can finally have the loving, affectionate home that she so desperately deserves. Please help Loretta by donating today!”

And here’s video of Loretta.

This dog, this very real dog shown above needs your help and the Austin Humane Shelter can’t afford to provide it.  But you can help.  And if you feel that you’ve gotten anything from this series of articles, or my site, or the work I’ve done, I’m asking you to help.  People often ask me if they can make contributions for hosting or the forums or what have you and I always turn it down.

But now I’m asking for your help.  Help this dog get the medical treatment she needs so that she can find her Forever Home and a family that loves her, too.  Donate something.  If you want to donate in my name (use the site name actually), do that.  Or do it anonymously.  Or in your own name.  I don’t care how you do it.  Just do it.

Please consider donating 5-10$ (more if you can but every bit helps) to help out.  All you need to do is eat out one less time per week.  Or drink one less overpriced cup of coffee. Hell, think of the money you’ve spent on bullshit supplements or terrible e-books that you got nothing out of.  For a few dollars, you can know that you contributed to help another creature on this planet who needs the help.  How much is that worth to you?  A lot more than $10 that’s what.

Even if you don’t want to donate to my shelter to help Loretta or my dogs, I’m still going to ask you to donate to your local shelter if you just can’t volunteer and be more involved than that.  Get thee to Google, find your shelter and donate some amount of money to it.  Whatever you can spare is enough, every bit helps.

And then I want you to do this for me:  Find a picture of your favorite dog on your local shelter’s page, get the URL for that dog’s picture and post it in the comments section of this page with their name so everyone can see which dog you cared enough about to donate some of your money to help.   At some point, I’ll get them all and put up a followup with the dog’s name and which shelter they came from to show how my readers contributed.  So that others can see the real dogs they liked benefited from their gifts.   It’s so little to ask and you have to believe me that it does so much.

Update: It occurs to me that even though I am already involved with the Austin Humane Shelter as a volunteer, I shouldn’t ask my readers to do something I won’t.  So I’m donating the entirety of my yesterday’s net income ($300) from book sales to Loretta and my shelter to kick things off and put my money where my mouth is.  It’s better than spending it on some of the other stupid things I’ve thrown money at (cough, cough, strip clubs).  I’ll be volunteering later today and hope to meet her in person as well.

Donation Information
Amount:     $300.00
Designation:     Loretta Fund
Billing Information
First name:     Lyle
Last name:     McDonald
Country:     United States

Why can’t you spare $10?

Update: So I went in to walk dogs for a couple of hours today, I’d missed them.  I found out that my readers have been more than generous with donations.   And I will be putting something together with the shelter to try and do more.    It’ll be on the site.   But, for the time being, I thank everyone who contributed.  The dogs will be helped and it’s thanks to you.

And after walking all of the dogs, it turned out that there was one more I’d been waiting on, Loretta herself.  She has GI tract problems and a shelter rule is that when you walk a GI dog, that’s your last dog.  But I wanted to meet her.  And despite her hardships, hardships that would make a human be nothing but horrible, she was loving, beautiful, easygoing and one of the easiest blue dogs I’ve ever walked.

She was nothing but affectionate, giving me tons of kisses and rubbing up against me so I could stroke her.  She loved treats and walked beside me without pulling in the field; she returned to her kennel without any stress.  And there was a visiting Girl Scout Troop taking a tour with Misty and one of them was nice enough to take a picture.  Here’s me and Loretta.

Loretta and I
Loretta and I


Update: If you want to see what ultimately happened with the Loretta Fund drive, read Volunteering at the Austin Humane Shelter: Thank You.  I’ll do more updates about Loretta as they come; her surgery, how she’s doing and when she finds her forever home.

Ok, Back to My Narrative

Now make no mistake, I know others need help too, but the dogs can’t help themselves.  Shit, I die a little bit when I see some 20 something hipster douche panhandling because he’s too lazy to work; I’d never give him anything more than abuse.  The dogs don’t have that option.

They can’t get a part time job at Starbucks; they don’t have thumbs and they’d drool in the cups anyhow (the cats could be managers).  And the shelter is overworked and underfunded and trying their hardest to do what’s right with limited resources.

The shelter needs you.  More importantly, the dogs need you.

But again it doesn’t have to be dogs or the shelter even if I’m pushing it hard for reasons that should be obvious by now.  Volunteer elsewhere, there’s plenty of it out there if you take the time to look.  Find something you want to do that fits who you are and that you can do consistently and go do it.  The hour or two per week you give of your own time to help someone less fortunate will pay back dividends you can’t begin to imagine until you experience it.  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Whatever you pick, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who are simply happy that you’re helping, who ask for nothing more than that you show up to give freely of yourself and your time; to do something that helps someone or something that can’t help itself right at the moment.   They need you; but for one reason or another you may need them too.

You may not be as bad off as I was; I hope you aren’t because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  Go volunteer anyway and  just trust me that you’ll get back way more than you put in if you go help out and do it without really expecting anything in return more than a thanks or the satisfaction of a job well done.  You’ll still get more back than you put in, even if you don’t look for it.

But I’m still partial to the shelter and the dogs and that’s my focus.  The dogs have needs that they can’t attend to themselves.  They need walking, and pottying and exercise and affection just like people do (and yes, I’m one of those people who cares more about animals than about most people).  They need a chance, even if just for a few minutes per day, to be dogs.  As a dog lover I know put it in response to this series:

In regards to volunteering to walk dogs, you mention even just getting them out for a little bit. If more people could understand even how 15 minutes outside for a dog is massively significant for their well being, maybe more would volunteer. It has less to do with the exercise (although important) and more to do with a dog’s need to get the daily news. A dog gets the daily news by getting outside and sniffing and most dogs will suffer severe depression if they can’t do that.

Beyond that, you have to believe me, the dogs will ask for almost nothing and they will give you everything in return.

The dogs need you.  But maybe you need them, too.

I did.

The End for Now

I don’t wish crushing depression on anyone; it’s no way to live, trust me. And I hope that you’re reading this and aren’t where I found myself this summer.  But maybe you’re still in a bad place, for whatever reason of your own.

Maybe you’re going through something in your life that is giving you grief and unhappiness that you need a break from.  It doesn’t matter what the issue is but if you feel like you’re getting sucked down and sinking fast, you have nothing to lose by volunteering somewhere, or spending time with the dogs.

Or maybe you can relate to my depression or what I went through this summer, I had a lot of people comment on those articles that I described their depression better than they ever could. It’s not always a topic that people like to talk about especially how it affects them personally, for various and sundry reasons but I have no problem putting myself out there like this.

People I don’t even really know tell me that reading my stuff about this summer helped them in some way.  Sometimes just knowing that someone else has the same hurt that you do makes it better; you don’t feel like some particular kind of screwup because someone else shares your pain.

But sometimes I do know them.  An Internet friend I’ve had for nearly a decade sent me the following via email on Wednesday.  This single email makes the entire series worthwhile to me; not only did I maybe help a friend in pain, I helped the dogs:

For a while, over a year now, I’ve been dealing with semi-managed depression (the drugs get me out of bed, and the therapy gets me halfway-functional, but there’s a big gap between that and good).

For about the same amount of time, I’ve thought about volunteering at my local animal shelter, both to get out of the house and out of my own head but, being depressed, I always managed very effectively to find a way to avoid volunteering.

It’s funny how that works.  Obviously this isn’t why you wrote the articles, but reading the first two finally made me pull the trigger: my orientation at the Oakland Animal Shelter is on the 28th.

And that’s why you should volunteer.  Because when you find yourself in a place of darkness, with the world closing in on you, when everything is (or at least seems like) pain and misery and it seems like nothing can ever be good again, maybe doing that one small thing for someone else will help give you some light, some happiness, a sliver of hope to hold onto that it’s not as bad as it seems.

It can give you a lifeline to keep your head up above water when you don’t think you can do it anymore; when you reach the point that you don’t care if you sink or not.  Because you might find that one thing that makes you  realize, even briefly, that it can get eventually better.  And eventually it will.  Maybe out there, at the shelter or some other volunteer option, you’ll find your own Babe (you can’t have mine) who will take you by the hand (or leash) and lead you back to the land of the living.

Thank You, Babe

That’s what Babe did for me and that’s why I’m writing this and helping to get the word out about the shelter and why it was so important to me.  Babe gave me that sliver of hope to hang onto.  She helped to save me and doesn’t even know it.  Nor would she care as she asked for nothing in return.

I’ll never see her again which is why I keep her picture with me.  I know beyond certainty that she’s happy in her Forever Home.  I miss her every day; writing this has nearly killed me and I’m tired of crying at this point.  I still love her and I always will.

I know you’ve been in suspense waiting for this but you knew I wouldn’t end this series without showing you Babe.  My phone has picture capabilities on it and I rarely have pictures of people on it.  Memory space is cheap and unlimited and people simply don’t rate.  But this picture is on it and will probably stay there forever.

This, finally, is Babe.


The dog saved my life.
This dog saved my life.


Continue reading about my experience at the Austin Humane Shelter in Part 6.


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