Volunteering for the Love of Animals at the East Bay SPCA
Meet Howie. Howie is a four-year old St. Bernard dog who came to the East Bay SPCA unhealthy and in lots of pain. Howie’s legs could not support his body weight. He was put to limited exercise and short walks, staying mostly in his room at the SPCA with droopy eyes, head down, and lying on the floor. As the days passed Howie was still not able to be adopted due to his condition. It was time to do something about it. The SPCA sent Howie to Oakland for the two intense surgeries he should have gotten a long time ago. The SPCA expected Howie to need foster care for 6-8 months after the surgeries. The operations were such a huge success, however, that it was not necessary to foster Howie and he was back at the SPCA in about a month and put up for adoption. In a just a couple of days, Howie was sent home with a family who loved him. This is only one example of the success of the East Bay SPCA.
My name’s Evelyn and I’m a sixth grader at Fallon Middle School. I have always loved animals, especially cats. I was first introduced to the East Bay SPCA on a Girl Scout field trip. I had never been to the SPCA, and all I was expecting was a depressing shelter like the others. As we walked through the doors I realized I was completely wrong. The SPCA was a huge, colorful building that was the opposite of depressing. The cats had large habitats filled with toys, cat trees, and light! The dogs had large rooms to run around in and a big yard to play fetch and get their energy out. After that trip I knew that I wanted to help out at the SPCA, but I didn’t know how. That upcoming summer my mom signed me up for Animal Camp at the SPCA. In that week I learned so much about animal behavior, different types of animals, body language, and animal care. We got to groom dogs and play with the cats, I had a blast. My mom realized how much I loved the animals at the SPCA so she soon signed us both up to volunteer there for the cats. I was ready to get started as soon as possible!
There was a process that we had to go through before we could begin as official Feline Kennel Assistant volunteers. First there were a couple of two-hour classroom training sessions. In them we learned basic rules and procedures with the cats. For example we went over, feeding, cleaning, and body language. We were also introduced to the different levels of volunteering. The first level is Kennel Assistant, the main goal for assistants is to clean and feed all of the habitats. Level two is Caretaker, but to become one you must complete twenty hours of volunteering. When you are a Caretaker you socialize with the animals and help with adoptions. You also get to interact with the public more, answering questions and showing them cats and dogs. Other things you get to do are off-site events (like the Farmer’s Market at Emerald Glen Park), becoming a volunteer mentor, and helping with adoptions. After the classroom training we had to complete mentor training. Mentor training is where someone, staff or volunteer, shows you how to do everything yourself. Once mentor training is complete you can start volunteering as a Kennel Assistant and build up your hours. I recently became a Caretaker and it is very satisfying.
Being a volunteer at the SPCA has many positives. One of them is knowing all of the animals. I have learned all of the cats’ names and have become friends with them. When I pass by the dogs I can say “hi” to them and they know me. One of the cats I have become very close with is Lola. She is currently up for adoption at the SPCA. Lola is a gray tabby cat, very desperate for a family. She is a wonderful friend who sits by the door meowing. When you walk in she immediately comes to you and rubs against your leg. Along with Lola, I am also friends with a dog named Cookie. Cookie is a Chihuahua mix who recently got adopted. I met her at animal camp when I groomed and trained her. She is very sweet and I hope she went home with a loving family. Volunteering at the SPCA is hard work and a big dedication of my time, but I love it so much. Volunteering has even pushed me to continue my interest in animal behavior. I hope to go to college someday to study animal behavioral science. Until then the SPCA is a great opportunity for me to spend time with animals.