Becoming a Dog Walker

Becoming a Dog Walker

A Story by barleygirl
"

excerpt from my new book (in progress) . . .

"

I'm now working on my next book, which is about the six years I spent
volunteering at two different animals shelters. Here's an excerpt:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a dyed-in-the-wool dog person, I naturally began volunteering as a dog walker. The only other option for a new volunteer is to become a cat companion.

I didn’t even go into the cat room until after I’d been volunteering for a few years. By that time an outdoor cattery had been fenced in beside the cat room by the industrious cat volunteers. That makes it easy to relax and watch while cats move freely, engaged in their playful antics. The cattery makes it possible for iffy-cat-people like me to avoid having to open the door of a small cage where a frustrated cat is sitting at face level, ready to pounce for its freedom.

Whether a new volunteer would be trained as dog walker or cat companion, the first order of business is to learn the layout and function of the building. It’s easy to get lost in the nondescript maze of institutional hallways at the shelter.

Several areas in the shelter are off-limits to volunteers. The spay-neuter clinic is one. This clinic is so tiny and busy with non-stop surgeries, nobody is allowed to interrupt the carefully orchestrated pandemonium.  Every bit of open floor space is used for resting pets, waking up from anesthesia. If you aren’t on the spay-neuter team, there isn’t room for you in here.

The corridor to the euthanasia room is to be kept clear of people standing around or curious about what goes on back there. Nobody involved in euthanasia wants to navigate hallway chatter or questions. These specially-selected staff members fight to control emotion as they perform such dreadful deeds.

Of course, quarantine is always locked up tight. As a dog feeder I had to feed every dog, including those in quarantine. I never touched the keys to quarantine, though. A staff member would accompany me and my dog food cart, unlocking quarantine to let me in. When feeding was finished, the door would already be locked as I left the quarantine area. There are many more details about life in quarantine, coming up in a later chapter.

Last but not least, volunteers are constantly warned not to walk through the intake doors. It’s much easier for dog walkers to leave the building through the automatically-sliding intake doors. Walking outside this way, it isn’t necessary to lead a dog through the main lobby, which is often full of people and children who might reach out and startle a skittish or unpredictable dog.

A daunting aspect of dog walking is leading a leashed animal through the gauntlet of aggressively barking dogs, caged on both sides, making a mad dash to escape the kennel area. The next challenge is coping with a flailing dog when it hits the waxed tile floor winding around on the way to the main lobby. Something about those slippery floors makes most dogs freakish on their feet. It can be necessary to pull a dog hard by its leash, just to get it moving across those tiles.

At this point, a dog walker dreads the heavy stalwart lobby doors, which are tough to shove open while a big strong dog is pulling in the other direction. On the other side of these unwieldy doors, a crowd is often lined up at the front desk, waiting to take care of licensing, adoption, and the paying of fines.

Sometimes when the front lobby is crammed with wall-to-wall people, a dog walker can’t resist going straight back to the automatically-sliding doors. Most of the time the intake area is deserted. Most of the day, animal control officers are out in the field and nobody has yet returned with captured animals. But it isn’t possible to check and see if the intake area is clear before taking the chance to escape through that route. It would be bad to run into an officer who is struggling with a pesky pup and our dogs get into an aggressive tangle. Nobody knows what diseases a new capture may have and nobody wants to spread disease around.

The last two hours of every afternoon, animal control officers start returning. They park their trucks, all lined up at the intake doors. Each officer waits to wrangle a frisky load of strays into the intake area.

It isn’t unusual for a well-meaning volunteer to rush up to some unknown unpredictable just-captured dog and greet the creature, fawning excitedly. This is what animal control officers hate about volunteers and why they ban volunteers from the intake area. Volunteers are notorious for not taking the time to read an animal before approaching it. Many strays have never been handled by humans. These animals are potentially as wild as any lone mountain predator.

Inexperienced volunteers are not welcome in the clinic, the euthanasia hallway, the locked quarantine doors, or the wide-open intake area. On the contrary, volunteers are wholeheartedly invited to spend time in the sweltering laundry room. Every day each dog gets a clean blanket and that means washing fifty or sixty blankets and folding them to be ready for the next day’s washdown. Two days a week twenty pets are spayed and neutered in the clinic, along with the soiled towels and sheets each operation produces. The laundry room requires constant attention to stay ahead of the growing piles.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1. Feel free to go to Amazon and select "Kindle Store" in the search field.
2. Search on Margie Willis to see my book offerings there.
3. When you buy a kindle book, click "read now" and the file will be
    opened using the kindle app on whatever device you're using.

© 2019 barleygirl


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Featured Review

He He I love all animals but i'm a cat guy or should I say cats like me and generally select me as there potential human:) I once passed out on a balcony and woke up to a horde of strays laying about me my memory of this is a bit fuzzy. The girl that had the party said she counted over 15 cats and was amazed how they all just appeared on her balcony:) cant wait to read your next book

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

Thank you for that little kitty tidbit. I tried to weave some kitties into my book, even tho the bul.. read more



Reviews

Yay- new book in the works!! I adopted all but one of my succession of doggies from shelters. Every one of them was an angel in her own right. They saved me in more ways than I can count. The shelters/rescue organizations truly deserve a shout-out for the humane work they do. Your account here reminds of my first nursing internship at a Bronx hospital- the winding hallways, tunnels, confusion and me trying desperately to fade into the woodwork until I learned the ropes of it. God bless all shelter volunteers (and hospital/nursing home volunteers). They are the backbone and the heart of all they do. Can’t wait to read your book and Congrats Margie!!

Posted 1 Month Ago


Congratulations on the new book! I've always enjoyed your writing, especially when it's about animals! It sounds like a very enjoyable read.

Posted 1 Month Ago


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He He I love all animals but i'm a cat guy or should I say cats like me and generally select me as there potential human:) I once passed out on a balcony and woke up to a horde of strays laying about me my memory of this is a bit fuzzy. The girl that had the party said she counted over 15 cats and was amazed how they all just appeared on her balcony:) cant wait to read your next book

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

Thank you for that little kitty tidbit. I tried to weave some kitties into my book, even tho the bul.. read more

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Added on July 20, 2019
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barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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