|Barked: Mon Jan 21, '13 5:50pm PST |
|Funny you should post this!
I just spent the weekend volunteering at Villalobos!!! I was in town for work and thought it would be nice to volunteer and see what the rescue is really about.
First off, I went into the experience not quite sure what to think about the show, the rescue, etc. Upon arriving at the rescue, I was actually amazed at how calm and quiet the kennels were. There were about 5 other "one-time volunteers" there as well as about 10 regular volunteers. The new volunteers were given the rules and walking routes and then the regular ones took the dogs out of the kennels and we would take one and walk it for about 20 minutes and then return it to the kennels. In all, I walked 7 dogs and then helped fill water bowls and gave out treats. I was able to cuddle with the dogs I walked while waiting for them to be brought back into the kennels and it was clear the dogs enjoyed it.
A few observations--
1) I was really impressed by how clean and quiet the kennels were. They really do take pride in keeping the kennels clean and don't allow "drop-ins" to keep the kennels calm. The dogs really didn't seem stressed. There were also fewer dogs at the site than I had imagined--about 80.
2) The people you see regularly on the tv show actually do work there and get their hands dirty. I worked directly with Earl and Dameon (parolees), Tania (Tia's daughter) and Nina (volunteer who adopted Alien in a recent episode). Tia was around but was walking the most difficult dogs and had limited contact with us. That being said, it was actually nice to know that she was too busy doing her job to be a "celebrity". Everyone I met was exactly how you would imagine them based on what you see on the show. I really came back with a feeling that what you see on tv is legit and genuine. These people really do care about the dogs and their jobs.
3) There are a lot of "unsung" heroes that don't appear on the show but are certainly responsible for a lot of the success--those people being the regular volunteers. You could tell that Tia puts a lot of trust into her regular volunteers and many had been there since they helped Villalobos move from California and were deeply devoted.
4) The only down-side I saw was that many of the dogs had been with Villalobos for a very long time. Some of them, specifically the non-pits would be highly adoptable elsewhere, so I was not clear why they were still at VRC given that most people who go there to adopt, go specifically for a pittie. Despite the clean kennels and two walks daily (and interaction with volunteers and staff) the dogs get, it was sad to know that many would live their lives in the kennels. I actually was not as bothered by this as I had thought I would be, since the dogs honestly didn't seem as stressed as I had imagined. Most seemed quite content in their "kennels and probably are just thankful to have somewhere safe and warm.
So, overall it was a great experience. I came away feeling very impressed with what they do and how "real" it all is. Despite being "celebrities", the people really do work hard on a daily basis and love those dogs. I would volunteer again if I am back in New Orleans and would encourage you all to do the same!
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