Ace bursts into the room and is full of energy and excitement.
The German shepherd mix has no idea he’s going to be part of a special demonstration for the newest crop of volunteers at the Humane Society of Greenwood.
Operations Manager Connie Mawyer planned to show the newcomers — who will be part of more than 400 other volunteers — how to use a variety of leashes and harnesses.
Ace wanted nothing to do with it, at first. He was busy checking out every human in the room, running from person to person, seeking human interaction.
Within a few minutes, and with the use of commands and treats, Mawyer had Ace following her directions. The lesson is one of many the prospective volunteers learned Saturday as they prepare to help the animals at the shelter.
“With the size of the facility, and with the duties of the staff, we sometimes can’t meet the needs of the dogs one on one,” Mawyer said. “The volunteer base that comes in here gives us that. They are our bridge. They are not someone who sees the dog every day. They’re not feeding them every day. So, when that dog interacts with them, that gives us a clearer picture of how he might act with a potential adopter. That will then navigate us through the pet enrichment we need to do.”
There is a job for everyone. Not all involve direct contact with the animals.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the volunteers,” said Hope Kalbach, who is the resource development coordinator and oversees the volunteer program. “They are a big part of every aspect of what we do. I try to make sure I kind of cater it to what they like to do the best. I don’t want to make anyone feel obligated to do something they are uncomfortable with.”
Some people prefer data entry or cleaning cages. Others want to walk dogs, participate in adoption events or take part in a variety of other jobs.
“I have Lander students who will come over here and spend all day just bathing dogs,” Kalbach said. “It would be impossible to do what we do without our volunteer program.”
The volunteers are a diverse group. Lilly Partain, a 12-year-old who attends Greenwood Christian School, wants to be a veterinarian one day.
“I thought I would go ahead and start out here to get some experience underneath my belt and go on and build up from here,” she said. “They (the animals) are like your own. They need to be treated the exact way people are treated because they’re God’s creatures.”
Christine Sills can’t have a dog of her own right now, she said, because her husband travels a lot and her daughter is away at college.
“It’s just not fair to bring an animal into the home right now,” Sills said. “It’s very nice to be able to come and help out and give back to the community.”
Lori Parker has been a volunteer for seven years. She once rescued a stray dog and said she became interested in the number of homeless animals in the county. Volunteering at the shelter is her way of making an impact.
“It’s so rewarding to see the dogs be so happy,” Parker said. “They love the attention. They need that hands-on attention. It’s so rewarding to see them light up, and, when they get adopted, it’s just the icing on the cake.”
Parker said the volunteer program has grown into something that is special and strong.
“We’ll try to meet the needs of the volunteers and try to meet the needs of the animals — the dogs and the cats,” she said. “They’ve really expanded it. They give you lots of education so that you know what you are doing when you actually go and interact.
“Some people have more time than others. There are lots of different things to do. There are hundreds of things that need to be done. If you’re not able to handle a dog like she (Mawyer) showed us today, you can clean a bathroom, sweep the floor, wash the windows. There are lots of different things.”
If you are interested in volunteering, visit gwdhumanesociety.org/save-a-life/volunteer