As finals week approaches as it always does, anxious UGA students consistently flock to the crowded Miller Learning Center (MLC). Some visit the study rooms for the first time all semester, while others consider this building their second home. However, during a certain 4-hour period the already packed MLC reaches extreme levels of busy. While students attempt to cram months’ worth of material into a week, “Stressed Dogs for Stressed Dawgs,” an event sponsored by the University Health Center, has brought rescue dogs inside the MLC. The students’ response is overwhelming to the point where a single person is considered lucky if they get to play with a puppy for more than a minute.
Such an overwhelming response is not surprising, considering the pre-existing obsession UGA students have with the guide dogs in-training all over campus. The popular phrase “guide dog puppies” fills photos, posts, and comments across various forms of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Yik Yak.
With all the hype and the strong obsession of cute dogs circulating UGA campus, it’s surprising that more students don’t know about the unique and non-commitment- based volunteer opportunity at Athens- Clarke County Animal Control, which is located only 4.2 miles from UGA campus. Once at the shelter, the simple process begins with a short orientation from the friendly and helpful staff, which is only required on the first visit. After much anticipation, you can proceed to pick out a dog from their concrete kennel. After reading a first person description of the dog, such as, “I am very playful and love to be held” or “I am very shy so take it slow,” you may take the dog out to an interactive play area equipped with benches, soft grass and open space. This lucky puppy can also play with toys and treats you bring in from the front office. Here you can spend time with the dog in a playful environment for as long as you wish while the shelter is open, instead of just for a second on your way to cram for finals. You can continue taking out dogs of various age, breed and personality one at a time for the duration of the visit.
Sarah Halstead, a caretaker and front office worker at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, emphasized the importance of volunteers in regards to the future of dogs in this temporary home. “It is important that they socialize, get used to other people, and to go out and get exercise,” she says. Halstead further explains the success of this volunteer opportunity by stating how the dogs are, “not nearly as pent up” and have exhibited “better behavior and a quicker rescue.” Essentially, volunteers are necessary because these abandoned, beaten or surrendered dogs need to gain adoptable qualities that display promise for a happy and healthy life. The faster these dogs exhibit these traits, the faster they will get picked up by a local rescue group or even adopted to avoid the horrific fate of being put down.
Assisting at Animal Control is not only easy, fun, and a great item to include on a resume under volunteer work, but it’s personally rewarding as well. Kristine Hicks, a UGA student, volunteer and future foster dog owner states, “I hang out for the dogs, but it is more for me.” Animal Control allows volunteers to foster the successful future of an innocent animal by giving time and love to the dogs, while getting some back in return. For instance, a 2-month old tri-colored hound puppy named Dolly, with such a horrendous past, contained such a positive personality when playing. Despite being abandoned by an abusive owner at such a young age, her floppy ears and long wagging tail wipe away any sad memories. I felt such happiness travel between the both of us, especially after her little nose nuzzled against my knee as I knelt down to rub her spotted belly.
Hicks continues by claiming how volunteering at Animal Control “is addicting” and “an emotional experience.” I wanted to adopt every dog I saw, which made leaving difficult; however, the ability to return and live this same incredible experience again is always uplifting, without fail.
Now, let’s use the dog fascination that UGA students have created through the years to make a difference for dogs in need. Hopefully, word of this non-commitment- based volunteer opportunity will travel fast, so when life is ruff, both dog and human can sneak in a smile on a stressful day.
Athens Clarke County Animal Shelter
125 Buddy Christian Way, Athens, Ga, 30605
Open Thursday-Tuesday 10:00am-4:00pm, closed Wednesday