Thank You, Dogs
When I started my service-learning class at FreshCo, someone told me that we were doing our service project at Athens Pets. This got me really excited as I assumed that we would spend our service days doing nothing but playing with dogs. When we had our first service day, I realized that my assumption was correct, however I was met with many surprises throughout the experience. The more time I spent with the different dogs and listened to the workers at Athens Pets, the more I realized the weight of the project that we were doing. This wasn’t just having a good time playing with different dogs who play with people every day, this was providing a source of joy for dogs who live their lives inside of cages waiting to be adopted. As harsh as this sounds, I didn’t think about this at all until I was confronted with reality at the actual dog shelter. This really opened my eyes to what these dogs have to go through every day and the internal pain that they must feel.
When our group started playing with our first dog, the dog didn’t seem to like us very much and didn’t want to play. As you can imagine, this frustrated four young and excited college students who wanted to play with cute dogs all day. Personally, I felt entitled, as if I deserved to play with that dog and that it was the dog’s duty to play with me. However, after thinking about it more, I came to realize that I was there to serve the dog. Our purpose for being at the shelter was to do two things: give the dog as much joy and excitement in the brief time that we spent with him, and do what we could to get the dog adopted. As more dogs came to our yard to play with us, I began to get a little emotional and sad. The truth was that these dogs didn’t have a home. From this point on, one of the hardest things for me to do was to give the dogs all the attention that I could instead of getting caught up thinking about the sadness of their situation. I had to do what I could to bring them joy and to change their situation.
In reflection, one of my major realizations from this experience is that although I am a freshman in college and am going through a major life change, I still have a chance to actually help my community. Even if it means simply playing with dogs for a couple of hours, seeing the joy that those dogs had when we started getting along with them better was amazing. Not only that, but the thankfulness that the workers at Athens Pets showed us made it clear that we were actually helping. To me, this was huge, as most times that I have done service projects in the past, it hasn’t felt like I was really helping. But the feeling of knowing that you’re there for a reason is priceless.