Service Learning Reflection

Going into the service project, my most prominent thought was how excited I was to play with the dogs. Though, I was also a bit nervous as well. I was concerned that the shelter dogs would be unfriendly and hostile, and I was nervous because this was my first time volunteering with animals. There is so much stigma around shelters and dogs coming in from animal control. When I think of animal control, I think of the viscous dogs with rabies who will bite and scratch you with malicious intent. But that is not what I found upon entering the shelter. All the dogs I encountered have been playful and affectionate. There were so many moments where I thought to myself how fun these dogs were and how I wanted to adopt every one I came in contact with. I looked forward to every service day and never wanted it to end.

Dogs at shelters are often misunderstood. When people come to a shelter and see dogs barking in the cages they often think that the dogs are aggressive, but that is not the case. These dogs bark because they are so excited to see people and they are so excited to play. They have so much energy and are so lively that when you get to meet them they are the sweetest creatures. All of the dogs there just want attention and to be loved and played with. Many people mistake their energy for craziness and think that these dogs will be hyper, and as a result will not want to adopt or rescue. What people do not realize is that the dogs at the shelter are cooped up all day in a small space, so they jump at the thought of being let out to play, literally!

One thing I realized during this project was how often situations are misjudged. At first glance things may look a certain way, and many people will have negative first reactions without proper basis. The negative stigma surrounding something is not always true. I expected shelters to have the last choice dogs that no one ever ends up adopting, but I found multiple dogs that I would have adopted in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity and ability to care for them. I always love when I have the opportunity to interact with animals, so this project was a way that I could channel my interests, while also doing something to give back to the community I will call home for the next four years. I found that working with animals is a completely different experience than a many other volunteer opportunities. Animals cannot communicate the way people can, so it can be a challenge to learn their cues and what they are trying to communicate. As a result, you need to learn how to approach a situation from a different perspective than you would in volunteer work that deals with building houses or working at a food bank.

This experience taught me to utilize different skills than I usually do as I was faced with having to care for animals I was unfamiliar with, while adjusting to a new environment. Whether you are working with people or animals, both are living creatures and it takes a level of responsibility to care for another life in addition to your own. Through this opportunity, I found I gained more awareness of what it means to care for another living being and more responsibility that will transcend multiple aspects of my college career moving forward.