Animal welfare volunteers come in a wide variety of ages, but what connects them is their love of pets. Earlier this week, I shared a story about a five-year-old boy who asked for money to be donated to Lincoln Animal Ambassador’s Pet Food Bank Today I’d like to introduce a nine-year-old volunteer with Big Dogs Huge Paws. Like Avery, he started helping animals foremost because he loves them but also because of the example set by his grandmother.
Damien is willing to do whatever needs to be done at the BDHP events.—Geri Nance, Damien’s grandmother
When writing to me about her grandson, Geri Nance told me that Damien takes his duties with BDHP very seriously. ”Damien goes to all BDHP’s events with me. He can and does talk about the rescue and about the giant breeds, especially Great Danes, to just about anyone.” Geri added that, Damien “also makes sure to remind me every Wednesday that I need to call the BDHP hotline to retrieve any messages.” Damien’s parents are also proud of him. As for his friends, at first their eyes widened and they exclaimed, “YOU DO WHAT?!” But then, they said what Damien did was “very cool”.
I smile while people ask me if I have a saddle for our dog.—Damien
According to Damien, volunteer roles with at BDHP include: Some people, like his Nana, handle applications, home checks, and the group hotline. Others foster dogs. Finally, everyone tries to attend all BDHP events. Whenever appropriate, they bring foster dogs with them so that others can see the dogs and hopefully adopt them.
And what is Damien’s role? Specifically, Damien takes care of the dogs. He ensures that they have abundant water and treats. He also makes sure they feel comfortable by holding them and staying close to them. Damien also spends a lot of time talking to prospective volunteers and fosters. He talks to them about what big dogs are like and how great they are.
As with any animal welfare volunteer, Damien has experienced both highs and lows. His greatest happiness, of course, is “when the dogs get adopted and get to go home to a nice family that will love them”. The greatest sadness is when the dogs pass away.
I don’t understand how people can just get rid of a dog, because it’s supposed to be part of your family.—Damien
I asked Damien about what has been most challenging about being a volunteer. His passionate response impressed me. “It makes me mad when people get a big dog as a puppy and think it is going to stay small. So because it gets big really fast, they don’t want it anymore. People just need to understand and know what kind of dog they are getting.”
And yet despite the rollercoaster ride one can face as a volunteer in the animal welfare world, Damien obviously loves what he does. He takes pride in wearing his BDHP shirt. And he feels pleased that Big Dogs Huge Paws has gotten its name out in the community. Then “people will know what and who we are and will hopefully adopt a big dog from us”.
Many thanks to Geri Nance for answering my call for stories about young volunteers, to Damien for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Damien’s parents for allowing me to feature Damien at LAA Pet Talk. If you wish to know more about Big Dogs Huge Paws, contact Kaywin Sohl, who has always answered every question I’ve ever had about the group. You can also find out more at the Big Dogs Hugs Paws website.
Stay tuned for more stories this week about other distinctive volunteers. And if you’re a volunteer with a local animal welfare group, whatever your age or role, LAA Pet Talk would love to hear from you. Just post a comment below! Thanks.