Before you can begin volunteering at Liberty Humane Society, you are required to attend an orientation session to get you, well, oriented to the rules, facility, and options that are available to LHS volunteers. My first trip to LHS to interview their director left me eager to help out, so I hopped on a Citi Bike and trekked over for my orientation followed by my first volunteer day. LHS is located right across the street from the Liberty Science Center, around the corner from both the Liberty State Park light rail station and a Citi Bike station. So convenient!
Upon arrival, I was amazed to see how many people had shown up; there were about 16 volunteers in our group. One of the full-timers at LHS, Sophie, led the session, and her cheerful personality even made tasks like “doing poopy laundry” sound like a barrel of fun. Before volunteers can begin taking classes at LHS, such as for dog-walking, they are required to do 6 hours of general volunteer work. Among other things, this includes doing the aforementioned poopy laundry (with gloves!), cleaning and setting up cages, washing bowls after meals, and facilitating enrichment activities—such as stuffing Kongs with treats to stimulate the dogs’ brains. I had noticed that it was much quieter in the kennel than the last time that I visited, and it turns out that’s because they were all hard at work getting out their treats!
Sophie took us all on a tour of the facility, starting in the kennel, moving to the outdoor dog runs and finishing in the “Cattery” upstairs. Sophie pointed out the different colored cage cards in the kennel; white, green, blue and red cards indicate increasing levels of difficulty, with red being the most difficult—although all new arrivals get a red cage card until the 7-day assessment period has ended. She told us how LHS needs volunteers every day without exception, and how when she arrives to work she has no idea what’s going to happen. As if on cue, when we went outside animal control showed up with a late-night drop off. LHS leaves a certain number of cages open at all times as it cannot refuse an animal brought in by animal control. For this reason, it often calls on its volunteers to foster to open up space, as well as local rescue organizations to adopt animals into their care.
When we climbed upstairs to the Cattery, one of the free-roaming felines made an escape attempt, reinforcing the “if you open a door, close it behind you” rule that Sophie had stressed. As we explored the space, we learned about three general types of cats: indoor, outdoor, and feral. Feral cats are not boarded at LHS, as these free spirits live in the wild and would not do well in cages. However, a feral cat brought in by animal control is spayed or neutered before being released back outdoors. If you’ve ever seen a stray cat with the tip of one ear missing, that indicates that it has been fixed and is part of a monitored colony. As for the other types of cats, LHS had about 120 at the time of my visit and another 70 out in foster care, which Sophie described as “light” for them. LHS sometimes gets super-tiny kittens referred to as “bottle babies,” appropriately named since they go into foster care and need to be fed from a bottle every couple of hours. Not a requirement of volunteers by any means, but who could say no to those faces?!
After orientation, volunteers are free to show up at any time. I headed back over to LHS after work one day to help them close up for the night, and was greeted again by Sophie and volunteer Marie. My first task was a surprise one—it turns out that their dryer has conked out, and while they are raising money for a new one, wet laundry is being air-dried outside. I brought in the last haul of the day so that it wasn’t sitting out all night, but LHS does 18 industrial-sized loads of laundry every. single. day. and saying that not having a dryer is rough is an understatement. There is a special fundraising page set up on the LHS website for the dryer, and they are almost at their $7500 goal. Please help if you can! www.libertyhumane.nationbuilder.com/dryer_needed
Next up on my to-do list was cleaning the outdoor dog spaces. While Marie brought in the dogs for the night, taking one time out to show a dog to a potential adopter, I soaped up and rinsed off the cages to ensure a nice fresh start for the morning crew. Two more newbie volunteers showed up while I was struggling with the soap pump and helped me figure it out. Hooray for teamwork!
Open hours for volunteers are Saturday through Monday from 8 AM-4PM, and Tuesday through Friday from 8 AM-7 PM. It sounds like Wednesdays are the busiest days, as LHS runs wellness clinics from 4-6 PM with deals like rabies vaccinations for just $20. Stay tuned for my next visit!