It Made a Difference For That One: 5 thoughts on volunteering

Hi, I’m Meridith and I’m a professional philanthropist.

I always joke about this with friends (especially Brooke, who is also a professional philanthropist) but I’m only somewhat kidding. I volunteer my time… a lot. And it rocks.

If you’ve read Scoot a Doot for any amount of time, you’ve probably figured out that we chicks are big on the doing good things. Do good, feel good! That’s our motto.

Okay, no it’s not. But it’s our secondary motto. (Do those exist? Well, they do now!)

When the PTO needs a secretary… or a vice-president – yeah, I’m holding two positions this year – I’ve got my hand up.

Food drive? Here’s the tuna fish!

Gifts for the holiday giving tree? We’ll take two requests!

When you’re looking to do good, there is never a shortage of opportunities. In fact, it can all be a bit daunting. As a professional philanthropist, I feel it is my duty to share different ways that you too, can volunteer.

Selfie with one of the snuggle pups, Star. ADOPTED

Selfie with one of the shelter snuggle pups, Star. ADOPTED

Front and center on my volunteering stage recently has been my local animal shelter. The want to do this was always present; the reality of me being able to make this happen started in August.

Let’s break it down. I’ll be using the animal shelter as my emphasis but really, this works for many volunteer positions.

1. INTEREST

It’s usually a good idea to make sure you’re fully interested in volunteering for a cause. For example, I wouldn’t volunteer to be a children’s archery instructor because I have bad aim and bad luck.

Many volunteering positions are one and done opportunities, and that’s great if you’re short on time or looking for a quick jolt of feeling good!

An example? Recently the shelter was low on food. As in, so low that they weren’t sure how they were going to feed the animals for the next month. A local news station picked up the story as a human interest piece and then this happened.

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A-maz-ing. Photo credit: Camden County Animal Shelter

Community members far and wide came together to donate cat and dog food, beds, laundry detergent, and other daily shelter needs. It was truly incredible to see!

Some people want to do even MORE. That’s when they come out to volunteer interest meetings. Shelters, hospitals (I was a junior volunteer aka candy striper, once upon a time), PTOs – they all have these meetings to tell you more about the organization and what you can do to make a difference.

2. TIME

Time is something that everyone seems short on these days and I can appreciate that. I do have more time than many as a stay at home parent, which is why I like to fill my time with things that are valuable in meaning.

I love dogs and I would have all of the shelter dogs living in my house if I had the option. However, I do like my husband and he’s told me that we are good with ONE dog for now. Sigh. 

Anyway… runners and walkers, take note because this is for YOU.

The dogs in shelters NEED exercise. They want nothing more than to get out of their kennels and frolic with me. I walk with many but there are some who are all about running! I spend approximately a mile per dog, which adds up for both dogs and mileage! It’s a win all around.

Also, some of those dogs require upper body strength because they are STRONG! Total body work out, heyyyyy.

3. GOODS/MONEY

Oh, you’re not independently wealthy?

Yeah, me either.

Until I hit the lottery or find a suitcase of 100s, I’m not always able to give financially. However, I have plenty of things in my house that are useful.

And I bet YOU do too.

Shelters need old bedding, towels and sheets to make their animals feel comfy cozy in their temporary homes. Recently I went through my linen closet and pulled older things I no longer used and then reorganized my closet. Donation for the shelter AND a clean closet. Look at me, being all domestic! (This happens less often than it should so yes, I’m totally patting myself on the back.)

In the case that you ARE independently wealthy, I hope you’re donating to your favorite causes!

4. ADVOCACY

There is something that speaks to me about being a representative of someone or something that might not otherwise have a voice. The animals at the shelter don’t have Facebook, they don’t have blogs, they don’t get a chance to get out much…

But I do.

As a volunteer, I am able to bring a pup to get pictures taken at an amazing photographer.

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Sweet Lexus on the way to her glamour shots! She is available at Camden County Animal Shelter.

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Photo credit: Valerie Bruder Photography

As a volunteer, I am able to take a dog to a local park in hopes of having them meet people who are looking to add a new member to the family.

Shawna at the park! ADOPTED!

Shawna at the park! ADOPTED!

As a volunteer, I am able to sign up for events such as parades and mall visits to get the pooches out of their kennels and visible in the community.

It’s good stuff. And when you’ve got a big mouth and a willing audience, you cannot be stopped!

5. MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Listen, when it comes down to it, a big reason that people volunteer is that it makes them feel good.

I love animals, I love spending time with them, and I want to help them in any capacity that I can. Since I don’t live on a ranch and since I’m not independently wealthy, volunteering at the shelter is the absolute best thing I can do to love on the dogs there (and cats – I’ve ventured into the cat room too, I’m still learning the ropes there).

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Kiwi – Available at Camden County Animal Shelter (edit to add: ADOPTED!)

I have many four-legged friends and yes, I’ll admit that I miss them when I enter the kennel area only to find a new little face looking up at me.

But that’s also the best day, because it means that they’ve found their forever home.

And that new pup will need a friend to love on them, to walk them, and to give them treats. I’ll be there, leash in hand.

What are your favorite ways to give back to the community? Is there a volunteer opportunity that’s on your bucket list? What’s stopping you?

Up With the Moon

I’m an early riser.

This wasn’t always the case; back to my 20s and pre-kids I was a champ at sleeping well past 10am. Naps were my best friend. And I’d balk at waking up before 8am. Or 7am. Let alone 6am. However, as the years have gone on, I find myself waking just after 5am. And even more astounding to my 20 year old self, it’s usually to exercise! Even on Saturdays.

Of course the winter months have had me wanting to hibernate inside my house, sticking to mainly treadmill running and going to the gym (which is less than a mile from the abode). The first nice weekend that rolled around was this past one; it also just happened to coincide with my pal Brandi’s running clinic AND my scheduled running date with Sarah.

Meant to be!

Just to add a little spice to the already spicy salsa, I decided it would be a great time to introduce my pup, Gemma, to running.

Just in case you’re not keeping track here, let me reiterate: First run outside in a couple of months. With Sarah, who is making her triumphant return to running after having her second bouncing baby boy. And with a dog, who isn’t used to running on leash for more than a couple of minutes, let alone a couple of miles.

What could go wrong?

If you answered everything, you would be correct. But going into it, we all expected it to be a learning process. Everyone has to start (or start again) somewhere, right?

At exactly 7:30am, Brandi started off the clinic with stretching exercises, getting us warmed up for a short long run around the 3.68 loop.

Brandi and Sarah on the track, stretching the legs.

Brandi and Sarah on the track, stretching the legs.

Sarah was happy that Gemma the wonder pup was there because, first off, PUPPY. And secondly, it definitely takes the pressure off when you have a dog who isn’t used to running. We decided we would do intervals, while chatting and working on Gemma’s running manners.

What do running manners for a dog include?

  1. Stay on the left side of your person (don’t trip me)
  2. No seriously, stay to the left side (don’t trip the others)
  3. Don’t pull, you silly dog. It’s so much more fun when you stay right next to your person!

I’m sure you’re sensing a common theme here and at this point, that’s mostly what we were working on. The first mile or so was rough but then she started to get it! We need to get used to cars passing us (it’s a bit unnerving as a person, let alone a pup) and we definitely tired her out.

We slowly made our way around the loop, getting passed by Brandi and the other clinic attendees along the way with shouts of encouragement. Toward the end of the loop, Gemma was d-o-n-e, done, but with promises of the car and the banana we’d share once we got there, we all finished strong.

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Following the run, we met up with Brandi once again to stretch it out and chat about our experiences. While it was Gemma’s first time doing the loop, it definitely won’t be her last. (Although it’s supposed to snow later on this week again. Have mercy!) She slept good and hard on the ride home, snores and all. That’s the downside of waking early… you’re ready for bed before most.

If you’re new to running with a pup, Aimee, over at Running with Sam wrote a great post with tips for running with your dog and it’s one that I have read more than once.

Who is your BRF (Best Running Friend)? Next weekend I’m running a 5k with my Dude – hoping to help him PR.

Ever run with a pup? Got any tips for me on teaching Gemma her running manners?

Chick Chat: It’s a World Class Menagerie

Well, it’s not quite a menagerie but the Chicks sure do love our pets. With my family’s new addition (who is all over the Scoot a Doot Instagram because I’m obsessed with her) I thought it would be fun to introduce our furbabies! I feel like pets are an extension of who we are as people and so when I see pictures of Sam, Ollie, Walt, Axl, Hannah, Boomer, Ace (just to name a few), they make me smile and feel like I know their owners better.

So snuggle up with your animals and prepare yourself for the Scoot a Doot pet parade.

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I live with two rescued cats – a 13-year-old calico tabby mix I’ve had since 2002 and an almost 1-year old tabby who came to our home just two weeks ago.

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I met the elder cat, let’s call her Murr, in the newsroom of my last paper. There, the local SPCA each week brought in a pet to be photographed and featured in the paper. I often helped out and regularly squealed when I saw the animals. Murr and I fell in love straight away, and by the time her photo ran in the paper, she was already exploring my then-apartment.

She lived with me well before I started dating my now-husband. (and she instantly preferred him to me once he entered the picture. Humph.) But Murr’s in it for the long haul, even though she’s quirky, wiry and most definitely is not a snuggler. She’s an incredible mouse-hunter, she’s obsessed with tuna juice. She’s tiny and beautiful. And she knows it.

New cat was hit by a car last fall. She broke her back leg and had several surgeries to repair the damage. She was rescued by a friend, who couldn’t keep her, so she came to live with us.

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She’s sweet, fat and always underfoot. She loves to snuggle and is ALL about the food. Her food, Murr’s food, my food, my husband’s food. She will eat anything. We still haven’t picked a name for her but have a few frontrunners.

Needless to say, Murr hasn’t taken too kindly to the new cat. She’s currently stashed herself in our loft/attic and throws repeated screaming tantrums whenever she sees new kitty. Please tell me they will eventually be friends?

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Reily came to Mister Jess and I nine years ago as an 8-week-old fluff ball. He was this adorable Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix, a tiny, tiny little ewok. We couldn’t walk down the street without getting stopped at least five times by people remarking about how cute he was.

Seriously. Look at this puppy! Gah!

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He really is our first-born son. We’ve had him for the vast majority of our relationship, and he’s kind of grown up with us. His interests include long walks on the beach, playing with his 80 bazillion toys, and giving me judgmental looks.

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He also really enjoys moping. We like to call him Jordan Catalano because he’s not easily impressed. Case in point: when Bug came home. He was not having it.

Who are you, tiny human, and why have you taken all of the attention away from me?

Who are you, tiny human, and why have you taken all of the attention away from me?

Despite his bemusement, he has been amazing with the transition. We are so lucky to have such a sweet, sensitive (seriously), scary-smart dog-son in him. I hope he and Bug will be best friends as time goes on.

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Yay, pets! We are dog people in this house. Brewser is a terrier mix that Josh adopted before we met and we got our cavalier, Caroline, ten year ago this summer.

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Three kids plus two dogs makes for a full house! Brewser is the gumpy old man of the family- he stays away from the kids and sleeps most of the day. He likes to sit right next to me at night, once things have calmed down.

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Caroline likes to be at the center of everything. She loves to sit near the kids when they play and she has even snuggled right up next to the babies while they’ve nursed. She sits on my lap once the kids are in bed, and sleeps at my feet at night.

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I was raised by the quintessential ‘cat lady’, so it’s no surprise that I’m a cat person. Growing up, we always had cats, sometimes outnumbering the people in the house. We had dogs here and there, but we were definitely a feline family. At twenty, I went out and got my own cat for the first time (yes, I still lived at home, and yes, my mother was away on vacation when this happened). Elmo, my orange tiger baby, moved with me into my first apartment. When I moved to NC to live with my then boyfriend/now husband, we couldn’t have pets, and I was heartbroken. My grandmother graciously offered to take him, and he still lives with her. He’s a big, old, spoiled nineteen-year-old tabby at this point.

For years, we lived in apartments, and couldn’t have pets. So, as soon as we bought our house five years ago, we started talking about getting a pet. My son is phobic about dogs, so cats it was. We adopted Cleo and Coco from a local rescue organization and brought them home the day after our first Christmas in our new home. They’re neurotic and weird and occasionally insane (hello, catnip), and they are very much a part of our family.

Cleo is our shy cat. If you come over, you will never see her, unless you crawl underneath the sofa. She was found outside at just a few days old, and she’s quite timid. She’s terrified of people walking, but oddly loves feet if they’re on the couch next to her. We think she’s part Maine Coon, due to the fluffy fur between her toes, but who knows. If she loves you, and she’s pretty darn selective about who she loves, she LOVES you. Mostly, she loves my daughter. Every once in a while, she loves me.

A rare snuggle moment with Cleo.

A rare snuggle moment with Cleo.

Coco is our nutbag cat. She’s our hunter, our talker and our dinner table beggar. She’s a tortoiseshell, and very pretty. She alternates between viciously playful and attack-mode snuggly. If she wants to cuddle you, you darn well better be ready to let her. She’s relentless. When I’m getting ready to go to bed, she’s right there at the top of the stairs, stalking me.

My personal stalker.

My personal stalker.

Coco was rejected by her mom when she was a baby, which my mom tells me explains her neediness. Whatever, I’ll take it. She’s such a love, and if I’m reading in bed, you can find her curled up on my hip. The rest of the time, you can find her sleeping on something (always on. If there is a single sock on the floor, she will sit on it) or chasing things that aren’t there.

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As much as I would love a dog, and we talk about that being a possibility someday, I think I’ll always be a cat person. I’m sure my mom is proud.

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My pet situation is a little complicated.  I recently moved back home with my mom. My mom currently has three dogs, two cats, and cockatiel. I have a lab named Ruby and two cats, Stella and Sookie.

When I moved in with my mom, Ruby kept figuring out how to get out of the yard. For her safety, she now lives with the ex. Which is the best situation, considering my children didn’t have to say goodbye to their dog. But it’s been the hardest loss in my divorce. That dog once saved my life by alerting me to a gas leak. Not to mention she was the greatest comfort I had during my bout with depression.  I miss her greatly.

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The Protector

My cat Stella has been with me for ten years. My sister found her as a newborn in a parking lot, the umbilical cord still attached. I fed her a bottle and taught her how to poop. And how does she return the kindness? By biting the top of my feet and attacking me in my sleep. She’s feral, that one. I can pet her for about three seconds before she swats me away. She’ll only drink from the sink and refuses to go in a messy litter box. She’s a total primadonna.

El Diablo

El Diablo

Sookie is the youngest, just 3 years old. She is a very loving cat but complains constantly. My friend once told me that “Sookie” means to whine in Australia. Which is completely appropriate.  But she sleeps on my chest and purrs so I forgive her whining.

The Complainer

The Complainer

 Lastly, I’ve recently adopted my guy’s pup, Murphy.  She’s a big baby and the sweetest dog I’ve ever met.  She has the best disposition and loves my kids.  When she puts her head in my lap, I can literally feel the positive energy she radiates.

The Baby

The Baby

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Two weeks ago, the only pet in the house was our fish, Fin. And while he’s very pretty, he’s sort of the quiet, not-interested-in-us type. Life was pretty mundane and we were all missing having a four legged pal in the house.

But all that changed when a little over a week ago, we adopted little miss Gemma from Bella Reed Pit Bull Rescue.

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Adoption day picture

The first few days, we spent getting to know each other. Finding all the sunny patches in the house. Encouraging peeing outside rather than on the floor. Realizing that I was posting more pictures of her than my children on Facebook. You know, the usual.

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I’ve always been the only girl in the house, so it’s nice to have someone with whom to share my girly things – like my Hello Kitty blanket, for example.

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Intently watching Cesar Milan.

Gemma is still a puppy so we are working on good manners and basic commands. She’s very food motivated and eager to please, so I think she’ll learn quickly!

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I’m hoping that soon, we’ll be able to start running together. She’s got a lot of energy so I think we’ll probably start that soon. She’s getting the lay of the land and I can’t wait to go exploring more with her.

Gemma is a totally different dog than Jack. But when you look into her eyes, the same sentiment is present. Home. She is mine and I am hers.

I think that’s what makes pets so great. That underlying understanding that cannot be said with words because you don’t speak the same language, but it’s there just the same: you are my home.

Tell us about your pets! Anyone have any puppy training tips? What’s your favorite activity to do with your animals?