On a Monday morning eight weeks ago, I responded to a call for volunteers to help at the new Aiken County Animal Shelter. I had not assisted at the shelter before, and I feared the sight of all those homeless animals would make me sad.


But that morning, I had a specific mission: to help get every dog out for a morning walk. I figured if I stayed focused on the larger good, I could live with that; so off I went.


Eight weeks later, I am still volunteering, and here's why.


1. Many of the dogs are house-trained and wait patiently to be walked to do their business outside. This keeps me coming back.


2. Many adoptable dogs, puppies, cats and kittens need handling, petting, basic training and socialization to make them more adoptable: it makes a big difference in the adoption rates. This keeps me coming back.


3. Dogs need physical and mental workouts every day; one does not substitute for the other. When a dog has physical walking time with a volunteer as well as a positive mental training experience, that dog has a much better day. This keeps me coming back.


4. Volunteers develop the skills to help the dogs with basic obedience skills, like sitting, waiting, and (so important!) walking on a leash without dragging the volunteer. Learning these skills and watching the improvement in the dogs: wow! This keeps me coming back.


5. The shelter staff, volunteers, and FOTAS do a fabulous job of finding homes and placements for the adoptable animals. I don't have to take them home with me! It makes my heart sing to hear that the animals I have worked with have found new homes. This keeps me coming back.


6. I love spending time with like-minded fellow animal lovers – people who care enough to give their time. I have made new friends of both the people and animal variety. This keeps me coming back.


7. Working with the dogs and other people gives meaning to my day and keeps my mind sharp. This keeps me coming back.


8. FOTAS and the shelter staff are team-oriented and open to new ideas, which makes the shelter a welcoming, friendly place for the volunteers, the staff and the community. This keeps me coming back.


9. I am surprised and tickled by how quickly the dogs I have worked with have been adopted. I helped save their lives. This keeps me coming back.


There are so many ways for you to volunteer with FOTAS: planning special events, assisting with fundraising, fostering a shelter animal in need or training new volunteers for service.


You might want to work at the front desk to greet the public and assist with adoptions, or give tours of the new shelter. Your skills can be put to good use, I promise.


Your time is a valuable gift. Just a few hours a week can and will make a difference in the lives of these unfortunate animals.


It made a difference in my life; it will make a difference in yours, too.


I keep coming back, and once you get involved, so will you.


We need your help. Please call the FOTAS hotline at 803-514-4313, or drop by or call the Aiken County Animal Shelter at 333 Wire Road (803-642-1537). For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.


FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 333 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.


By the Numbers: May 12-17


Adopted/Transferred: 40 dogs, 17 cats


Year to Date: 408w