After spending time with volunteers, pretty Meadow became one of the sweetest dogs on the adoption floor.

This week, I had two people tell me they can’t volunteer because the idea of witnessing the injured, neglected and abused animals who need homes would be too much for them to handle.

I told them we take a more positive approach and embrace the opportunity to greet these pets in need. Because on the day we meet them, we know their lives are about to get so much better. It is an honorable mission to help them.

When a dog or cat arrives at the shelter emaciated, ill, neglected or abused, staff and volunteers greet them with love and make them comfortable. Now that they are with us, it’s game time. Time for them to get well and start their new life of love, happiness and never knowing hunger or loneliness again. It’s a gift to be part of a team that can turn their lives around.

Almost immediately after they arrive, we are planning what is best for these homeless pets. Do they need a rescue or a foster? Do they need a quiet home or would an active family best suit their needs? Would another cat or dog give them comfort or are they best as an only pet?

When we pull into the parking lot first thing in the morning, we see tails wagging and cats running up to the feline facility windows to meow their “hellos." They love us, and we love them. These animals don’t think about past experiences and we don’t focus on them either. Each day we are one day closer to finding them a happy, loving forever home.

Take Meadow, a white furred, 6-year-old mixed breed. She’s endured a rough past and growled at us when she first arrived. She was beyond scared. But Karen DeCamp, one of our devoted volunteer trainers, showed Meadow love and she rapidly improved. She learned how great it is to be loved and is now the gentlest dog on the adoption floor. Meadow dances around and greets people who visit her kennel. She is ready to be adopted and your new best friend.

FOTAS volunteer Jeri Wesner is one of our most dedicated dog walkers and I love seeing her when she meets a new animal. She always smiles brightly and tells the new dog, “It’s your lucky day.” Jeri has helped change so many dogs’ lives with her patience and positive attitude. She understands that we’re here to give these unwanted pets a second chance at a good life.

So, please don’t say that you can’t volunteer because it would be too heartbreaking. Dogs and cats aren’t like us. They forgive, bounce back and have the potential to give so much love to their future adopters.

Yes, we see kittens thrown from cars, dogs left tied to trees in the woods, puppies sick from neglect – you name it. But you need to see the silver lining. These animals are now safe and out of danger. We have the ability to make their lives better and find them homes. And when we do, it’s so rewarding.

As a volunteer, you teach these pets what love is and they quickly absorb the lesson. They forgive, they forget. Help be part of their future happiness. Volunteer and invest your time in these animals.

Their lives are in our hands.

By the Numbers

The Aiken County Animal Shelter has already taken in nearly 200 strays and surrendered pets this month. Please spay and neuter your pets.