If you read my last op-ed, you know I love animals. After growing up with at least one pet in the house at all times, coming to college with little-to-no animal interaction was a hard adjustment. These feelings were exacerbated by the passing of my family’s beloved bulldog a few months ago which — as I’m sure many of you can relate — has been really hard. That’s why when Noah Osher ’23.5 told me about Homeward Bound, Addison County’s humane society, I had my volunteer application submitted within 24 hours. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since starting my college career.
The process to become a volunteer could not have been easier. I submitted my application over the weekend, and by first thing Monday morning, Lauren Peterson, the Volunteer and Foster Coordinator, had already sent over a few forms and trained me in that same afternoon.
At first, I was worried about volunteering at Homeward Bound because I thought it would be sad. Honestly, it is. It shatters my heart to know that the animals in the shelter don’t yet have a place to call home or a family to love them. But choosing not to volunteer because you don’t want to confront this reality does not mean that this reality does not exist. At least by volunteering, you can help improve these animals’ lives before they find their forever homes.
Likewise, watching animals get adopted eases the heartache. Last week, I walked a sweet and playful seven(ish)-year-old dog named Lulu. My heart sank when I had to put her back in her kennel (even though it’s filled with toys and a comfy bed) after our walk was over. But the very next day, I received a text from Lauren saying that she had been adopted. I also walked Skippy, a three(ish)-year-old ball of joy, and he was officially adopted the same week. Hearing the news of Lulu and Skippy’s adoptions were some of the most joyful moments of my semester.
Lillith is another sweetheart I met at Homeward Bound. She’s a loving, energetic, and cuddly two(ish)-year-old pitbull mix that I immediately fell in love with. I walked her for the first time last week and told Lauren that same day that Mari Nakamura ’23.5 — another Homeward Bound volunteer/my roommate — and I were interested in fostering her until she got adopted. Again, this process was quite simple. All we had to do was sign a few forms and get our landlord on board, and roughly 24 hours later, Lillith came home with us.
Fostering Lillith was one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve done here at Middlebury (check out the Homeward Bound Facebook page for photos). We walked her around town with a vest that says “adopt me” and had a picnic at the Knoll where I slipped her a few crackers and played with her toys. After that, we watched TV on the couch and she curled up on me like the oversized lapdog she is. When it was time for bed, she snuggled in and we shared a pillow all night long.
Coincidentally, the same day we brought her home, the shelter received a call from a family interested in adopting Lillith, so we brought her in to meet them the next day. Mari and I were able to draw on our foster experience to explain what a great dog she is in a home environment, which helped persuade the family to take her in on a trial-basis that will hopefully lead to her official adoption. I cried when they drove away, in part because I wished that I could have been the one to adopt her, but mostly because I was so happy that she had likely found her forever home. If you’re interested in fostering or hosting an animal for a sleepover and your living situation permits it, I could not recommend it more.
Although the semester is coming to a close, fostering/volunteering would be a perfect opportunity for those staying in Middlebury over the summer, and it is definitely something to keep in mind for next year. If you love animals and are looking to share in some experiences like these, it would be a great fit for you. They have several volunteer opportunities that suit a variety of preferences. I love being a dog-walker, but there are other positions oriented around cats and smaller animals. The minimum time commitment is just one hour per week — perfect for students busy with coursework, extracurriculars and jobs. Furthermore, if you choose to be a dog-walker, it’s a great way to get your steps in and spend some time outdoors with a furry friend. Volunteers can also take dogs on hikes, and they’re soon starting a program in which volunteers can take dogs for shorter runs.
You could also help out by being on-call for community events. Just last week, Homeward Bound had a great fundraising event at the Marquis Theater. Volunteering could also include clerical work for in-shelter events or fundraising programs. Or, you could volunteer to take pictures of the animals to populate the Homeward Bound social media feeds.
If you can’t commit to volunteering but still want to help, visit the wish list on the Homeward Bound website and consider making a donation. Pay special attention to the kitten section, as kitten season is already off to a busy start. You could also host your own fundraiser using your own ideas — just contact Homeward Bound for logos and/or assistance.
In one way or another, I hope that you will consider donating your time or resources to Homeward Bound. The animals need it, and you’ll have fun doing it. For more information/questions/concerns, please reach out to Lauren Peterson, Volunteer and Foster Coordinator, at Volunteer@homewardboundanimals.org.
Bella Burke '23.5 (she/her) is an Opinions Editor.
Bella studies Political Science with minors in Spanish and History. She has also served as Yoga Club President for the past four years.