RIDGELY — There are many important jobs at the Caroline County Humane Society: the daily washing of food bowls and bedding, the continuous cleaning of kennels and, of course, walking the dogs.
Charlotte Shearin, Kay Klein, Chelsea Benincasa and Pam Wehnert, all volunteers at the shelter, do much more than walk kenneled dogs. Volunteers take dogs to adoption events, like the annual Bark in the Park event sponsored by the Talbot Humane Society.
Volunteer dog-walkers do offsite rabies, spay and neuter clinics off-site, which are also low-cost to the public. These information sessions are helpful in controlling the population of stray cats and dogs, Klein said.
“We also do enrichment with the dogs,” Benincasa said. “That includes things like taking them around town, just getting them used to other people and environments.”
Volunteers use aromatherapy essential oils for the dogs and try to play them soft music to keep them in a calm state of mind. Different scents like lavender, chamomile and jasmine are dispersed through a spray bottle mixer, usually after walks, Shearin said.
“There are certain scents that have been shown to have calming affects on animals,” Shearin said. “One of the biggest concerns in the shelter environment is the noise level and the stress and anxiety that the dogs feel in the shelter.”
Dog-walkers are required to go through a quick training, learning how to give commands, lead a leash and be safe while you’re walking. Klein said some of the challenges walking come in connecting with the dogs.
“Some of these dogs come in and they won’t even make eye contact. They haven’t responded to people,” Klein said. “And when you have to really work to get their trust and that people are nice. ... And with lots of treats in your pocket.”
Klein said through her time working at the shelter, she has been most rewarded by watching the change in dogs that are rescued, or even those that she has interacted with.
“It’s great to watch a dog come in who’s frightened, angry or whatever and over time, if you keep working, you see this huge change in them,” Klein said. “It’s very rewarding to say the least.”
Wehnert said the shelter needs as many volunteers as possible, and will always take new applications. She said she wished she hadn’t waited until retirement to begin volunteering. Wehnert has been volunteering for over eight years.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean walking them, it just means interacting with them,” Wehnert said.
Orientation for interested volunteers was formerly the first Saturday of every month, Wehnert said. Now, following the Caroline County Humane Society would be a better way to stay updated, she said.
The Caroline County Humane Society received an allocation of funding in 2018 from the Caroline County Commissioners of $249,489. The organization still needs an additional $300,000 each year to remain operational.
The biggest benefit to the organization is donations of all kinds, Wehnert said. A lesser-known program where the humane society donates food to individuals also helps residents of Caroline County who struggle to feed their animals, keep ownership of them.
The shelter also has an animal care fund, for those interested in making monetary donations. This money is used on surgeries, medicines and other medical aide to rescued dogs. Those interested in donating can visit: http://carolinehumane.org/make-a-donation/.
“You do get those unforeseen surgeries,” Wehnert said.
The group works and volunteers for each other, Wehnert said.
“It’s great teamwork, it’s one big team. We’re all here for the same reason,” Wehnert said.
“More people should find out how fun it is,” Klein said.
For more information or information on volunteering opportunities, follow the Caroline County Humane Society on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolineCountyHumane/.