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The joys of volunteering

By Gerri Baruch

Frida, Cristal, Lucy, Jake, Macy, Tawny…These are some of my best San Miguel friends. All it took to earn their friendship was a little love, patience and a tiny piece of salchicha. I’m a volunteer SPA dog walker, and what I get back from my “friends” is immeasurable.

Before volunteering, I was concerned about the downside: seeing dogs caged and lonely, becoming overly attached and stressed from that burden. For the past four years, my husband and I have rescued countless dogs, had our hearts broken, and continue to feed several street dogs that have become “our responsibility.” Was it possible to take on more?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” At the SPA, I discovered a truly unusual world where animals are treated with kindness and respect, kept in clean, comfortable, safe enclosures, cuddled or exercised and walked daily and, most of all, loved and cared for by dedicated volunteers whose goal is to find them “forever homes.” Some dogs are fortunate and are adopted quickly. Others are waiting; maybe requiring a little more socializing or possibly they’re older and not as appealing to some. Though we don’t know every dog’s history, it may take a few visits and a little patience before a pup or an older dog trusts you and walks easily on a leash. Every dog here has a distinct personality, and, like meeting a new friend, the joy is in discovering a little more about him or her during each visit.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit more partial to some of the older dogs. They seem so grateful for my attention and fill my heart to the brim — our own San Miguel street dog, Missy, adopted us after we discovered how much she helped our Papillon recover from the loss of her sister. Missy, at least eight years old and missing most of her teeth, is like so many of us here; she still has plenty of good years and a ton of energy!

Last night I read on SPA’s Facebook page ( that Kelly and her sister, Kara, were adopted together – I heard myself cheering aloud! It had taken three visits with Kelly before she allowed me the privilege of walking her. Now, the indescribable pleasure of seeing a boldly printed “adopted” over her beautiful, sweet face, is all the reward I need to keep coming back!


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