Volunteering is a great way to explore your interests and passions and provides a great feeling of satisfaction through giving back to your community.
For those that know me well, volunteering in the support of animal wellness is what feeds my soul.
I had the privilege of volunteering with the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS) for close to 3 years. As a child, I had always had an affinity for animals, both domestic and wild. Spending my childhood as a country kid, I always had a dog to play with, cats to cuddle, cows and chickens to feed and black sows to run from. Yes, run from – they liked to bite! I still remember when the pigs would get out of their enclosure – my brother and I would climb to high ground and yell for our parents at the top of our lungs – hey, they were bigger than us – it was all about survival!
When it comes to wildlife, most sightings were either from a distance or at Al Oeming’s Alberta Game Farm (who remembers the Game Farm!). I was the kid who would find garter snakes sunning themselves on the road and relocate them to the ditch for safety or sit wide-eyed during a wildlife presentation on flying squirrels. What can I say? I love the free spirit of animals…except bears – definitely afraid of bears! I guess I shouldn’t have watched a low-budget movie (circa 1978) about a 15-foot grizzly terrorizing campers – I think it scarred me for life!
Fast forward many years to 2012 – little did I know that CWRS was right in my backyard – a 5 minute drive away. I had been watching the TV program “Hope for Wildlife” and mentioned it to one of the technicians at my kitty’s veterinary office. She told me about CWRS and how she volunteered there. I signed up for an orientation session and was immediately hooked. I finally had an opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife! Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation agency is not glamorous by any means. I won’t go into some of the details of what the patients and permanent residents eat for lunch, but I will say that there were many days where I could identify at least 4 types of poop on my clothes. Gross, right? Well, it was for a good cause. Trust me, when you have a day where you enjoy a one-sided conversation with a Swainson’s hawk, hand-feed a bald eagle, tickle a baby skunk, have a porcupine do circles in excitement of seeing you and get Bambi (fawn) kisses, the poop really doesn’t matter anymore!
Wildlife and humans have constant run-ins, and the majority of the time, it’s the wildlife that is injured or killed. Being part of an organization that rescues and heals these gorgeous creatures and then releases them back to the wild is one of the most rewarding and satisfying ventures. I had the opportunity to engage with so many different “patients” – beavers, hawks, eagles, songbirds, squirrels, ducks (dabblers and divers), geese, owls, crows, magpies, skunks, bunnies, deer, porcupines and groundhogs. Besides being fun it was highly educational and I loved every second of it. It is definitely one of my many highlights while living in Calgary.
After relocating to Edmonton, I now volunteer for a local animal rescue – Zoe’s Animal Rescue. Zoe’s takes in abandoned, unwanted and sometimes injured, cats and dogs (and sometimes bunnies and guinea pigs) and works to find them the best possible homes. Volunteering with Zoe’s ignites my other passion – photography. Aside from the fact that my two kitties are both rescues from Zoe’s, I get to take photos of cats and dogs, both young and mature, for posting to Zoe’s website. With the high volume of cats and dogs taken in by the many rescues in and around Edmonton, it’s so important to capture their personality to find the right home for them.
Zoe’s does not have a facility to house their animals that are up for adoption. The agency is run entirely by dedicated volunteers who generously open their homes to foster the rescued/surrendered animals, donate time, supplies and funding, and offer their talents towards blogging, media, event coordination, fundraising campaigns and of course, photography. I am blessed to be a part of this organization. Zoe’s is one of many dedicated animal rescue agencies in the Edmonton area, working together to ensure that unwanted and rescued animals have the best opportunity for a life in a loving home.
Oh, did I mention, one of my kitties just happened to be my first photo assignment with Zoe’s – with a face like this, how could I resist?
I have volunteered in other fields over the years including law enforcement and management – all with their own rewards and education included.
If you have a chance to volunteer at something that ignites your soul, I highly recommend it. The rewards of volunteering are worth every second.