Homeward Bound, the humane society in Vermont's Addison County, is praising its volunteers, whom it calls critical to the emotional health and well-being of animals in the shelter.
"We couldn't function the same without them," Jess Danyow, the executive director of Homeward Bound, said of the group's volunteers.
The facility said its 60-plus volunteers, more than half of whom are 55 or older, with more flexible schedules, provide invaluable boosts to the animals' welfare. The organization's small staff provides excellent care for all the shelter animals' needs, Danyow noted, but she thanked volunteers for being able to provide extra one-on-one attention with animals.
Volunteer Conrad Ambrette, a retired attorney, donates his time as a dog walker for the shelter.
"I've always loved dogs. I've had dogs my entire life," Ambrette said. "I'm at a point now where I can't have another one. This gives me the opportunity to still be with dogs."
Ambrette said he comes to the shelter each weekday to walk the dogs.
"A lot of them come from difficult backgrounds," he said of the shelter animals. "They're craving affection. They want to have a home. They want to be with someone who really cares for them. And that's so apparent when you start coming in frequently."
Danyow said there are big benefits to having animals in your life, whether as a volunteer or, more so, as a pet owner. She said those include better emotional health from companionship, and more physical activity from taking walks.
However, for shelter workers and volunteers, it can be tough sometimes to see their furry friends go home with adoptive families.
"You come here; you're giving them a little piece of yourself, a little piece of your heart," Danyow told necn, describing bonds shelter staff and volunteers form with animals. "But you know there's a very good chance they will take that little piece with them when they go."
Still, Danyow said that is why she and her colleagues in Middlebury and around the country do this work: for the joy of knowing their "goodbye" to shelter animals means someone else's "hello" to a forever friend.
Homeward Bound said it placed more than 600 animals in new homes in 2014, to people from all over Vermont, but especially from the Route 7 corridor. For more information on Homeward Bound, visit this website.
August 15, 2015 is "Clear the Shelters" Day, an initiative by NBC-owned stations to help get animals waiting for new homes successfully adopted.
Click here to find a shelter to visit.