Who knew a hike with some shelter dogs could be so much more?
I had done a bunch of hikes over the past few years with the company Outdoor Bound, now known as Discover Outdoors. I have enjoyed every single experience I’ve had with them. When I received an email about a hike called Hike and Adoptable Hound, involving some of the dogs from the Animal Haven shelter in Soho, I was intrigued. As a dog lover and dog owner, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday than combining two things that I love. I signed up immediately.
It never occurred to me how much this hike would change my life in such a wonderful way. As our group of 13 or so humans and five dogs from the shelter made our way up to Harriman State Park on a beautiful spring morning, we each got to know the dog we would be walking with. Denny, a sweet little Havanese mix would be my dog for the afternoon.
From what I was told, Denny had been surrendered by his previous owner to the shelter. He seemed very nervous and a bit out of sorts. My heart broke for him. There was something about him that made me very sad, and all I wanted to do was make him feel safe.
We had a wonderful day: we hiked, had lunch by a beautiful lake, and got to watch these dogs have a carefree day. Denny was a real trooper on the hike and I think he really enjoyed it! He completely passed out on the floor of the van on the ride back to the city.
When we pulled up back at Animal Haven and it was time to say goodbye to the dogs, I realized that Denny as well as the other four dogs had completely stolen my heart.
It was really hard to leave, but I knew I’d be back. You see when I had first signed up for the hike, I had looked at the Animal Haven website and saw that there were opportunities to volunteer there. I had attended the first orientation, and was scheduled to do the second one the following week. After hiking with these dogs, I knew this was something I couldn’t turn my back on. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I have been volunteering at Animal Haven for about a month or so now, and it has brought me an immeasurable amount of joy. It is a wonderful place. The staff is so kind and you can tell that each and every one of them loves these animals so much. The volunteer program is amazing. I always feel good when I leave there, knowing that even if I take one of the dogs for a short walk around the block, clean their cage or corral, or give them a little extra snuggle, that I’ve made some sort of difference in their life.
I am always rooting for them, hoping that each and every one will find their forever home. But until that time comes, I plan on being there as a volunteer, helping out, giving them the love they need, and trying to make a difference, one little furry life at a time.
Submitted by Animal Haven volunteer Melissa Goldner.