Paw it Forward: Good Deeds with Dogs
Recently I heard this moving true story about a man and a dog.
The man is a war veteran suffering post traumatic stress. His experiences have left him deeply disturbed. In fact he was so deeply traumatised he lost all hope for the future. He took drugs. Stole. He attacked someone on the subway and ended up in prison for a stint.
But then this man’s life unexpectedly turned around. The change was so profound he wanted to help other veterans, show them he understood what they were going through, and offer hope. So what triggered this miraculous change in a previous very lost soul?
The veteran adopted a dog and that staffie became his rock. When the man woke shaking and sweating from a nightmare, the dog licked his face and brought him back to the real world. The dog licked away his tears until he laughed, and somehow managed to cut through the crushing loneliness and isolation to give him a reason to move forward.
Good things come in many disguises, including fur coats.
A dog’s wagging tail brightens the gloom. Your dog’s story may not be as dramatic as that staffie and his owner (actually I hope it isn’t) but I bet you can tell us many ways in which your dog enriches life. So, for the love of dogs and making this world an even better place to live, let’s spread that happiness and pay it forward.
“Paw it Forward”
Paying it forward is a simple idea. You do a good deed for someone to whom you owe nothing at all. Your only reward is to imagine the delight on a stranger’s face. The hope then is, that in return, that person will pay your kindness on to someone else – they will pay it forward! When it comes to our dogs and dogs in general, many opportunities exist to pass on the puppy love to someone in need or to brighten someone else’s day.
Let’s sniff out at some of the ways dogs can help us spread those warm wags amongst others and pay forward doggie good deeds!
You might be in a position to foster dogs that are not suited to shelter life or through rescue groups until a new forever home is found for them. Or to consider puppy raising for an organisation such as Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs or Customs – their puppies require foster homes until they are old enough to undertake their future training requirements.
If you’re not in a position to foster or think it would be too difficult to say goodbye when that dog moves on, then how about sponsoring a dog or puppy? Many rescues welcome sponsorship to cover the food and medical costs for a dog in their care. You can also sponsor the costs associated for one of the dogs that will go on to be a guide or assistance dog.
Another way to support these organisation is to share the skills and talents you have. I donate and skills my time to photograph foster dogs (and cats!) for several rescues groups that have fosters in my area. The photos accompanying this post are from a Fundraising Photo Booth with one of the rescue groups I work with. You might have similar artistic talents that help attract attention to dogs and these organisations. Or perhaps you have administrative, financial, marketing or event skills that can be of assistance in the management required in these organisations. It could simply be donating your time to transport dogs, participate in fundraising events, seek donations or support from businesses and run errands. All helps these organisations help dogs.
A large number of pet charities, not-for-profits, shelters and rescues depend on public support to keep their kennel doors open. Financial help is always welcome, but so are donations of pet food, blankets, collars, toys, and even old towels. Many shelters are desperate for dog walkers, for people to spare an hour or so once a week, to exercise and play with a dog. It gives them a much needed break from the confines of a kennel and provides precious human contact.
Showing support isn’t necessarily about grand gestures. It’s also about buying charity cards at Christmas, purchasing a raffle ticket or turning up at that fund-raising trivia night. And rest assured of one thing – whatever you give in terms of time or money, the reward you receive in return will be far greater.
There are a growing number of organisations and charities like Delta or PAT (Pets as Therapy) who arrange for dogs to visit people spending time in hospital, care homes, schools or rehabilitation centres. They do this because pet therapy works. Indeed, the idea came about when a nurse noticed that patients visited by a cleric with his golden retriever, got better more quickly.
Delta, for example, reaches out to over 20,000 Australians a week and visit 850 facilities (that’s a lot of pats!). To enroll and undertake certification as a therapy dog takes a special kind of bomb-proof pet and isn’t for everyone. Even if its not for your dog, you can still support these organisations. For example, when you sponsor a Delta therapy team, your dog becomes a member of the ‘red bandana’ club, wears his bandana pride, and spreads the word at the same time.
Reading with Rover
The power of dogs to do good is so potent that programs such as Storydog, can help children learn to read. Part of READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), the idea behind Storydog is that dogs visit a school and sit one on one with a child. The child gets the attention of a non-judgmental dog, as they practice their reading. Pupils who previously struggled to make sense of the written word, with the help of floppy eared encouragement, suddenly find their feet and start to enjoy books.
Some rescue centres encourage volunteers to visit and read to their dogs. The aim is to bring a taste of home life to institutionalised dogs, reduce their stress, and make them more likely to be rehomed. When the famous Battersea Dogs Home, London, started one of these schemes, staff quickly noticed the rhythmic sound of reading visibly decreased the dogs’ stress and made a very real difference to those animals’ lives.
Search and Rescue
In many countries around the world non-profit volunteer organisations for training and conducting dog search and rescue operate. The volunteers in this organisations and their dogs may be trained for detection and emergency response in locating missing people, urban rescue, wilderness tracking, natural disasters and mass casualty events. They would certainly be a welcome site if you ever become lost.
Good Deeds with Dogs
Many people, dog-lovers just like you, find their life circumstances have changed and it is no longer possible to keep a pet. Imagine how the loneliness and how hard that must be, to live without the comfort of a faithful companion? You long for the smell and warmth of a dog snuggled up on your lap, but know that it can only be a memory.
Now imagine instead the slow-dawning smile of appreciation when that person meets your dog. Of course, there’s formal programs with therapy dogs, but other options may be possible for dogs that aren’t registered therapy training:
- Visit your own elderly dog loving relatives with your best buddy in tow more frequently.
- Call your local elderly care residencies and senior centres to see if they might appreciate a visit by you and your dog.
- Join local pet companion programs and provide support and assistant to older or disabled persons with caring for their dogs – walking, bathing, grooming, transport and foster care for the dogs when its required.
Some other good deeds you might wish to consider with your dog:
- Volunteer with School Pet Education Programs to help children understand living safely with dogs and responsible pet ownership.
- Participate in local charity dog walk events.
The Dog Samaritan
Why not become the Dog Samaritan by assisting someone to live a better life with their dog, by making others happy with your own dog or by generally doing good? This could include:
- Offering to walk the dog of a sick, incapacitated or elderly friend who is not able to do so themselves. You’ll be walking your own dog anyway, so its really a case of the more the merrier!
- You might have an elderly neighbour who catches a bus to take her dog to the vet clinic. By offering her a lift, not only are you making her day easier, but you are offering a friendly ear for her to unburden all those pent up fears about her pet’s health.
- Cruelty free shopping. Using our dollars wisely when it comes to our purchases and the products we choose to use is the strongest way to implement changes toward greater respect for all animals. Choose Cruelty Free maintains an extensive list of accredited cruelty-free companies.
- Sell fundraising chocolates at your place of work! Okay, it does’t have to be chocolates but thats a common one and really so simple.
- Have dog loving friends and family that have everything they want at birthdays? One option to pay it forward on their behalf is make a donation to their preferred animal charity.
- Purchase from businesses who donate a portion of the sale to a dog related charity. And if you’re a business – donate all the profits from a product or a portion of sales to your favourite dog charity.
You can also be a Dog Samaritan without leaving home. Simple things like posting or sharing a cute dog pic on social media can spread smiles to thousands. Let’s face it, it can get whingy and whinny in your Facebook newsfeed at times, and who wouldn’t rather see a wet leathery nose? It might just help to cheer those with a sad outlook up too! Of course, you can also:
- Share or repost the profile photos of a rescue dog waiting for their forever home.
- Make pledges and sign petitions and send letters to local representatives for animal causes which you feel strongly about. Tougher regulations to make Puppy Farms a thing of the past or banning the sale of animals in pet stores are a few examples of the petitions we’ve seen recently.
- Set up a regular donation or contribution to a animal shelter, rescue or other charity.
- Promote adoption and responsible pet ownership amongst your friends and family. Be a reference for them in making better educated decisions about where their dog comes from, the options available and living their best and most responsible lives with their dog.
No matter how you decide to pay it forward, don’t forget to pay it back bigtime, and give your furry friend the hugest hug ever. They deserve it.
- The 13 Project – Although established as project for the remaining weeks in 2012 there’s no reason that you couldn’t embark on a similar project yourself today!
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