Volunteer prepares puppies for their best lives

Volunteer Betty Grieb wearing a blue protective gown and gloves, holding a puppy on her shoulder
Betty Grieb offers the puppies at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary lots of TLC to help prepare them for new homes.
By Anna McClain

Betty Grieb’s warm heart shines brightly through her compassionate care for the puppies in Dogtown at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Betty volunteers twice a week and enjoys helping to prepare puppies for loving homes. For many of the puppies, she is the first volunteer they spend the most time with to learn about navigating the world.

Shelters across the country have seen an influx of puppies this year, and that puts them at risk of being killed when there isn’t space or resources to care for all the animals. Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters to reach no-kill, and that means working together with other animal welfare organizations to save pets’ lives, giving each one what they need to move out of the shelter and into a loving home.

[Volunteers expand homeless dogs’ worlds]

With that goal in mind, Betty has been volunteering at the Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, for over 12 years. In fact, she moved to Kanab from Pennsylvania specifically to devote her time to volunteering for Best Friends. She provides TLC to each puppy, helping them feel soothed through socializing, petting, feeding treats, and reading Dr. Seuss books. She also works with puppies on training cues, and she shares stories for their adoption biographies to help potential adopters connect with them.

“Betty truly cares about the well-being of each puppy and enjoys preparing them for a happy, well-adjusted life,” says Paige Blair, Best Friends lifesaving and care specialist. “She is full of funny anecdotes about puppies after socializing with them. She is reliable and relentlessly patient.”

In the following interview, Betty shares more special puppy stories and offers helpful advice for people interested in volunteering with animals.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Best Friends? What motivates you to continue to help the animals?

Many years ago, my boss received a Best Friends newsletter and gave it to me. I was interested immediately. When my brother and I were visiting this area, we decided to stop in and see if we could volunteer — we could! I loved Best Friends and what they were doing for the animals. That was the start. While I was still working, I came out on my vacations and volunteered. After retirement, I relocated to Kanab to either get a job or volunteer with Best Friends. I started volunteering in Dogtown and never left the area; it was my home. Initially I worked in many Dogtown areas, but puppy admissions has been one of those areas for about 10 years. Now it is the only area I volunteer in.

There are always new animals coming to the Sanctuary who need a second chance, and we can give them that.

What inspires you most in your volunteer work?

There is a special feeling when you work with a dog and help them overcome issues and go into a loving home.

What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?

Do it! There is always something you can do to help — walking dogs, washing dishes, cleaning, reading to them, or just being with them. I really love being with the puppies and helping them toward their adoptability.

Since becoming a volunteer, what have you learned? Do you see things differently now and, if so, how?

Learning is a constant process when volunteering. I have been fortunate to attend some workshops regarding dogs and have been able to use the information, and continue to use it, with the puppies and mother dogs I interact with. I am now better at assessing what the puppies are telling me with their mannerisms and better able to work with them. Yes, volunteering can be a lot of work, but it is worth it.

What are you most proud of in terms of your volunteer work? Why?

Seeing puppies who have been socialized and handled and are now ready to go into loving homes. Without interaction with many different people, they are not as able to interact with a stranger and are less likely to be adopted. I want them all to have good homes.

What does volunteering mean to you? Why do you do it?

Volunteering means giving of myself to the dogs and making their lives better. It gives me a good feeling when I do this and makes my life better all around.

Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment(s).

Which one? I have plenty!

  • Reading to Ellen, one of the Vicktory Dogs, from outside her run and being the first volunteer to enter her run and take her for a walk
  • Sitting in a run with six shy dogs and hand-feeding all of them treats
  • A shy dog who had been loose and lost running through the brush toward me when I called her name (Seeing her head appear above a small rise and running to me was a Homeward Bound moment.)
  • Having a super-shy dog accepting me and allowing me to take him for car rides (on his terms!) and letting me love on him after the car ride
  • Bonding with a mother dog who accepted another litter after her litter was weaned
  • A puppy who knew nothing but biting for attention learning it was nice to stop biting and receive attention, petting, and cuddling

Tell us something we don't know (about yourself or just an interesting fact).

Mother dogs give all they have for their puppies. Mom can be super thin, bones sticking out, and her puppies are fat and thriving.

What are you doing when you're not volunteering with animals?

I have a husband and a 14-year-old grandson living with us. That alone is enough to keep me busy. I enjoy reading and jigsaw puzzles.

Besides volunteering with Best Friends, how else do you give back in your community?

At church I am part of the worship team, providing lyrics for the music on a large screen.

Do you have pets? Tell us about them.

At present we have three dogs, all adopted from Best Friends. We would also have a cat if we had more room. Danny was the first one adopted and is 11 now and in good shape. He is a large dog (mostly golden retriever) and is a very gentle, good dog. Jack, a mixed breed, was the second one adopted and is 8 years old. He was found with his littermates in a box alongside a road. While his littermates were surrounding me, he would sit in the back of the run and "arf" at me. I guess you could say he picked me and is a very good dog. Lady is roughly 2 1/2 years old and is some type of herding dog. She is extremely playful and keeps the older dogs active but is also very loving and sweet.

Do you have a superpower? If so, what is it?

If being able to quiet my mind and sitting very quietly with shy dogs is a superpower, I guess that is it.

What is one of your favorite things to do with the puppies?

Playing with them, socializing them, handling them. But, most of all, cuddling them. Also, their puppy breath!

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Dog sniffing the side of volunteer Betty Grieb's face
Photo by Molly Wald

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