Volunteers to Save Them All

Best Friends Animal Society has about 18,000 volunteers who help in all aspects of our work around the United States to Save Them All.
By Kelli Harmon

It’s National Volunteer Week and with around 18,000 active Best Friends volunteers, we have 18,000 reasons to be thankful this week. Volunteers work right alongside our staff in just about every program and in every corner of the country where we work hands-on with animals. Without volunteers, there would be no Best Friends as we know it.

As we thank Best Friends volunteers this week, we wanted to share just a little bit of what they do to help animals. We wish we could include 18,000 photos and personal stories of all the amazing things volunteers do. Though that’s not possible, we want you to know that all of us, including the animals, are grateful for every volunteer hour donated by every person. It all adds up. And it is what makes it possible to Save Them All.

Kitten bottle-feeding heroes

Volunteers help save thousands of kittens every summer when tiny newborn kittens flood shelters everywhere. Volunteer David Soobin Lee made this video featuring a few of the many kittens he has fostered. It doesn’t get much cuter than those wiggling ears when a kitten nurses.

Making volunteer vacations a yearly tradition

There really isn’t any other place like Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It’s no surprise that once people go there, they want to return. Barbara Adams and Larry Schettel have been doing just that (twice a year) for about 10 years. They come back each time to volunteer at the Bunny House and couldn’t be more thankful for that.

Two Bunny House volunteers wearing specially made T-shirts

Volunteering to make big events possible

Thousands of people and adoptable animals in one place over two days for Best Friends Super Adoptions takes a lot of man (and woman) power. An army of volunteers steps in to help with every facet of these events each year, and because of them, hundreds of dogs and cats find new homes.

Three female volunteers wearing bright orange T-shirts posing together

Volunteering to help shelter dogs

Best Friends works closely with shelters to help them save more dogs and cats, and foster volunteers are a big part of that effort. That’s especially true in Houston, where Best Friends doesn’t have a physical location — yet. Marcia Jackson agreed to foster

Wendy, a dog brought in to the Harris County shelter in Houston. Marcia helped Wendy feel better by hand-feeding her when she was too scared to eat, brushing her, carrying her outside, and letting her play with her other dog.

Wendy the dog being fostered by a volunteer, in a crate and covered with a camouflage colored blanket

Working out of their comfort zones

Whether bottle-feeding a tiny newborn kitten, reading to a shy dog, walking a pig or taking a cat outside in a stroller, volunteers are willing to try new things to keep the animals at Best Friends healthy and happy. After Eric and Michael Stevens’ recent visit to the Sanctuary, Erica posted the following on Facebook: “Last Thursday we volunteered at Cat World, our first time at Best Friends. We were glad to help out. Never thought I'd see my husband pushing a cat in a stroller.” Barbara Posner responded that her husband also got behind the [stroller] wheels during their visit and had a blast doing it. Laura Forst Hesslau chimed in with a photo of her husband pushing a cat stroller and said simply, “Aren't they the best?” Yes, yes they are.

Man pushing a cat in a stroller

About Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

So. Much. Giving.

When you find your niche volunteering with animals, you just want to keep coming back. So many people who sign up to volunteer for the first time didn’t expect that they’d soon be counting their volunteer hours by the thousands. Here’s what Todd Roisman, who volunteers in Los Angeles, had to say about hitting the 3,000-hour volunteer milestone: “Best Friends has changed my life. There is nothing I would rather be doing than helping to run play groups and introducing clients to the dogs and cats I love. I work with an incredible group of people who work in all aspects of animal rescue — some as their job and some who have the same passion to volunteer as I do. Thank you to everyone who has been part of that journey with me. Next stop 4,000 hours. See you next weekend.”

Volunteer Todd wearing a bright orange T-shirt with a brown and white pit bull terrier in his lap that other people are petting

Helping dogs feel good, get adopted

Getting dogs out of the adoption center and into the community is not only fun for them, it helps them meet more people and is a great way to find out what skills they have that will help them get adopted. Jamie Serratelli, a volunteer with Best Friends in Atlanta, took Gertie along for what could have been a boring few hours waiting for her car to be serviced. Jamie posted on Facebook: “To say Gertie is an angel is an understatement. She’s fantastic in the car, she greeted everyone at the dealership slowly, calmly and politely, she never once jumped or barked … heart stolen by a Best Friends dog yet again. She’s perfect.”

Gertie the dog went along with a volunteer to get a car serviced and enjoyed her time away from the shelter

Helping animals day and night

You might think it would be difficult to get people to sign up to work outside after dark in the winter to clean poopy crates, but our volunteers are so fantastic, they’re willing to do the dirty work. When Best Friends transports from Texas stop in Salt Lake City for an overnight pit stop before heading to their final destination in Idaho, volunteers unload the dogs, walk and feed them, clean crates, get them tucked in for the night, and then do it all over again in the morning to see the dogs off on the next leg of the trip. Volunteer coordinator Lindsay Hooker says: “These guys are superheroes. We see a lot of the same volunteers coming back for these pit stops time and time again, which makes things not only easier on us, but easier on them as a team, and better and better for the dogs each time a transport comes through.”

Group of volunteers posing in front of a transport van

Volunteers paying it forward

Nothing says giving like Strut Your Mutt. The national fundraising effort helps Best Friends Network partners raise much-needed funds so they can save animals all year long. There are as many as a dozen events around the country each year, and they are largely run by local volunteer committees. Hundreds of volunteers help on event day, like this team helping out in New York City.

Two volunteers helping at Strut Your Mutt in New York City

Volunteers bringing in more volunteers

Sharing the volunteer experience is not only fun, it gets more people involved and helping to save lives. Tracey Paige recently posted on Facebook about her plans to volunteer at the Sanctuary this fall: “Just booked my October trip. Bringing family with us for their first visit. So excited to introduce them to our favorite place on earth! Visit number 14 for me!”

Volunteer Tracey Paige posing in a selfie with a gray tabby cat in front of her

At Best Friends, we’re humbled and proud of our volunteers. It’s also true that volunteering anywhere makes a difference, whether it’s with Best Friends or with a local shelter or rescue group. If you love animals and you’re volunteering to help them, we appreciate you.

You can join the fun. Sign up to volunteer.

Photos by Molly Wald, Sarah Ause Kichas, Shannon Kirkman and courtesy of Best Friends staff and volunteers