Making it Work: Fitting Rescue, Foster, or Volunteering into an Already Hectic Life

On a daily basis I'm asked "How do you have time to do all this? You must not work."
Well, I decided to have the time; and, I do - and always have - worked full time.
So yes, I think it IS possible to do without exhausting yourself and ignoring your family. In order to achieve that, I had to get smart about how things were planned and done. Today I'm sharing some of that information to help others who may want to get involved, but are justifiably concerned about the commitment.

And if that doesn't work, at the end of this blog is a list of how many calories you burn helping animals!

First of all, in general, animal shelters are happy to have volunteers as often as they can come. Yes, they do ask for a minimum commitment. No, I've never heard of anyone being kicked off if they couldn't make that every month! I see too many people NOT go because they could only go at lunch to walk a dog for half an hour, or only spare an hour on Saturday. Guess what? That's HUGE. Think about it this way - if you have 500 Facebook friends, and you and they all did 1 volunteer hour a month, that's 500 volunteer hours. A little turns into a lot (kind of like donations).

Many people I know make volunteering a family event. I see so many families having a great time at the shelter working with the animals. For some it's a monthly thing; the 2nd Saturday or 4th Sunday of every month they spend the morning or afternoon helping out at the shelter. Like piano lessons and birthday parties, it's calendared in advance to ensure time is available and it actually happens. By the way, many schools give students extra credit for this type of volunteering, and this is always a great thing to mention on a job or college application as it shows responsibility and commitment.

As for taking in fosters or hospice, the shelter will train you on any medications that need administering. Always have 2 pet sitters (1 primary, 1 backup) and make sure to ask if they can do injections or non-standard meds (not just a pill pocket). You can also setup a rescue room as I've done.

A big part of how I make the time is that house cleaning - including pet chores - was adjusted to be as automated and efficient as possible:

I load the dishwasher up every night, versus trying to wash by hand 32 pet food and water bowls (ok maybe not 32 but when I tried to hand wash daily it seemed like it).

I buy potty pads in bulk and when on sale (I got 400 pads half price at Pet Supplies Plus their last sale!). If used, I just roll it up and throw in the trash - no cleaning required.

Because I had family members with allergies (including me), it made sense to get rid of carpet and the disgusting pad underneath which is NEVER really clean even after steam cleaning (have you ever seen it when even clean carpet is pulled up? Ugh! But that's a whole other blog!). All those carpet fibers = dust, dander, bacteria = allergens even with NO pets. For us, it's all tile and wood floors. Friends of mine did sealed cement floors. Same idea: if a pet has an accident or barfs, cleanup is a paper towel roll and a spray bottle taking all of literally less than 5 minutes versus if that was a carpet it would be hours and money spent on steam cleaning.

I keep paper towel rolls and cheap spray bottles (Big Lots, 79 cents) with a mix of rubbing alcohol and water (50-50) in every room for quick cleanups of pet spillage (and human spillage; we're a clumsy bunch around here).

I forked out for a ROOMBA = no vacuuming by humans required (there's a pet model that has the extra-large bin for pet hair - I call it "Niles the Butler". Worth EVERY penny. You can schedule it to run while you're gone - it finds its own way "home" to its charger. Although if you do that, you'll miss the fun of your cats stalking it like mine do!

I buy beds and blankets from Goodwill and when on sale at Big Lots. I have a dresser full of them in the laundry room, where there's also a separate bin for dirty ones.

More of this "time saver" and "efficiency" information is in the various pet care articles on this website.

In closing, there is nothing more rewarding than helping an animal, because unconditional love is priceless. While I find it takes energy, strangely I find myself energized at the same time by the reward of the experience. It’s not a bad energy drain like work stress or traffic jams! In fact, I find it helps my stress level stay lower.

Pick what works for your life and be honest about what that is actually. If you rent and can't have fosters, then perhaps walking dogs every Saturday is your thing. If you want the whole family to do things together, then cleaning events, fundraisers, socializing animals one Sunday a month may be your thing. If you don't have time on weekends, maybe walking a dog at lunchtime or holding a cat is your thing (keep a lint roller in your car to roll off the pet hair before returning to the office!

If I haven't convinced you, maybe this will:

  • Calories burned walking a dog: 204
  • Calories burned cleaning at the shelter: Sweeping, 136; Mopping 153;
  • Calories burned petting a cat for an hour: 55​
  • Calories burned actively playing with a cat: 110