The Gift of Transformation – An Animal Shelter Volunteer’s Story

Guest Post by Alyssa – Bastrop County Animal Shelter Volunteer – January 8, 2012

Why We Volunteer: a Mother’s Journey to Reclaim her Son
2011 brought a lot of heartache and pain for me. I tell this story only so that you will understand the transformation that has taken place in Gabe. My son, Gabe, was slowly deteriorating emotionally as a delayed result of the abuse he endured in my previous marriage. That marriage ended in 2008 but Gabe’s pain waited to manifest until a few years later. School became a nightmare for him. Bullies caught wind of his weakness and grabbed hold. They tormented him relentlessly; teasing him, hurting him physically, and preying on his emotional damage. It got so bad that Gabe started questioning why he should live. Thanks to the quick actions of the school counselor, we quickly got him into MHMR where he was placed on suicide watch at only 10 years old. He was also required to sign and carry a “No Harm to Self” contract at the school. My son simply did not want to live and my heart was breaking. When school returned in August and we found ourselves fighting the same demons, I decided I needed to seriously consider home school. Eventually it seemed to be the only option and I pulled Gabe out at the end of October.

We started volunteering at the Bastrop County Animal Shelter in November and I found Urgent Animals online on Facebook. I really liked their mission and asked if we could help. Things happened quickly and we were visiting the shelter multiple times weekly and helping find a way to get those babies adopted. Gabe became known as “The Dog Whisperer” because animals too afraid to respond to adults quickly responded to him. He started being known as the BCAS kid-tester! I watched as my son quietly and almost imperceptibly changed. These dogs have an amazing amount of trust for him and the way he bonds with them is incredible. The dogs are slowly restoring his trust in humanity. Without knowing it, the shelter babies are healing the emotional damage that had taken my son from me. They are making him whole again. What started out as a school lesson in giving back to his community has now become a form of therapy for a boy who doesn’t like to talk about his pain. Lorraine, Jeremy, Anne, Cheryl and Carla also honored my son with a certificate, naming him volunteer of the year. This certificate is his pride and joy! The smile that appears when he looks at it will forever bring joy to my heart. Gabe has this to say about why he volunteers:

“I like getting to play with lots of dogs and cats, even though I am allergic to the cats. I like working with the “chicken dogs” and helping them come out of their shells. I like knowing that by kid-testing and gaining their trust, I am helping them get adopted faster. I feel better about myself and important when I help save one of them. It’s a nice feeling.”

As for me, Alyssa, I get to experience unconditional love every time I look into a shelter dogs eyes. These animals love you despite who you are, who you have been, where you have been, what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. They love without expectation, bias or judgment. With these babies, I can remember what true love really feels like. Having the chance to make a difference in the life of a shelter dog is changing our lives. I believe that no matter what your reason for volunteering, you will receive more than you intended when you work to save their lives. This is why Gabe and I volunteer, why will YOU do it?

Bastrop County Animal Shelter

Posted with permission from Bastrop County Animal Shelter

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  1. Wow , beautiful story..I have a therapy dog. She made her first visit to the hospital just yesterday. It was amazing, the affect her presence had on the patients!! She did so great, I only had to call her name & with a snap of my fingers she would gentle lay her head in their hands. I love their reactions!!! Dogs are so great, I’m glad this boy found a reason to put his life back together!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. This is the most beautiful story of unconditional love! An animal naturally is filled with unconditional love and no matter what they have been through when someone shows them love, understanding, patience and compassion, it flows freely! Through that love is healing for parties! Thank you so much for sharing your story! ♡

  3. This is a beautiful story. I am so glad that Gabe has been able to help the animals and have them help him. I am a child of sexual abuse and I was bullied in school as well. In my case, no one at school or anywhere else knew what I was going through at home. I could have easily become a statistic, there were many times I thought that it would be better if I weren’t here. I still talk to my animals when I am upset or depressed. I have P.T.S.D. to this day and this was many years ago as I am a grandmother now. It hurts my heart to see an unwanted or abused animal. I have five cats, two dogs and a snake that are all rescues except one of my dogs was a gift from my mother. It doesn’t matter what I’ve been through or even the mistakes I’ve made in my life, and there were many and will be more, but no matter what, my fur babies love me. Old, young, fat, thin, short, tall…it doesn’t matter they love us and all they ask in return is love and attention. God Bless Gabe and all the Fur Babies out there that need to feel love at least once in their short lives.

    • Thanks Dee; your story too beautifully illustrates the unmatched gift we have in our pets. Knowing the gift they offer, it is so incredibly painful to see so many abandoned and abused. Completely heartbreaking.

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