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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