Now more than ever, you are needed to donate your old blankets, towels, and sheets to your local animal shelter. With financial cut-backs, repairs on shelters are often put off, so if it's drafty, the animals suffer. I know my shelter uses rags to stuff under doors. No kidding! Empty out those closets... this is your chance to get rid of stuff and do something useful!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Word On a Good Shelter

I've been hitting pretty hard at shelters that are poorly run, and owners who abandon their pets. But here is another angle, one conveyed through a volunteer of Yonkers Animal Shelter, where I am a regular dog walker and member of the fundraising and events committee.

At Yonkers - a 50 year old shelter that is literally ducked taped together - what we don't have in facility we have in spirit and love of our animals. While our shelter is being moved sometime in the coming year or two, to a new location that the City of Yonkers is committed to paying for but struggles to do so, the 104 dogs and 75+ cats have many people looking out for them. While other shelter volunteers have to worry about abuse or dogs not being fed, or not brought to a vet when it’s needed, that is not the case in Yonkers. We lack anything remotely resembling glamour or even newness, but what I love about the place, ramshackle as it is, is that the volunteers are allowed to affect positive change in those animals' lives. This basic thing is not nearly the case at too many shelters across the country. Our dogs are socialized, happy to see people, hand fed treats regularly (to help them be less food aggressive), walked a few times a week, and given blankets in colder months. No, not all the dogs get plush beds. Most have functional beds of hard plastic, but each day in the colder months, and always for the arthritic dogs or those who don't tear up their stuff in two seconds out of boredom, volunteers go through and put bedding inside that some other volunteer has collected at stores or from friends. Dogs are all known by name, and looked after by staff and volunteers alike.

There is a sort of informal but very diligent volunteer base at Yonkers Animal Shelter, and the director and staff and all of us work fairly well together. Of course there's drama some days, but by and large, it's a good situation - one I'm always grateful for. Some who volunteer there would say it's not (we all want the dogs to have homes and it hard to watch them languish) but I say they don't know enough about other shelters in unseen places.

A final note: there are many volunteers who are not mentioned here. Their work is enormously appreciated.


In the glare of a dust-filled quarry, amid screeching machinery

blasting at concrete, a homeless dog eagerly runs after a ball tossed

by two kind souls - volunteers who've found time in their busy days to

bring some joy to those who need so little...a pat on the head, a

"Good boy!"...someone who looks into their anxious eyes and lets the

know they're not alone, that someone loves them. In the rain and

freezing cold, on their own dime, the volunteers at the Yonkers

Animal Shelter try to make a difference under some of the worst

conditions, without hesitation or regret.

Volunteers at animal shelters fill a need most people cannot. Those

who love dogs and cats - and understand their sameness to us, that

their need for attention and affection is identical to ours - are

often the ones least able to get involved. The majority of people

can't even go to shelters, much less help out. "People have a problem

with putting the animals back in their cages when they leave. It

breaks your heart when they look at your so longingly," says Laurie, a

relatively new volunteer "Some are resigned to the fact that they're

being 'left' again and go to the back of the cage with their head

down, as though they've somehow 'failed.' That's tough to take."

Erica, a longtime volunteer with health issues of her own, finds a

personal benefit. "It's like therapy for me. They have so much love

to give; I them all my attention and it takes my mind off myself. I

have my favorites, and I miss them when they are adopted." Roger, who

has been at the shelter for ten years, also helps stray animals who

seek shelter under cars and cry for a bit of food. "Some come right

up to me, they're obviously from someone's house - they've either been

lost or dumped. My house is 'filled up' just like the shelter - no breaks your heart to have to leave 'em."
"The current sixty year old shelter is small, decrepit and woefully
inadequate,” reflects Kay Pistone-Carucci, volunteer chairperson for
the Building Hope committee which is raising funds for a new shelter.
“The new facility will be spacious, bright and supportive, a symbol of
what Yonkers can achieve...a place with a welcoming atmosphere for the
public and where both homeless animals and volunteers can find hope
and a respite from life's storms."

For more information, visit

Written by Kiley Blackman, Member, 'Building Hope' Committee