Voices: Jess B.

This week I had to chance to sit down with Jess B., the Dog Walking Lead Volunteer at Austin Pets Alive! As regulars at the shelter know, Jess is absolutely tireless in her efforts to provide the best care possible to the dogs while they are waiting for adoption. We discussed the past, present and future of APA! and what current and new volunteers can do to advance the No-Kill mission in Austin.

Sorullo and Brock are featured in these photographs.

You can find out more about Sorullo here: http://bit.ly/1DGNurq

You can find out more about Brock here: http://bit.ly/1LNrxg5

You can find out more about volunteering at APA! here: http://bit.ly/XVVXZl

Jess and Brock bond during an afternoon walk.

I started almost three years ago in June. I’d always wanted to volunteer with an animal shelter, but just never had the time. You start seeing what the needs are. A huge need is there are no weekday walkers because everyone has to work, so that’s the first thing you do. People say somebody else should be doing this. I never think that. I think ‘this needs to be done and I’m capable of doing it so why don’t I just do it.’

Jess and Brock share a quiet moment.

Austin couldn’t be no-kill if we didn’t save dogs with behavior problems. But APA! has playgroup, and that’s what saves lives. The fact that we get most of our dogs out for socialization and play and exercise twice a day is what is saving lives here.

Sorullo and Jess working on sits on  the Ladybird Lake trail. 

[This work] is important to me. If you don’t like something, then you have to change it yourself. You have to come in. You have to come walk a dog. You have to be their advocates. If anything, that’s where we are falling down right now, we’re not advocates for these dogs. We think ‘our job is to come in and walk 50 dogs and then go home.’ But I think, ‘No, you have to go home and say hey I met this great dog today. It does this, it does that. It’s great with kids. Are you looking for a dog?’ And tell your friends and share them in social media. If no one out there in the world knows that there are 160 dogs waiting for them, then how are they ever going to get adopted?

Sorullo cannot wait a moment longer for a reward for his sit. Volunteers like Jess work to condition the dogs to manage their energy is stressful and exciting situations.

We have 200 dog volunteers that come through every month. That’s a lot of volunteers. And we want to maximize our time. APA is one of the few shelters where you can do your community service restitution. Nobody else does sleepovers. Nobody else does trail work. Nobody else has a jog-a-dog program. It’s very innovative.

Volunteers take dogs on walks to the play yards within the Austin Pets Alive! campus. Here, Brock plays fetch with Jess is one of the larger yards. The exercise and human contact that these walks provide are essential aspects of  APA's mission to ensure the well-being of animals while they are in the shelter.

Sometimes a dog will be on the attention list [at another shelter] because they’re jumping in the kennel and they’re mouthing on people’s arms. But we think ‘oh, that’s a blue [collar] dog.’ And then we train our volunteers to take out that dog with those specific behaviors so they can do it safely and help curb those behaviors.

Sorullo, slowly but surely, is picking up on the training imparted to him by the volunteers and staff. Here, he waits patiently for Jess to release him to continue down the trail.

Austin is a very unique city and every time we ask for help the city steps up and helps us. I don’t know if there are other cities that have that type of culture to do the things we do.

Sorullo is rewarded for re-focusing on Jess after a dog passes on the trail.