Imagine being 13-years old again. A young animal lover who wants to help take care of homeless pets. However, children under 16 are technically still too young to officially volunteer at the Dumb Friends League. What do you do? You enroll in Junior Volunteer Club (JVC). This five-month club introduces children ages 12 – 15 to the benefits of volunteering in an animal shelter and teaches them the importance of treating animals in a humane way.
Meet Jamie, age 12
Jamie is one of 40 JVC members this semester. Throughout her entire life, she has watched her mother, Michelle, volunteer at the Dumb Friends League.
So far, Jamie’s favorite thing about JVC has been seeing all the dogs and taking them for a walk. She also enjoyed learning about cat’s body language: the meatloaf position and identifying when they are ready to pounce.
Jamie, together with the girls and boys in JVC, meet for two hours one Sunday morning each month. Lauren, our community educator, leads the program and organizes the participants into small groups: dog walking, cat socializing, small mammals and kennel cleaning. Throughout the program, they rotate to ensure they get to try all areas.
Small mammal care
This time, Jamie and four other girls pick small mammals care. Each group is led by an adult volunteer and accompanied by a Junior Mentor, a JVC graduate.
Small mammal volunteer Lauren takes the girls to the holding area. There are hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, a chinchilla and even a hedgehog.
The girls exclaim aww and so cute as Lauren takes out two 5-week-old hamsters. She shows the junior volunteers how to gently hold the animals so they feel safe. One hamster escapes up into a girl’s long hair. The other hamster settles into another girl’s cradled hands and starts grooming itself while making low groaning noises – a sign that the hamster feels comfortable.
The girls take turns gently holding hamsters or a chinchilla. They alternate so everyone learns how to clean an animal enclosure. All along, Lauren does a wonderful job continuing to educate them about animal care in the shelter.
Learning from a rat
After a stop to do dishes, the troop go to the small mammal adoption area. A single rat is the lone animal up for adoption this morning. Lauren explains some little-known facts about rats: you can clicker train and teach them to retrieve things!
Lauren carefully reaches into the rat’s cage and patiently waits to see if the rat is willing to come out. But no. This rat is not interested and so Lauren closes the door. It becomes an important hands-on experience for the JVC group as they learn to respect the animal’s need for space and recognize when to leave it alone.
When Jamie completes the JVC program, she wants to be a team volunteer with her mother until she is 16 years old and can volunteer on her own. I have a feeling we’ll see this young woman become an amazing volunteer at the Dumb Friends League.
To learn more about the Junior Volunteer Club and other volunteer opportunities for kids and teens, visit https://www.ddfl.orgyouth-volunteering/. The next program starts in August.
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