A Day of Service: More than Just Adoption at the Durham Animal Protection Society
“Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who, who? They always ask who lets the dogs out, but not who takes care of the dogs. Well, the answer for both, at least for Durham, is the Animal Protection Society. APS not only leaves dogs to responsible owners, but also cats, rabbits, hamsters, chickens and many other animals. APS is also our destination for our first day of service.
Mask in hand and APS shirt on, I put my key in the ignition and left. 12 minutes later, I was finally at APS. I got out of my car and entered through the playground into the APS building, where my nose was assaulted by the powerful scent of animals. Nonetheless, I was not discouraged, as I was so close to accomplishing my first task: to log in. 30 seconds later I reached the login laptop, where I logged in and said hello to Larissa.
I then went to the first chat room, where I would spend my next two hours. There, I met a nice member of staff, who gave me my next task: cleaning two cages normally and carrying out the heavy task of “deep cleaning” one cage. At first I was lost because I haven’t volunteered with cats for about four dozen; however, with the guidance and help of the kind member of staff, I was able to begin my task.
The first cage went wonderfully, and by beautifully I mean my hands haven’t been tortured by cat claws yet. While cleaning, I learned that cleaning is a precise art. Before proceeding with the steps, be sure to wear gloves:
1. Close half of the cage and keep the cat in the other half
2. throw the litter box in the trash: the box goes in the trash bag, the litter goes in the trash.
3.Use the damp towels with cleaning products to wipe down the cage.
4. Wait for the cage to dry, then put the towel in the new litter box.
5. Put the cat on the clean side,
6. Repeat the same procedure for the other half of the cage with a few differences: replace their play box and their toys if they are dirty.
6. Fill the bowls with water and food.
For Larissa Chantell, APS Volunteer Manager, all this in one day’s work. Her connection, dedication and knowledge of PSA inspired me throughout our conversation.
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Larissa Chantell with her pit bull.
Tell us about your background and your involvement in APS?
So basically, I’ve always had a love for animals. I moved here with my mom when I was about eight or nine from Florida. And our weekend activity to do was to come, come to the shelter and walk around and watch the animals. So I would say I started with APS when I was nine, just because I knew them. They had a list in 2016 on Craigslist for a job. And I applied to be a customer service representative who was actually an adoption counselor.
What did you find to be the most rewarding part of working here?
The most rewarding part would just be making a difference. I am also responsible for volunteers and responsible for rescue. So I am working with our animals that we are not able to place in our adoption program due perhaps to behavioral or medical issues. These are therefore animals for which I find a placement. And if I can’t find a placement, then I couldn’t place them anywhere. So these are really like our high risk animals. Last year I placed 365 rescue animals.
Which part did you find the most difficult?
Don’t adopt them all. This is the most difficult thing. People always ask me how I do my job because they love animals so much and want to bring them all home. And I say that’s honestly the hardest part. At home at the moment I have a dog and a cat. So I’m at my limit, which helps me in a way. But that’s the hardest thing, not just getting them all home.
Can you tell us about the different types of roles that employees and volunteers have in APS?
So, uh, staff roles, we have our front desk staff. They are our adoption counselors. They adopt our animals and take our animals. They run different little programs that we do to help the community, like our neutral span program. We have a medical department where we have a full-fledged veterinarian, Dr Bishop, we also have veterinary technicians who help him take care of all the animals. Medically here we have a behavioral staff or a team or a department, which is our behavior manager and his assistant. They assess all the animals that we have hosted in shelters to make sure they are behaving well.
We have me, the manager of volunteers. I supervise our volunteers and the rescue service. We also have our development department. They manage the fundraising and so do our donors. And our social media team. Our volunteers are amazing. They help with whatever we need. Of course we have dog walkers, people who come to socialize the cats. We have people who transport animals. We have volunteers who help us with the events. We have volunteers who take care of our animals. It just varies. We have a lot of roles. These are some of them.
So how did APS fare through COVID?
COVID has kind of made us change our whole process of how we do things. We rocked when COVID first hit: it was all done virtually. So we had virtual adoptions, virtual visits. We moved as many of our dogs as we could, which were available in foster homes. Our hospitality program has therefore also grown. We currently have nearly 250 animals in foster care. So we just changed it. It made us change our habits a lot, a lot.
Before, we didn’t have the ability to do anything virtually like adoption contracts or anything. So we’ve shifted gears and now we’re able to, so we’ve kind of come into the 21st century.
Is there a tip you would like to give to someone who wants to get involved, such as working with animals?
I’d just be honest with people and say it’s difficult, but it’s very rewarding. The kind of reward outweighs any sadness people think of when they volunteer. So just understand that it’s difficult, but worth the reward.
Do you have a favorite adoption story?
My favorite adoption story would be mine. I adopted my dog from here. His birthday has just arrived. I adopted it on September 11 last year. He was actually here for about a year before he was adopted. He was awaiting a court case, so it was a case of cruelty. So when he arrived he was an adult pit bull and weighed only 35 pounds. So he only had skin and bones.
He’s now a healthy 72-pound pit, and he’s amazing. He just changed my life and he was just sitting here the whole time, right. Under my nose. So yes, it’s mine: it’s my adoption story.
As much as I wanted to bring an animal home on the day of my duty, I was not there to adopt it. I applied my cage cleaning recipe to my second cage and succeeded until it didn’t. I met my first real challenge of the day: two adorable kittens. These kittens bewitched me when I started playing with them. Lucky for me, I was awakened from this candid spell by the staff member. After this mishap, I quickly finished the second cage. There was only the third cage left which needed a “deep cleaning”.
Surprisingly, the deep cleaning of the third cage went well with my only incident being spilling some clay litter. Upon completing my task, I finally received my reward: a warm feeling in my heart and time to socialize with the cats. Tragically for me, I was only able to enjoy the fruits of my labor for 15 minutes before having to return to Duke for class.
Volunteering at APS has given me the opportunity to be indirectly involved in someone’s adoption story, which will always make me smile every time I think about it. So if you want to be a part of someone else’s adoption story just click this connect and maybe your day of service can turn into a life of companionship with a pet in need of a home.
Abdel Shehata is a first year of Trinity. His column is broadcast every other Thursday.