Recently I have been making a bit of an effort to do more in our community. I called our local animal shelter and spoke with some very nice person about volunteering. They told me I needed to come in and fill out an application, discuss my skills and availability, get a tour, and then they would tell me where I would best fit in. I made an appointment for yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday I drove out to the little shelter at the appointed time. I’ve been there before, to drop off blankets and towels for the animals. I know it’s a very small ramshackle building, likely fit to be condemned, but God bless’em, they do really good work.

But there was no one there. The door was locked. I peeked in a window and was met nose-to-nose with a meowing tabby cat on the inside sill.

I peeked around the back. There were several dogs in runs, and all barked like crazy as I nosed around.

I wandered back up front and sat down to wait. Soon, four young volunteers arrived, high-school aged, likely doing community service hours. They were all there to feed the animals, clean cages, play with cats, and walk dogs. We chatted.

It seems it was very odd that no one was there. No one was sure if the animals had been fed and watered. We commented on how hot it was and hoped the animals had water. We chatted about what to do. We sweated.

After about 45 minutes, I wandered out back again and checked out alternative entrances- like, could we break in through a dog run?

It looked like you could: the dog runs were made of chain link fence and looked really, really old, with some gaps between runs and no locks on the gates. The runs led right into the shelter building. It was do-able.

It would mean, however, going into a dog run WITH A DOG IN IT, as they were all occupied.

There were ten runs and ten dogs, eight of them pit bulls. Two were fluffy Benji-like dogs, but one of the volunteers told me they were in quarantine for some reason, so, not a good choice.

Now, I am not really a dog person. I like dogs fine, but some dogs scare me. Like, pit bulls in a shelter.

BUT these young folks had all been volunteering for some time and had an idea which dogs were “nice”. I mentioned this, like Hey, if one of you is familiar with these dogs, maybe you could pick a nicer one and go open the door from the inside?

They all looked at me like I had five heads. I mean, yes, I was suggesting breaking and entering, but if it was for the benefit of the animals, wouldn’t you do it?

Not these law-abiding teens. Me as a teenager, I would have been in there within the first ten minutes.

So we waited some more. The incessant barking and meowing was disconcerting. Were these poor animals hungry and thirsty?

We ended up calling the police, as the shelter is a branch of the town’s animal control unit. I spoke with the police dispatcher- obviously an animal lover, and someone familiar with our town’s pitiful little shelter. She was alarmed. She said she would call around until she found someone who had a key, and if she couldn’t find someone, she would send an officer to break in.

I waited a bit longerm but by that point, an hour had passed, and I still had to get groceries… I felt guilty, but I left the teenaged volunteers waiting for the police.

And, the dispatcher came through… The same gentleman I had originally spoken with, a longtime volunteer with a key, got a call and went to open the door. I know this as he called me to explain that so-and-so who was supposed to work that day couldn’t, and so-and-so who took their place forgot, and so on.

I haven’t given up on the shelter though… I made another appointment for next Thursday… Glutton for punishment?