Lending a Paw
Students volunteer at animal shelter, learn from experience
February 27, 2020
As junior Gillian Knowles reaches out her arm to touch him, he snaps his head around and pounces, his teeth bared and his eyes flashing.
But because Gillian knew about the “demon cat’s” habits, she pulled her arm away in time, avoiding the bite.
“This cat was literally a devil reincarnated as a cat,” Gillian said. “It had the worst name ever. Its name was Precious. He didn’t have claws and liked to bite with really sharp teeth because that was his only source of defense.”
Working as a volunteer at the Texarkana Animal League, Gillian has had several interesting encounters with the animals. She started volunteering there the summer of her eighth grade year. She was already fond of animals, but her main motivation was getting community service hours for her college application.
“Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with my college application,” Gillian said. “I’m pretty sure it’s key to my entire life. To get into any of the good schools, you need volunteer hours.”
While that’s one factor that pushes students to help out, for others, their love of animals outweighs their need for the extra hours.
“When I was looking over stuff to volunteer for, it was definitely one of my favorites,” junior Lawson Lee said. “That’s how we got most of our dogs. We adopted them while we were there.”
Adopting an animal may not sound like a difficult task, but it’s a rigorous process. Without proper care and equipment, a simple situation could easily become hazardous.
“When people try to adopt them, they make sure to do a full background check,” Lawson said. “A lot of our dogs have been eaten. People leave their dogs outside and coyotes get to them. That’s why we make sure their backyards are fenced.”
Because the Texarkana Animal League is a rescue shelter, many of the animals have been abused or beaten.
“We have a bunch of cats that have disabilities,” Lawson said. “One cat got hit by a car and its head was messed up. It has trouble walking and its body can’t process what to do.”
The shelter helps hundreds of animals yearly in finding a home. Along with providing social rehabilitation and medical care for the animals, they also stress the importance of adoption over purchase.
“A lot of these animals we rescue from puppy mills were bred from breeders,” Gillian said. “They were rejected or given up. It makes more sense to adopt because you can still get the same kind of animal you want instead of buying one.”
While volunteering has many benefits, one of the strongest is the connection one builds with the animals.
“You get really attached to the dogs and then they get adopted,” Lawson said. “It’s a little sad but you’re happy for them and you just hope they have found a good home.”