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By Maureen Krivo

I hear all the time how valuable and important it is for children to be involved with volunteer work, and I agree. It teaches them to look beyond themselves and gives them a small taste of whatever that warm cozy feeling is inside when we do something to make the world a better place. Armed with that tidbit of parental wisdom, I marched my family off to a local homeless and rehabilitation shelter last year. My then four-year-old son promptly began his static-cling routine around my legs, rendering us completely useless to serve in any way. Oh, well. Some wisdom you learn, and some wisdom you earn, as I always say.

Undaunted, I was determined to give my son the volunteer experience I felt he so richly needed. Given our past track record, it was clear I needed to find something that would engage him. It didn’t take long, really. I simply watched him play for a little while, and the solution to my parental dilemma hit me like a lightening bolt…animals!

Dogs need love, too
This made total sense for our family for two reasons. First, from the moment he began speaking, our only child has referred to our two dogs as his little brother and little sister, even though they were residents of our household years before he came along. Second, my husband and I have a special place in our hearts for the Paulding County Animal Shelter after adopting our first furry child, a beagle named Polly, there in 1998. That is a neat story in itself.

My husband’s birthday fell during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and I wanted to do something really special for him. I knew he had wanted a beagle since he was a little boy. And I knew he would never expect to get one for a gift. My plans firmed up, I set out to surprise my unsuspecting husband with a dog crate containing assorted dog paraphernalia, complete with a big red bow. I stopped short of actually bringing a dog home, knowing that picking out our perfect pet together would be part of the fun. Then, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was sharing my exciting plans with a co-worker. Knowing she was a regular volunteer at the Paulding County Shelter, I asked her if she thought they might have some beagles. She suggested I give the shelter a call, which I did much later that day. I had gotten caught up in a project at work and almost forgot all about making that phone call. Actually, I thought I would just call the next day when I had more time. But later that afternoon, my mind drifted back to the upcoming excitement, and I decided to take a break and make the call. I inquired about beagles and was met with a hesitant pause, then, “Yes. Yes, we do! We have a female about two years old.” I explained the whole birthday surprise plans and asked if they would mind holding her until Saturday, the next day they would be open after the holiday. Again I was met with a brief silence. “Um…yeah, I think we can do that,” was the eventual answer. As far as I was concerned, it was in the bag! All I had to do was wait until Saturday.

Cats can be adopted at the shelter as well
My husband was thrilled with his new crate! Well, I should say that he was thrilled about what would be inhabiting it soon. Saturday came and we drove to the shelter as soon as it opened. Driving up to the shelter we were both taken aback at how small it was, especially in comparison to the Cobb County Animal Shelter. We parked in the equally tiny parking lot, both secretly hoping the dog waiting for us inside would be coming home with us. We received a warm greeting at the front desk and were led down a narrow hallway to a door in the back. Once the door was opened, I was overwhelmed by the noise. There were chain-link pens lining both sides of the aisle. All of them contained dogs of various breeds and sizes, seemingly vying for our attention. Half-way down the aisle, our attention was directed to a pen on the left. It was the beagle. Jeff instantly knelt down, his hands reaching through the chain-link to receive a warm and endearing lick. I just stood and stared, blinking back tears. You see, I had looked at the tag on her pen, learning that her name was Miss Polly, and learning that her euthanization date had been scheduled for the very day I had just happened to call the shelter.

Miss Polly stole our hearts, of course, and remains an important member of our family. We will never forget the love and grace with which the officers and volunteers at the Paulding County Shelter cared for those animals. It was apparent in everything they did. And we were touched at how they were just about as excited as we were about the adoption of Miss Polly. The shelter may be small, and lacking in funding, but it is run by people with some of the biggest hearts we have ever encountered. Unfortunately, big hearts cannot generate the space and supplies necessary to cover all the needs of the shelter. That’s where we can help.

Is it sad to go to the shelter? Absolutely. Is it hard to walk away without adopting at least one new pet? Sometimes. The key is to look past yourself and your own fears and emotions. Focus instead on the need at hand. The way I look at it, these animals have had enough people turn their backs on them. I don’t want to add to that number. Especially when there is so much that can be done.

I'm good with kids
My husband, my five-year-old son, and I volunteer at the Paulding County Animal Shelter fairly regularly. Not nearly as often as we would like to, of course. Depending on what needs to be done, we walk the dogs, play with the puppies, give out fresh water and food, wash dogs, clean cages, and generally help out wherever we are needed. Is it safe? I’ve never had a reason to believe it was not. We are never in direct contact with dangerous or aggressive animals. The most severe thing we have experienced is a light scratch from an overzealous puppy. In my opinion, it’s a lot safer for kids to volunteer at an animal shelter than to sit on their little behinds playing video games for hours.

Is it clean? Well, as clean as an animal shelter can be. Animal waste is removed promptly and thoroughly, and both the animals and their cages are cleaned regularly. Still, I recommend wearing old clothes and shoes. You wouldn’t wear your Sunday best to a barn, would you?

Volunteer forms are required to be filled out and on file for all volunteers. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a guardian at all times. Groups are welcome to volunteer, but please call the Director, Tracy Thompson, to let her know when you plan on coming and how many will be in your group.

There are other ways to support the shelter, besides volunteering your time. First, make sure your own pets are spayed and neutered, and properly cared for. Second, the shelter is in constant need of food (dog, cat, bird), towels, blankets, paper towels, newspaper or shredded paper, flea/tick or baby shampoo, pet toys, treats (dog and cat), bales of wheat straw, combs, brushes, bleach, laundry detergent, dish soap, alcohol, peroxide, gauze, cotton balls, and office supplies (sharpies, pens, colored copier paper).

In addition, monetary donations can be made through the Humane Society to one of two funds. The Medical Fund is used to care for stray animals that are hit by cars, as well as any animals that are in extreme medical need. The Spay/Neuter Fund benefits Paulding County residents by subsidizing or paying in full the cost of spaying and neutering, depending on financial need.

One thing the shelter strives to do is educate people on matters related to the shelter and animal control. I recently had a chance to interview Hope Heyn, a weekly volunteer at the shelter, in hopes of passing along some of that knowledge. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

How do you do this every week?"It’s not so much the faces in the cages, but being able answer questions and find the right pet for the right family."

What should I do if I encounter a stray?"If possible, take them to the shelter or call Animal Control to pick them up. Someone (their owner) might be looking for them."

What can I do about an animal that has been struck and either injured or killed on the road?
"Call Animal Control."

Should cats be allowed to roam free outside?"People don’t realize this, but the leash law pertains to cats, too. There are coyotes in Paulding County, so it’s not a good idea to let them out."

Is there anything else you would like people to know?"For people who insist on purchasing a dog from a breeder, we have purebred dogs here. They may not be AKC registered, and they cannot be bred, but unless you are a breeder, wouldn’t you like to save a life?"

If you would like to help the Paulding County Animal Shelter by volunteering, donating supplies or financial resources, or adopting a new family member, give them a call at 770-445-1511. The shelter is located at 779 Industrial Boulevard North, Dallas, Georgia, 30132. Operating hours are 12pm-5pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and 2pm-5pm on Sunday.

Please don’t look at this as a hopeless cause. Just because you may not be part of the problem, doesn’t necessarily mean you are part of the solution. I invite you to push past your comfort zone. Let’s work together to build a future where all of God’s creatures can thrive. Let’s help our children understand the importance of that, and their own significant role in making it happen. These creatures have a lot to teach us, and we have a lot to learn. See you at the shelter.

Paulding County Animal Shelter
779 Industrial Blvd. N.
Dallas, Ga. 30132
Office: 770.445.1511

County: Paulding County

Paulding County Animal Shelter


Take I-20, exit 44 (Thornton Rd) north (toward Austell). Thorton Road changes names a number of times, but at 17.7 miles turn right at GA-61/Nathan Dean Blvd. Take this for .7 miles and turn left at Merchants Dr. Travel.5 miles to Legion Rd and turn right on GA-381. Travel 2.5 miles and turn left at Industrial Blvd. The animal shelter is on the left.

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