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The first organization I volunteered with when I moved to Texas was Garland Pawsibilities, then known as Garland Bark Park. Their major focus at that point was to get a dog park in Garland, but they have grown and changed a lot since then and now focus on animal adoptions and low-cost spaying and neutering. They even have their own adoption center in an old firehouse.

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The group holds adoption events at least once a month for animals from the Garland Animal Shelter. The day before each adoption, there is a dog wash at the shelter. This is fun during the summer but not so great during the winter. You will get wet. Some volunteers (with big vehicles) meet at the animal shelter at 8:15 on the day of the event to pick up animals and take them to the adoption center or other location. This is a pretty entertaining experience in itself. The animals are in crates, but they can still bark/hiss at each other and slide around while you’re trying to drive. At 9:00, there is a training session at the adoption site for new volunteers, where you learn how to make sure the animals don’t run away and other rules. (I have seen dogs run out into traffic but fortunately have not seen any injured.) Some people help set up by posting signs, filling water bowls, etc.

Once the event starts, you can rotate through various duties. Some people stand along the street with signs and/or dogs on leashes trying to bring in potential adopters. You rotate the dogs every once in a while to give them all some exercise and fresh air. Plus, in the summer (which is about 9 months long in Dallas), the dogs need an occasional rest in the shade. Some people just play with the dogs to entertain them and show people how awesome the dogs are. Each dog has a tag on its collar telling its breed, age, and whether it’s fixed. (There is a lower price for animals that came into the shelter fixed.) Through the day, you tend to learn a little about each dog’s personality and can talk up its good qualities or help it find an owner who can handle its bad qualities. There are also cats in cages, and the firehouse has rooms where interested people can interact with them. Other duties include cleaning up poo, refilling the water, and helping people fill out adoption paperwork.

After the event, volunteers are needed to help drive any unclaimed animals back to the shelter. This can be pretty upsetting to people, so you might want to sign up for the early shift if you can’t handle it. Garland is not a no-kill shelter, so although you gave these dogs a great day, they might not be around much longer. You may become attached to one or more of the animals. I know a lot of volunteers have ended up adopting animals they probably shouldn’t have because it’s too hard to send them back. Anyway, after the event, people are also needed to drive animals back to the shelter, clean and break down the cages, and put up the signs. The event ends at 3:00, and then it takes about an hour to close down. You don’t have to stay all day.

This is a fun group if you want to help animals and can keep perspective. Even if some of the animals do go back to the shelter at the end of the day, you’ve helped save several lives and made some families very happy. And you never know if a family that was on the fence might later decide to adopt one of the animals and go directly to the shelter.

Pawsibilities also hosts an annual dog swim day every August at the Holford Park Pool called Dog-A-Poolooza. This is a really fun event to volunteer at. It’s kind of insane with hundreds of dogs of all breeds running around off leash, shaking water on everyone, some wearing costumes. There are also interesting vendors, entertainment, food, and a raffle.

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