Mother dog Nadia ready for a belly rub while her two puppies curiously check her out. (Courtesy of BASS Petfinder)
Mother dog Nadia ready for a belly rub while her two puppies curiously check her out.

Courtesy of BASS Petfinder

A Day in the Life of a Lancer: In the Shoes Of A Dog Shelter Volunteer

November 11, 2021

BASS, moments before all the volunteers arrive, ready to add some happiness to both their and the dogs’ days.
(Morgan Uhlhorn)

Volunteering at a dog shelter is always eventful- especially at Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (BASS) in Ringwood, New Jersey. Inside the shelter resides all the dogs currently searching for their forever homes. And when the afternoon shift hits and the dog-enthusiastic volunteers arrive, it is a field day for all!

A volunteer packed parking lot always means it’s going to be a great day at the shelter!
(Morgan Uhlhorn)

At around 3 p.m the cars start to turn into the parking lot of the shelter, and the dog-fanatics make their way to the gate. In order to enter, the volunteers must unclip the locked gate. These clips are found on every gate at BASS as some of the dogs actually know how to lift up and open the latch. Once the volunteers are on the shelter ground, they must reclip the gate, ensuring all dogs will be locked in safely.

Clipping the gates is the number one rule at BASS as it ensures the dogs are safely locked in the yards-especially since some of the dogs have learned how to undo the gates’ latches! (Morgan Uhlhorn)

At BASS, there are a total of three times the dogs are let outside: the morning, afternoon, and the night. The most volunteer heavy time is in the afternoon. As everyone arrives, owner of the shelter Ellen Ribitzki unlocks the door to the shelter, while the volunteers fill the water bowls up outside. Then, Ribitzki will begin to let the dogs out. There are multiple rounds when it comes to the dogs as certain dogs can play with each other in the yards, while others cannot. Along with this, certain groups can go across from each other in the yards, while others must stay separated, even if the fence is in the way. Thankfully, BASS has three playing areas all separated by fences: a large yard, a small yard, and a pavement area. By creating these rounds, the shelter is able to follow an organized schedule that uses its time efficiently and ensures that all dogs will stay safe.

An overview of the three areas at BASS. The top left corner is the pavement portion, the top right corner is the smaller yard, and the bottom image is the big yard.
(Morgan Uhlhorn)

When the first set of dogs is released, the volunteers will bring them into their directed yard, close the gate, and clip the latch. The same routine follows until every group is let out. Then, the volunteers decide which yard they want to join, and then the playtime begins!

Each round is given enough time outside to run around, feel the wind in their fur, and shower the volunteers with kisses and hugs. The dogs have plenty of toys to entertain themselves with if they wish to as well.

Once the time comes for the next round to be brought out, the volunteers help rally the dogs, group by group, back inside. The dogs are brought back to their crate inside the shelter, and are given a cookie because the volunteers enjoy spoiling the cuties. 

Volunteer and Lancer Ledger editor-in-chief Morgan Uhlhorn greeting Emmy, an incredible dog searching for her forever home, as she enters the yard. (Morgan Uhlhorn)

The process of round rotations and play time adventures continues the entire shift of the shelter. This usually takes around two hours, making the afternoon shift approximately from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. If the dogs need anything during this time, from a water bowl refill to a belly rub session, the volunteers are on it.

From playing a game of catch to having photoshoots with the dogs like Isabelle (top left corner), there is always something to do when volunteering at BASS. Volunteer Danielle Uhlhorn and Jethro playing a fun game of catch with a massive tennis ball. (Morgan Uhlhorn)

When it is time for the volunteers to leave the shelter for the night, Ellen and her staff will go around checking each of the dogs’ crates, ensuring that they are locked inside. Then, to make the dogs happy, plenty of goodbye treats will be distributed. 

Interested in adopting? Check out the hours above or check out BASS’ website. (Morgan Uhlhorn)

As everyone exits the shelter, Ellen will lock the door while the volunteers will latch and clip all of the gates once more. The volunteers, by this point covered in dirty paw prints (which is a sign it was a great day of playing), will say their goodbyes before departing out the main gate. As always, the last person leaving will be sure to clip the gate behind them. Thus, the afternoon shift is concluded, and the volunteers will return home, eager for their next reunion with the dogs.

If interested in adopting at BASS, be sure to check out BASS Petfinder for further information about the available dogs and how to get in contact with the shelter. Check out the BASS Instagram account as well: @bassanimalshelter. Also, keep a lookout for opportunities to donate to BASS through LRHS fundraisers this year. 

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