Imagine snuggling up to a cuddly puppy, with it’s wet little nose and big eyes, or holding a purring kitten with its eyes half closed and your heart fully open.
Now, imagine doing it for a cause.
This is the reality for Ojai Valley School’s Humane Society student volunteers, who once a week get the opportunity to enhance their own lives, and the lives of animals waiting to be adopted at the Ojai shelter.
“It’s a benefit to the animals,” said Upper Campus English teacher Terry Wilson, who supervises the group. “Our job is to go down and offer some sort of human contact with these poor creatures because they have been abandoned, or abused, or somehow ended up without homes.”
The effort is one of OVS’ longest-running community service projects, providing students – many of whom are boarders and can’t have pets with them at school – the opportunity to interact with cuddling kittens and playful puppies. But the volunteers also are a key part of the Humane Society’s program.
“It is incredibly important to have volunteers at animal shelters,” said Amanda Rey Volden, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator. “It increases the chances of having those outgoing, friendly personalities with potential adopters.”
The volunteers help socialize, de-stress, and comfort animals in their time of need.
Indirectly, the socialization helps keep the Humane Society a no-kill shelter by helping more animals find the right home, which is not an easy thing to do. Not only do students get the comfort of the animals, they become more comfortable themselves around animals as they learn to handle dogs and cats with more confidence.
“(I) learn to get along with pets more, because my parents didn’t give me a lot of chances to,” said junior Ted Jung over the sound of seven puppies barking in the background. “It’s a good thing. I can satisfy myself by doing good work, and by taking care of the dogs and cats to make them healthy and be friendly so they can be adopted.”
The program helps instill the wholeness of life OVS is so known for. And it provides the perfect opportunity for students to think beyond themselves – and to do whatever they can to help make the world a better place.
“It’s all about students getting involved,” said Yuhi Kuramoto, a senior from Japan who is responsible for organizing the weekly student treks to the shelter. “We want students to care for animals so they can apply the same thing to human beings. That’s the greatest education we can have.”