Volume 13, Issue 36 ~ September 9 - 14, 2005
photo by M.L. Faunce
Friday dog walker Sara Tyler walks up to seven dogs during her weekly volunteer stint, spending 20 to 30 minutes quality time with each.
Going to the Dogs
Volunteers at Humane Society of Calvert County walk the walk
by M.L. Faunce

Darlings. Dakota. Dana and Dallas. Tripper. Hootch. Sanka and Anchovie Boy. Robo, renamed Romeo to improve his chances for adoption. Amy, Little Girl, Syndi. Rusty and Kisses. Helpers at the Humane Society of Calvert County’s Fishing Creek Kennel in Sunderland know the names and breeds and stories of each dog under their watch.

They are purebred and mixes and matches not always made in heaven: German shepherd/husky, shepherd/beagle, pit bull/corgie, a Pekinese disguised as a rack of fur. In the eyes of kennel staff and volunteers who not only shower the dogs with affection, walks and baths but also clean their quarters, they are beauties.

Some, like Dakota, “had a bad start, but now are so much better,” says volunteer Jody Shaver.

In a drenching afternoon rain, dogs were being walked because Shaver says, “dogs still need to be exercised.” Inside the office, walks concluded, a happy chaos of wet dogs being toweled mingled with soaked volunteers. Animated talk ensued, including discussion of rooming amiable Syndi, a Lab cross, with an insecure newcomer. Volunteers dispense psychology along with generous amounts of attention.

“It takes a certain kind of person” to do that work, Shaver says.

Love is spoken here is more than just a Calvert Humane Society motto. Sara Tyler of Dunkirk, a Friday dog walker in her third year, speaks the language. Tyler will walk up to seven dogs during her weekly volunteer stint, spending 20 to 30 minutes quality time with each. Tyler walked Cassie, who she describes as “a beautiful cocker with long eyelashes,” for months this spring while her own nest emptied. Her daughter first graduated from college, then, on June 4, married. Cassie came to live in the Tyler home on June 7.

Kristy Horrocks of Dunkirk, kennel coordinator and volunteer for three and a half years, says she finds her work “personally rewarding,” even when it means “cleaning the boarding kennel and the other stuff that nobody wants to do.” The hard part, she says, is emotional: “You get very attached to the dogs and as much as you want to find them homes, you do get upset when they leave.”

Sharon Watson of Prince Frederick, a Wednesday walker for a year, says she found Fishing Creek Kennel because she was “looking for something to do volunteer-wise.” Two other dog walkers volunteer because their cardiologists recommended exercise. Both patient and pups benefit.

For 30 years the Calvert Humane Society took in and found foster homes for pets that were abandoned, abused, or whose owners couldn’t continue to care for them. Then in 1999, the organization bought Fishing Creek Kennel, where paid boarders help subsidize the no-kill shelter.

“Once we take in a pet, we’ll do what it takes to make it safe, well, fostered, adopted,” says president Sally Lounsbury. Right now, that commitment extends to 25 dogs at the Dalrymple Road kennel, some 50 others in foster homes, 20 to 30 cats and one guinea pig. Vet bills alone range from $4,000 to $9,000 a month.

About 100 volunteers, including foster parents, are on the kennel’s rosters, though schedules, time commitment and contributions vary widely. Holidays and vacation periods are times of special need.

The Humane Society of Calvert County’s wish list for volunteers includes dog walkers, groomers, kennel-keeper and foster families for dogs and cats on the hands-on side. Or keep your hands clean as bookkeeper, fundraiser, web photographer or one of the PetSmart adoption-day team.

Are you that certain kind of person? See for yourself at an open house to recruit volunteers from 10am to 2pm September 9, 10, and 11 at Fishing Creek Kennel, 2210 Dalrymple Road, Sunderland: 410-257-4908.

Fishing Creek Kennel is open for dog and cat adoptions Saturdays 11am to 2pm and Sundays 12:30 to 2:30pm.

For a sneak peak at irresistible canines, go to Pet Smart in Annapolis on Sundays from 11am-3pm and let Romeo steal your heart. Or visit online at www.calvertcountyhumanesociety.org.

M.L. Faunce, of Churchton, has written for Bay Weekly since 1995. She is our crab columnist and winner of a Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association Best in Show award in 2004 for “Stewin’ — Despite dismal health, native Virginica oysters are still caught and served in Chesapeake Country.”

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.