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|Amber Brooks • 2/15/18|
The Short Version: At the San Diego Humane Society, over 5,000 volunteers and over 300 staff members come together to take care of dogs, cats, and other animals in need. The close-knit team bonds through their shared commitment to supporting animal welfare throughout the city. If you want to meet someone who has a soft spot for cuddly furballs, you can’t do much better than the humane society’s fundraisers, adoption days, and other community events. The charitable and positive atmosphere of the San Diego Humane Society is ideal for anyone hoping to make a fast friend. Since 1880, countless individuals have come to the San Diego Humane Society in search of companionship and had their hearts melted by the dogs, cats, and people they met there.
When “Must Love Dogs” came out in theaters in 2005, I went to see it with my mom even though I thought the movie’s premise was somewhat silly. I didn’t see the point of drawing a line in the sand and only dating dog lovers. But now that I’m older and wiser — and have dated a few cat lovers — I see what Diane Lane’s character meant.
If my date doesn’t love my dog, we have serious problems. I make a point to bring up that I have a big dog (and that I want more big dogs) whenever I meet a potential love interest because it’s not something I can compromise on. My romantic partner must love dogs, or things aren’t going to work out between us.
Of course, finding single people who love dogs, cats, or other animals as much as you do can be somewhat of a challenge in everyday life. There’s not exactly a dog whistle you can blow to call local animal lovers to you, so sometimes you have to venture into the community to seek potential partners who share your interests and values.
At the San Diego Humane Society, everyone has the same mission: to save the lives of animals in California. Hundreds of philanthropists, donors, volunteers, adopters, and staff members join together every day to care for the city’s dogs, cats, and other animals.
Founded in 1880, the San Diego Humane Society has the distinction of being the largest and longest-running nonprofit organization in San Diego County. The passionate and volunteer-driven team works out of three fully equipped rescue locations and provides lifesaving care to over 30,000 animals a year. Its efforts involve a massive citywide operation, but the staff members say they feel like one big family.
“We call it our tribe,” said Jesse King, Volunteer Engagement Manager at the San Diego Humane Society. “It’s really fun to be able to spend your free time with other people who care about the same mission that you do of helping animals.”
In total, the San Diego Humane Society employs over 300 staff members and 5,000 volunteers, and those numbers are always growing as word spreads about its charitable work. The team relies on everyday men and women volunteering their time and energy to ensure the shelter’s animals have everything they need.
When you sign up as a volunteer, you’ll receive an invitation to a volunteer orientation where you’ll learn more about the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the San Diego Humane Society going. Typically, the organization asks volunteers for a year of service, so you can spend weekend after weekend getting to know folks who love animals as much as you do.
Shelter volunteers start off doing foundational work, which includes cleaning cages, feeding animals, and walking the dogs, but, after they’ve gotten some experience, they have the option to be trained to help out with the adoption process, animal care, or medical procedures. This self-directed system allows volunteers to choose what they’re interested in doing and enjoy their time at the shelter.
“Whatever the volunteer is looking to do, we have plenty of resources and options for them to get involved,” Jesse told us. “There’s something for everybody, depending on what skills they have, what interests they have, and what they want to learn.”
Whether you want to clean out litter boxes, rehabilitate wild animals, or foster a dog recovering from surgery, the San Diego Humane Society has a variety of volunteer opportunities for local animal lovers of all stripes.
“It’s a really positive place to be,” Jesse said, “and it’s relaxing. A lot of our volunteers say it’s like their therapy. They come here to forget about their day, focus on an animal in need, and spend time with people who are like-minded.”
Throughout the year, the San Diego Humane Society organizes engaging public events in the city. Its fundraisers, adoption days, and large annual events are terrific opportunities for people to come out and show support for the nonprofit’s work — and you can meet lots of dog people and cat people while you’re at it.
Walk for Animals is one of the shelter’s largest and most popular events of the year. On May 5 thousands of people will come together at Liberty Station to walk two miles with their canines close at their heels. Vendors also set up booths to sell various treats, and water stations keep everyone from panting too much in the summer sun.
Around 300 volunteers show up at 6 a.m. to work the event, and the San Diego Humane Society greatly appreciates everyone’s help. It takes a lot of manpower to stock the water stations, handle registration, cook pancakes, and make sure participants have a good time. It’s a busy morning, but it’s a lot of fun. You don’t have to be a regular San Diego Humane Society volunteer to help out during this special fundraising event, so it’s a good way for newcomers to get involved with the organization.
What’s great about the Walk for Animals is it’s a one-time thing. You can show up, see what the society is about, and decide if you want to get more involved as a volunteer. Even if you don’t have time to help out at the shelter, you’ll get to spend a day under the sun making conversation with passionate dog lovers.
“You’re going to meet a lot of people who are interested in animal welfare and helping the community,” Jesse explained, “but you don’t have to make that long-term commitment of volunteering regularly.”
The Fur Ball Gala is another much-anticipated event for San Diego animal lovers and philanthropists. This black-tie event raises money for the humane society and gives dog owners a reason to get all dolled up and take their pups out on the town. Hundreds of attendees and volunteers get together to enjoy the dog-friendly dinner and raffle.
You can pin a bowtie on your dog’s collar, don your most glamorous attire, and have a ball at this social event. It’s for a good cause, too. Last year, the Fur Ball Gala raised over $800,000 for the San Diego Humane Society.
“We have a good range in our events,” Jesse said. “At the Walk for Animals, you’re coming in your tennis shoes with your dog, and then, at the Fur Ball, you’re coming in tuxedos with your dog.”
Volunteers at the San Diego Humane Society may not know each other when the day begins, but they’ll almost certainly be on friendly terms by the time the work is over. The joyful atmosphere of the shelter uplifts those who help out, and that positivity makes people genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
“I anticipated my volunteer experience to be more independent,” said Amanda Reno, a San Diego Humane Society volunteer, “but I am very fortunately surprised that there are opportunities, even just washing dishes and folding laundry, that can implement collaboration and teamwork.”
“I have gotten to know many nice people while sharing our interest and love for animals.” — Amanda Reno, a volunteer at the San Diego Humane Society
When you work alongside someone day after day, it’s easy to form a close friendship because your shared goals and close collaboration creates a natural bond. Sometimes you can even find romance through volunteerism. At the very least, you’re sure to meet people who care about helping animals as much as you do — and that’s a great starting point.
Thousands of people come to the San Diego Humane Society to make a positive impact in the community, and they often make friends with one another by working toward a common mission all year long.
“They will do anything and everything to help the animals no matter how dirty the job might be,” Jesse said about the humane society’s volunteers. “It’s a really great atmosphere because they’re also having fun while they’re doing it.”
My dog is an important part of my life, so it’s important to me to find a date who wants to play fetch, go on long walks, and share all the experiences of dog ownership with me. It may be cheesy, but I might as well write “must love dogs” on my dating profile.
If you’re like me and can’t imagine dating someone who doesn’t love your furry friends as much as you do, then you could probably benefit from joining a rescue shelter’s active network of animal lovers. The San Diego Humane Society is fortunate to have thousands of individuals committed to taking care of dogs, cats, and other animals in California.
The nonprofit’s adoption events, fundraisers, and volunteer programs give community members the chance to meet kindhearted folks who truly love dogs.
“Obviously, we love animals,” Jesse said. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. We also really love providing people an opportunity to give back to the community and to meet other people who are similar to them.”
Whatever you can do to help — fostering, adopting, donating, or volunteering — makes a difference. “We would not have been able to provide life-saving care to more than 30,000 animals last year without you,” said Gary Weitzman, President of the San Diego Humane Society, in a message to volunteers in 2017. “On behalf of the people, pets, and wildlife who are impacted by your friendship and generosity, we wish you a bright and happy new year.”