I was worried that volunteering at an animal shelter was going to be emotionally overwhelming, and maybe even a little depressing.
I was wrong.
I’ve been volunteering at Berkeley Humane for three months now, and the whole experience has been nothing but life-affirming. I am inspired by the staff, the heart-centered volunteers and, of course, the animals.
Right now I am mostly working with the dogs. Many of the dogs are only there for less than a week, so when I say good-bye to them at the end of my shift, I know they will most likely be in their new homes by the tIme I return. There are a few dogs that have been there longer, and each one seems to have a group of volunteers who champion for them and their individual needs. One of these champions is a woman on my Thursday shift. She comes in on Saturday mornings, just to walk one of the bigger dogs before the shelter opens for adoptions.
When I greet the new dogs every week, I am happy they have arrived. No matter what their issues, I know that now they have made it to this shelter, things will only get better for them.
At Berkeley Humane the kennels are heated through the floor, and the space is designed to help the animals feel safe. Every animal gets the medication they need, and there are veterinarians on staff constantly monitoring everything. It’s pretty amazing.
Being around animals has changed me. They have taught me so much in the last few months. I could list a million of these changes, but I don’t want this to be an epic blog post. I will say an interesting shift for me is my sense of time. When I am with the dogs it is SO obvious when I am not fully present with them. When I am feeding a hungry dog or playing with a puppy, I have to let go of the next item on my agenda, even if it is another dog who needs walking.
I became a volunteer at Berkeley Humane, despite my initial apprehension, because of SARA, the Shelter Animal Reiki Association founded by Kathleen Prasad and Leah D’Ambrosio. SARA is a non-profit organization that promotes Animal Reiki and meditation practices for shelter and sanctuary animals.
I have to confess that so far I am not doing much actual “sit down and meditate” Reiki at Berkeley Humane. When I am volunteering, I am cleaning the kennels, feeding, playing ball and walking the dogs. Then – before I know it – it’s time to go. Yet, when I meet an animal that is anxious, sick, or just overwhelmed, I connect with them during the following week in my daily meditations. I have found Distance Reiki to be a very powerful part of my morning meditation practice.
All this has brought me back to the Reiki Precept: Just for today – DO NOT WORRY!
Jeri Lawson has a full-time healing practice in the Temescal Area of Oakland, California. She is available for Healing Touch, Reiki, and Clarity Breathwork sessions Monday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm.