Volunteer with Your Pet: Charity Runs, Pet Therapy, More

photo of a therapy dog Ms. Spunky here. We all know that a pet brings you joy and enriches your life. So can volunteering. Think what can happen when they are combined!

I absolutely love volunteering with my human. Recently, we’ve been exploring new opportunities for pets to get involved with helping others. Whether your furry companions participate in a charity walk, visit hospital patients, or donate blood, one thing is for sure, with a little help from you, we can make another person’s day better.

Here are five simple ways you can volunteer with your pet.

  1. Charity runs or walks: Some charities raise money by sponsoring human/dog racing events, such as dogs pulling bicyclists or dogs pulling skiers in an event. However, most charity walks and runs allow dogs to join in as well. If you and your human are seasoned runners, it can be a fun way to raise money for a good cause and get some great exercise. If either one of you is not a runner, then you could support a runner, help out along the sidelines, or donate money. When you sign up for the event, just make sure that the organizers do allow pets to participate.
  1. Bring your dog to work: On the Friday after Father’s Day, you can raise awareness and money for animal adoptions by bringing your dog to work. Take Your Dog to Work Day is an annual event sponsored by Pet Sitters International. The event started in 1999 and has become increasingly popular. Many employers honor the event by allowing employees to bring their pets to work or arranging pet-friendly activities. Your dog can stay with you at your desk as long as there is a comfortable place to sit or lie down while you work. Bring along some snacks, a water bowl and toys to keep your dog entertained! If your dog just can’t handle that long of a day staying under your desk, think about a half-day and take him home on your lunch hour. If even that is just too much for your friend, then be creative — bring a stuffed dog in honor of your friend and it will prompt conversations about your great adopted buddy.
  1. Donate pet blood: It’s a common occurrence for many humans to roll up their sleeves and give blood to help the injured or sick. But did you know there is a blood bank for your pets? Veterinary blood banks across the country store blood for pets who need transfusions. Most dogs and cats are eligible to donate blood if they are full-grown, in good health, and prior to the donation have passed a physical from the veterinarian A blood donation session will be a quiet affair for most animals, as there is minimal pain. Most animals lie peacefully until it is over. Some veterinary clinics will give you free pet food or a free health exam for your dog as a gift for contributing to the cause. Talk to your veterinarian to discuss if your dog is a good blood donor candidate. You can go to the Association of Veterinary Hematology and Transfusion Medicine to find a participating clinic near you.
  1. Open your house as a foster home to help shelter animals socialize: Shelter animals often need to be socialized or may need time to recover from an illness before they can be adopted into families. It can be challenging for would-be pets from tough backgrounds to get used to being around people and other pets. This is why some shelters organize temporary foster homes for dogs, cats (and also guinea pigs, parrots and horses) to get them ready to be adopted. To volunteer, contact a local animal shelter. Then be prepared to allow the pet-in-training to stay in your home for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. Of course, your existing live-in pets need to be able to handle this arrangement, so you may need to work with them first to assure it has a good chance of success.
  1. Animal-assisted therapy or hospital visits for elderly senior citizens: Sick and elderly patients at hospitals, nursing home facilities, and even a home-bound neighbor often love to have pets visit them. Studies have shown that exposure to pets during a time of illness can boost morale, reduce stress and aid in the recovery process. If your pet is friendly, well behaved and patient (and you are too), you may have all the makings of an excellent therapy team. While dogs are the most common animal “therapists,” my cat buddy Fearless and I showed off our unique therapy skills in our second murder mystery adventure, The Nose Sees All.

Contact a local hospital or senior citizens’ home to get more details about how to get started. You can also be certified as a pet-human volunteer team through Pet Partners.

Volunteering with your pet is a fun way to support positive causes. Always ask for permission to bring your pet before you attend any event and make sure that your friend is comfortable at all times, with time to rest, the ability to get a drink and to be able to go outside. Of course, special treats can prove useful, too.

Other than that, have fun and give back!

Do you volunteer with your pet? Share your experience with us.


Who is Spunky?
Spunky is a 12-year-old terrier mutt and the protagonist of the Spunky Murder Mystery series, a series of cozy mysteries for dog and cat lovers, written by author Holly Lewitas. Titles include The Nose KnowsThe Nose Sees All, and An Army of Noses.


Photo: “Therapy Dog Tanner” by Arctic Warrior is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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