By Amanda Matwie

Carmen has been volunteering with Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) for almost four years. “I always knew I wanted to volunteer, so it was just a matter of finding the right fit,” she says.  She began by helping at events, usually running information tables. Before long, she added on dog handling, and even tried fostering. She established that full time fostering wasn’t a good fit for this stage of her life but does occasionally have some short-term animal guests in her home. Even though she ultimately decided she wouldn’t be a foster, she’s found many other ways to help SCARS. Carmen has, over time, taken on screening adoption applications, handling dogs at puppy yoga, and helping to coordinate donation pick ups and adoption events with a retail partner. She tries to “jump in where needed” as her schedule allows and appreciates the ability to find what works for her within the realm of rescue work. Because, after all, “What could possibly be better than helping animals and getting/giving lots of love and cuddles at the same time?”

Carmen tells me that her most rewarding and most challenging experiences are in fact both part of the same story. A “sucker for bully breeds”, Carmen answered a desperate request to foster a dog named Lola, who “wormed her way” into Carmen’s heart within a day. Lola came into care incredibly skinny with a prolapsed uterus and needed a safe place to decompress and to recover from surgery. Lola was with Carmen for a month before being adopted and heading to Southern Alberta to live her best life and ride around in golf carts all summer. “As hard as it was to see her go,” reminisces Carmen, “she wound up exactly in the right place at the right time.” More recently, an adorable puppy with “soulful eyes and big ears” named Holly Heart, who came into SCARS care after being attacked by a pack of dogs, needed a place to crash for a couple weeks before her adopters could take her home. Carmen agreed to puppy sit because it was obvious to her that Holly had chosen (and been chosen by) the perfect family.

Not all rescue stories end as happily as Lola’s or Holly’s. Some animals don’t get help in time, some can only be kept comfortable and loved until their last breaths, and still others, such as Fog, are nursed back to health but remain in care for far too long. “The good and the sad are always there,” says Carmen, “So finding ways to fill your funnel with good on a regular basis is important.” For her, that could mean following the recovery story of a particularly sick animal, reading success stories, finding a way to be part of the adoption process, and volunteering her time so that she can get plenty of puppy and dog cuddles at events.

Carmen calls her time as a SCARS volunteer awakening: “I have learned that a photo can make me cry, that the most abused animals can recover and be the best pets, that dogs can speak volumes with their eyes, and that every one of these animals that SCARS rescues is worth all of the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers that play a part in keeping this amazing organization moving forward.” She wishes that more people knew how many ways there are to help, listing a seemingly endless number of possible volunteer opportunities from application screening to fostering animals to building dog shelters to driving animals to vet appointments. “Every small piece of the puzzle,” she points out, is helpful and “contributes to the bottom line…helping animals.”

Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS), like most animal rescues here in Alberta, operates primarily through the efforts of volunteers. These volunteers do everything from walking dogs and cuddling kittens to opening their homes to provide temporary placements for animals. There are a multitude of volunteer roles that help the rescue run. Learn more about volunteering for SCARS.