Down a small gravel road, just a bit past Wal-Mart is a building that houses the Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS). Passers-by are greeted by a chorus of barking and wagging tails belonging to the rescued dogs that PALS houses, and the smiling faces of several Grinnell College students volunteering with the animals.
PALS is a local no-kill shelter that houses dogs and cats until it is possible to find them a “forever home,” which means a permanent family. They also respond to animal neglect and abuse reports and educate people about humane treatment and the importance of spaying and neutering. Before PALS, unwanted animals found by the police were allowed a seven-day stay in the vet’s office, and if a family wasn’t found, the animals were euthanized. Thanks to the hard work of people volunteering and working, PALS is able to keep animals alive and happy.
“I got involved my first year through a friend who was volunteering. I missed my pets from home and I liked the idea of being able to help shelter animals,” said Kevin Pflaum ’13, one of the students in charge of coordinating volunteering. The other students in the car echoed his response—everyone missed animal interaction and loved the idea of being able to help others.
People and students who volunteer with PALS can do any number of activities to help with the cats and dogs. The biggest one is usually cleaning, but there are lots of other things to do.
“We clean the enclosures and get fresh food and water. But we also give the cats attention and pet them,” said Andie Quinn ’15, the other student volunteer coordinator.
Making sure that the enclosures are clean and hygienic is incredibly important for the safety and comfort of not only the animals, but of the people who work around them. The soft fur and purring of the cats and the happy eyes and wagging tails of the dogs show just how well-cared for they are. Volunteers can help with any part of that, and they’re welcome to just do what they feel most comfortable with.
“If someone wanted, they could just take a dog outside and brush them. We don’t ever force people to do what they don’t want,” said Julie Sterk, one of the volunteer shift leaders.
The dogs need to be walked and let outside as their enclosures are cleaned. Volunteers can take them into the large back yard and give them some much-appreciated attention.
“Petting and playing with dogs is really great too! They’ve all come from such harsh circumstances; it amazes me how forgiving and loving every dog I’ve worked with is,” said Pflaum.
Many of the animals come from sad circumstances, but they all appear to adore this second chance in life. Although while they all seem happy to be there, the volunteers hope that they won’t stay for long.
“There are a lot of sad stories here. I mean, you fall in love with the dogs, but you don’t want to see them still here every day—you want to see them go to a home,” said Stephanie Schinnow, an adult volunteer at the shelter.
Despite many sad stories, there have been happy endings as well. Volunteers can help keep the animals healthy and happy along the way to a ‘forever home’ by contacting Pflaum or Quinn by emailing Pals of PALS at [PALS]. They expressed that getting a ride was not a problem, and that they were both more than willing to drive or find someone who could drive others. Pflaum also said that finding a volunteer shift to fit anyone’s schedule was easy, and that they would love to help.