At the shelter, we are incredibly grateful for the amazing team of volunteers who dedicate their time, energy, and love to help animals in need. Volunteer Appreciation Week is a special time for us to express our gratitude and give a big “paws up!” for everything you do. 

For volunteer dog walker Charles Watson, there’s nothing quite like the moment when a frightened, confused dog takes one timid step towards him.

Charles works full-time at a long-term care facility and manages to come to the shelter four or five times a week. He goes to work early so he’s an early riser (really early) and walks his own four dogs before going to work. In the afternoon, he heads to the shelter where he walks an average of four dogs a day. It depends on the need, Charles says. When there are fewer dogs, they get a longer walk.

At home, Charles has a German shepherd, a Dutch shepherd, a bulldog mix, and a bull mastiff – all of which are exercised three times a day. He also provides them with stimulation in the afternoon through play and training.

Charles has been a volunteer walker for six years – including through the pandemic when the shelter was closed to the public. 

Charles says he loves dogs and being with animals and doing this work makes him feel like he’s making a difference.

He recalls trying to walk Clementine for the first time. When they met, Clementine wasn’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of a new human friend. In fact, she made it clear that she wasn’t interested in getting to know him. But Charles was patient and kind, and he didn’t give up on her. With time, he earned her trust and she took her first small, timid steps towards him

Charles said it’s those moments that make up for all the times of being soaked by rain or being freezing cold.

He sees his role as helping to expand a dog’s world when he can break through and make their world better.

“I do it for the kisses,” Charles says.

He says he volunteers for ‘selfish reasons’ because without this, he never would have come into contact with the variety of breeds and situations he has. He also appreciates the opportunity to learn from the staff.

His kids gifted him an emergency first aid for dogs course – which he didn’t even know existed, and he found that he had already experienced many of the situations they presented in the course!

Charles says his approach includes the three Ps – patience, persistence and praise. He patiently lets the dog experience him, respects them as beings and respects their space. This kind and gentle approach is what allows dogs to become adoptable and to go to a home where they will be loved and treated with that same wonderful sense of respect.

We want to give a big shout-out to Charles and all of our amazing volunteers who make a difference in the lives of our furry friends. Together, we can continue to help animals find their furever homes and live happy, healthy lives.

Our Volunteer Department is currently undergoing some changes, and we can’t wait to share updates with you soon. If you’d like to become part of our team of volunteers and make a difference in the lives of animals, please visit our volunteer page to learn more.