Sweet and Simple Memories: Volunteering at Friends of Strays

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Friends of Strays could not do what we do without the support of our amazing volunteers. From animal enrichment to housekeeping to representing us at events, our volunteers are a vital part of our organization. Sarah Penner, a member of our Board of Directors, started her relationship with Friends of Strays by volunteering. Here is her perspective:

In the summer of 2021, I found myself amid a job transition. After 13 years in corporate America, I had just decided to set aside spreadsheets in favor of novel writing. With a more flexible schedule and fewer hours spent commuting to work, I decided to use my extra time to…drumroll…walk dogs!!!

I joined Friends of Strays as a volunteer dog-walker. I visited the shelter once or twice a week to get pups out of their kennels and into the bright, beautiful Florida sunshine. I enjoyed learning each dog’s personality; some were very docile on the leash and merely wanted to take a slow stroll around the block. Others preferred the yard behind the shelter, where we could play fetch or run through the mud. I made a point to spend a few minutes talking with each dog, giving them plenty of belly rubs and ear scratches.

I loved volunteering so much that I decided to take a more impactful role in the fall of 2022. I joined the Board of Directors as a Treasurer, and I shifted away from my usual volunteering to something even more fun: Doggy Day Out! This allows me to take a dog out of the shelter for a few hours. I nearly always take them to Vinoy Park or the pier downtown, which is a great way to get some exercise (for the dog, and me!) Often, members of the community will stop to chat, which is a wonderful way to socialize the pup and spread the word about Friends of Strays.  

When I first began volunteering with Friends of Strays, I thought mostly about how interacting with dogs would help them. But in truth, these dogs have found a way to help me: their antics never fail to make me laugh, and their sense of adventure tugs me in directions I hadn’t anticipated going. We’re helping each other, really. 

We take selfies in the sunshine, we sit in the grass, and we get whipped cream pup-cups at coffee shops. These sweet and simple memories stick with me, long after each dog finds his or her forever home.

Anyone can apply to volunteer at the shelter (with dogs or cats!) or participate in Doggy Day Out. If this interests you, you can find more information here. The sweet and simple memories await!

--Sarah Penner