I still carry a little resentment that my parents wouldn’t get me a horse when I was six years old. We had a two-car garage with plenty of room and all my friends had horses. I haven’t checked it off my bucket list and I do intend to have a horse someday. But to get my horse “fix,” I volunteered a few years ago with a race horse adoption program. Retired racehorses have to be trained and socialized because their job was to race and stand in a stall. So I would go to the stables twice a week and groom them.
Horses are serene animals and being in their presence is very calming. For me, it was better than a massage. Animal-loving seniors, too, can benefit in so many ways by volunteering to work with animals. Combining a feel-good activity with exercise and knowing you’re filling a tremendous need is rewarding. Seniors may be surprised that there are many volunteer opportunities designed with them in mind.
Walking Shelter Dogs
If you’re in good health with adequate strength, volunteering to walk shelter dogs is a great option. Being in cages restricts activity and is very isolating for dogs. The paid staff is stretched to the limit caring for the animals and relies on additional help to keep operating. Most shelters will have volunteer programs and hours posted on their websites, although many allow volunteers to drop by whenever they like. After an orientation, they can begin to walk the dogs.
You can also contribute your time and if you aren’t able to walk dogs or physically care for other pets, shelters can always use administrative help. Helping prospective adoptive pet parents fill out paperwork or doing filing in the office is greatly appreciated. Lending a hand at shelter-sponsored pet adoption events or taking pets to visit residents in assisted living or CCRC communities are other ways to volunteer.
If, like me, you’d like to get in touch with your inner horse whisperer, there are many equine volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S. This website, equisearch.com, has information on rescue programs nationwide.