Serving others is emphasized in Maryville College’s motto, “Do good on the largest possible scale.” Students looking to lend a helping hand need look no further than an animal shelter in need, just four miles from campus.
Blount County Animal Center is a county-run shelter, operating in our community since 2009. Their mission is “To serve the community through innovative approaches to sheltering, adopting and spaying and neutering of animals, and to educate the public on responsible pet ownership and animal welfare.”
The center houses small and large dogs, cats, and small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an uptick in their animal population. Many people adopted animals while staying at home and found that once businesses reopened, they had little time to care for their pet.
Currently, the shelter is in dire need of volunteers in the large dog area. The large dogs need to be taken out for walks and playtime twice a day, every day of the week. Usually, walking shifts should have at least five volunteers, splitting the work between dogs that have been through the vetting process and those waiting for vetting. Lately, however, some shifts have been seeing as few as two volunteers.
When paired with a shelter that is often full, extra strain is put on the volunteers, and the amount of outdoor time the dogs receive can be limited. “Sadly, we tend to have more times that we are full than empty,” said long-time volunteer Steve Mallett.
Volunteer shifts are once a week, only two hours a shift. Even though the commitment is minimal, large dog volunteers are difficult to find and retain. One reason may be that the work can be quite challenging. Some of the dogs have never been on a leash before or haven’t had much human interaction.
Despite this, Mallett said working with the large dogs is always worth it. “The dogs are all great listeners and are always happy to sit quietly for a little picnic table consultation. They accept payment in dog treats, too,” he said.
On weekdays, large dog walking shifts start at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Saturday shifts start at 8:00 a.m and 1:00 p.m., and Sunday shifts at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Potential volunteers need to attend one orientation with the center and receive training.
Why should Maryville College students volunteer? “It helps meet a crucial need and it’s incredibly rewarding,” Mallet said. “For as little as a two-hour-per-week commitment, you’ll get a great workout, free therapy, fantastic canine and human friends, and all the dog kisses you’d ever want.”
Students interested in volunteering should email [email protected].