Where: Animal Care and Control, Upper East Side/East Harlem
When: Tuesday, 6:30-8:30 pm
Dog walking is one of the more popular listings on New York Cares, and fills up fast every month. Though I went to walk dogs, there were an odd number of people, so I volunteered to split my time with the Cat Care group (also on NY Cares). After being given brief instructions on how to handle the dogs, volunteers will pair off, be given a dog and head outside. You’ll be instructed to walk from 110th to 104th St and back, though you can lengthen or shorten this depending on the weather and how comfortable/uncomfortable your dog looks. You may be allowed to walk a dog solo; it all depends on the team leader you have for that day.
After walking two very cute dogs, I switched over to the cat room. The first 3-5 minutes will be spent acclimating to the overwhelming smell of all things cat. It is a small room with about 15 cats (varies depending on the day) all in separate cages. You’ll tidy the cages and refill food/water as necessary, and then you can play with the cats one by one, sanitizing your hands in between. Most of them were sleeping, but didn’t mind being woken for a scratch; for the most part, you’ll open a cage, pet a cat for a short time, close the cage, & move on to the next.
At some point a cat will poop. It’s inevitable. If you don’t recognize the smell, you’ll know this has happened when all of the volunteers move to one side of the room until someone decides to take one for the team and clean it up. I won’t dwell on the subject, but I thought it was worth sharing, as I found the whole situation quite amusing. Other things to know:
- Both Dog Walking and Cat Care are a good choice for those looking to meet new people, as you’ll have ample time to talk to fellow volunteers.
- If you don’t want to talk to new people, then stick with the cats; otherwise you’ll be taking an awkwardly silent walk with your dog-walking partner.
- Use your judgment: If you’re walking a 5-lb Chihuahua in the dead of winter, don’t go too far unless you’ve brought them a sweater.
- If you keep trying to pet a cat and it hisses at you relentlessly, move on to the next cage.
- Bonus: If you take 4 dogs along the designated route, you’ll have walked about 2 miles, which is enough to constitute my daily dose of exercise.