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"Working" at the Dog Kennel

Years ago we used to board our dogs at a local kennel.  The owner,  a Veteran, built his dream retirement facility where he can breed dogs, take in dogs for the day, offer training classes, grooming and boarding.  Grace has always loved dogs and was desperate to work there.  He told her she could...when she was older.  
Now she is older and perfectly capable of doing manual labor.  Most animal organizations here would never let a 13 year old volunteer because of liability issues.  When she was 7 or 8, I had the hardest time finding a rescue to let her work even though I accompanied her.  The shelter won’t let kids under 18 volunteer and honestly, with her empathy for animals, I am afraid the shelter would just break her heart.  This is a private facility and each of these dogs is loved and owned.  They are just visiting, not residents looking for a new home.
Grace bravely asked if she could work and the owner said yes and so began Grace’s next adventure in volunteering.  This one is tuckering her out.  With a rise time of 5:45am she is beginning to understand what her peers feel like every day.  We are out the door at 6:45 and arrive at the kennel by 7:00am.  She can only work on the weekends because there is no way on earth I would wake Miss Lilah up that early and drag her out with us.  No way!  Unlike Grace, she is not an early riser.  Grace willingly gave up 6 hours over 4th of July weekend and really enjoyed her time.
From what I gather she:
  • relocated the dogs from the inside kennels to the outside kennels careful to maintain proper order.
  • Bleached and hosed and wiped down the inside kennels.  In the future Grace will not be working with bleach, but will use the hose and participate in the wiping down.  I felt she was just too young to be working with such a toxic substance.  We do not keep bleach in the house and she has no experience in its proper usage.
  • Walked dogs
  • Moved dogs back indoors

She interacted with adorable little balls of fluff, had her heart tugged on by a golden retriever, was a bit intimidated with the pitt bulls and thinks she wants her next dog to be a giant schnauzer.  
I want my girls to understand work.  Grace gets mad that I call it work and we have a little white board battle going on between labeling her time work vs. volunteering.  What she is doing is manual labor.  She would be paid minimum wage if she were old enough.  So many kids are graduating high school, college even, without ever having held a job.  They do not understand how pushing a mop taxes one back or how carrying buckets of water is very very heavy.  Grace is beginning to explore a future separate from meteorology.  She would like to possibly take the dog grooming certification course when she is an older teen and she admires what her “boss” has done with his life.  He turned his dream into a reality.  If Grace stays with this, I hope she gets experience with the other aspects of this business.  
When asked if this was a reward system for a new pet, I laughed and said it most certainly is not.  This is a life experience and something she wants to learn more about as a possible career choice.  I could definitely see Grace working with children, using her love and talent for sign language, and owning a therapy dog.  I always tell her I think she would be a wonderful music teacher for children with special needs.  Or a musical therapist.   There are so many possibilities.  I am happy to help her explore this avenue and am excited where it could lead her....


  1. Working with animals is so much fun but also so much hard work. I worked in an animal hospital for 17 years and loved just about every minute of it. Some times were heartbreaking and others were joyous. My Grace could easily lean in that direction as well. The time she has spent volunteering at the no kill shelter in our community has been well worth the early mornings.

  2. It is a great experience for her but that IS early! :) I hope she continues to love it!


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