June 23rd, 2008
Submitted by EARS Regional Director Karla Schulte (Region VII)
I just returned home from Cedar Rapids. This deployment is like the others that I’ve been on in many ways, but it is also very different. I’ve been on two previous deployments as an EARS volunteer. This time I deployed as EARS leadership. That definitely made this deployment different, and to be quite honest, it was more than a little scary for me at first.
I spent the first few days shadowing Diann Wellman and getting to know the facility, the volunteers, and the other organizations involved in the effort. Then I worked with other EARS volunteers to create a process for reclamation of pets, with the help of other organizations. What a rewarding experience. On Friday, we helped to reunite approximately 50 pets and their owners. On Sunday the number dropped to about half that amount. This is something that I have not been able to experience on other deployments. Every reunification that I witnessed made me more and more grateful that I was able to contribute to the process.
Yesterday, after we closed the reclaim area, I helped in the shelter area. I had an opportunity to spend a little time with a few of the animals. Every time I’ve deployed, I connected with a few special dogs. This time was no different. As I was petting one of the dogs who I was particularly fond of because he looked like my dog Hank, I looked in his eyes and saw that familiar look that I’ve seen in the eyes of so many other animals when I’ve deployed. The look that keeps you coming back. The look that puts a tear in your eye and a paw print on your heart. I’ve read Dawn’s blog entries and I know she knows what I’m talking about and I suspect all EARS volunteers understand the feelings that I felt at that moment. I cried for about 15 minutes as I made a final sweep of the shelter floor overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment.
I met so many new friends during this deployment. This is definitely an experience that creates bonds. I know that I will see many of the other volunteers I worked with on future deployments and I can’t wait. What a wonderful group of selfless, generous, good hearted people.
Every EARS volunteer will tell you that they deploy for the animals. I definitely agree with that. Knowing that you are giving these animals another chance and maybe a little more time to find a forever home is a good feeling. But this time I received an extra bonus. I got to witness the love and emotion of the animals and their owners when they were reunited. What an unforgettable experience.
Photos courtesy Shari Neal and Stephen Malley.