When animal lover Montyne Morris took the RedRover Responders volunteer training in Nashville in 2019, she didn’t expect the opportunity to put her new skills to the test so quickly. But three days after the training, she got the call: RedRover was deploying to help shelter and care for more than 130 dogs rescued from neglect.
If she had any hesitation, she got over it quickly – with some help. “My husband told me, ‘This is what you went to training for – go do it!” Montyne says, laughing.
On that first deployment, assisting Alaqua Animal Refuge in the Florida panhandle, Montyne was thrilled to not only learn new skills caring for animals, but to “meet so many people who are like-minded.”
She also learned what makes RedRover Responders such a unique experience for volunteers. “I like RedRover because it gives me a hands-on, immersive experience,” Montyne says. In fact, on her third deployment – building pet-friendly space at a domestic violence shelter in Georgia – she learned how to run a saw for the first time.
In all cases, whether volunteers are caring for dogs rescued from cruelty or preparing a domestic violence shelter to accept furry family members, deployments offer volunteers the opportunity to step away from their everyday routines and make a difference for animals.
“As bad as some of the situations are that we walk into, it’s rewarding to know we’re helping to create the next step,” Montyne says. “Whatever that next step is, the animals are better than when we got there.”
This was especially evident when Montyne deployed with RedRover Responders to Hillsborough County, Florida, to care for dogs rescued from a puppy mill.
“You could see how quickly they responded to a little bit of care, a little bit of routine. They started over – in just four days of caring for them, keeping their area clean, you could see them adapt. They learned when to play and when to love and when to eat. You saw them start to trust.”
And while the animals are remarkable in their resiliency, the volunteers are equally inspiring. As Montyne says:
“I haven’t met a volunteer yet who doesn’t give 100% – or more.”
The bonding that happens between the volunteers on deployment can lead to lifelong connection, especially over multiple deployments. And sometimes volunteering can lead to a lifelong connection with an animal, too.
When Montyne saw that RedRover was coming to her local Humane Society for a training last fall, she volunteered to assist – and talked her sister and a friend into doing the training as well. At the time she was earnestly searching for a new dog to add to her family. So, during the workshop break, she walked through the shelter – “just to see” – and ended up finding Lucy.
Lucy was a black lab mix and “fabulous,” according to a shelter staff who rushed up to introduce them. The sweet pup had been adopted before and returned to the shelter. She walked with a limp because, rumor had it, she had broken out of a burning house while she was pregnant, when her owners were on vacation. The Humane Society had paid for her surgery, and now she’d need some rehabilitation.
After completing the training, Montyne introduced herself to Lucy and played with her a bit – and before long, she was leaving the shelter with her new family member in tow. Lucy was thrilled. In fact, Montyne says, “She jumped right in the car, no reservations at all, like, ‘All right, let’s go home!’”
Now, Lucy is happy and thriving. “She loves every living thing,” Montyne tells us. “There’s nothing she’s not up for, and she’s always happy.”
Montyne is so grateful for the volunteer work that has brought her new skills, new friends – and the perfect pup she’s been searching for. Even though our RedRover Responders team isn’t currently deploying given the COVID-19 crisis, we know Montyne speaks for a lot of volunteers when she says:
“It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.”
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