The volunteers of Ayres have opened up so many opportunities for Ayres and the animals that are housed with us. They dedicate countless hours to help make Ayres what it is - and to constantly help us improve!
We have such incredibly dedicated volunteers. Currently we are a strong group of 33 volunteers!
Our Volunteers Keep Us Going Strong!
We couldn't be more proud of all that our volunteers do for our animals!
Think you'd like to volunteer? Take it from our volunteers of why it is a great idea!!
"Volunteering at Ayres Shelter has been a wonderful experience. I started out by taking a shelter buddy out for a ride, a trip to the pet store, or sometimes home with me for the day. As I spent more time at the shelter I found other ways to volunteer my time- helping with dishes, brushing the dogs, working on the grounds or just spending time playing with a dog in the office. I have also had the opportunity to be part of weekly training classes for shelter dogs, which has been an amazing experience. My family has also become active in volunteering with me. My daughter Maura, who is 11, loves going to the shelter and hanging out with the dogs. My partner Jim and my son Cian have also helped with such things and pressure washing the outdoor kennels and attaching the weeds. I am proud to be able to teach my children the value of giving back to their community by volunteering.
Prior to volunteering at the shelter I was given a 2-dog limit. As my family fell in love with one of our shelter buddies that limit quickly went to 3!" - Tara Hogan
"Four and a half years ago I adopted my best friend from Ayres and she completely changed my life! I started getting involved with helping by collecting and donating items during Christmas with my first grade students. After completing my graduate degree this past summer I realized I needed something fulfilling to do. Grad school and full time teaching had consumed my life for so long, and I toyed with the idea of volunteering for a while. I decided to call the shelter and see what I could do, and Marissa told me to come on up and take a dog for an outing. As soon as I walked in I felt comfortable and was handed Timber. This little terrier and I went to Wintergreen to explore the falls and enjoy some sunshine. Before I knew it, 2 hours had passed. I returned each Wednesday to get partnered with a new friend. I even loved it so much I came after back surgery and Tyson was generous enough to accompany me. This past January Marissa started an initiative to partner volunteers and dogs. Ledger was gracious enough to be my guy for about 8 weeks. We took rides and went out into the community until he was ultimately adopted (yay)! It was only a matter of time until I was paired with a new babe to love. This time it was Bogy. Bogy had a rough start and we spent our first date on the floor of the office. Over the past 12 weeks we've moved from the office to the road to my car and ultimately to Wintergreen. We completed obedience school together as well. All of these dogs. All of the conversations. All of the fellow volunteers who have become family. All of the time spent. Nothing can compare to the things I've gained from being at Ayres. The relentless devotion and attention these animals receive is nothing short of incredible and I am so blessed to be a small part of it. Volunteering has made me a better human being and while it can break your heart, there will be a dog who can kiss it back together for you. We cannot change the world or the people in it, but it's such an honor to help change the lives of these animals for the better. Oh...my husband and I also adopted another babe who has filled our hearts even more! The curse of volunteering at its finest!" -Jennette Nare
"Volunteering at an animal shelter is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I was a little worried when I started that I was going fall in love with all of the dogs and want to take them home, but I decided to give it a try. I am SO glad that I did. We see animals come in that are in horrible shape, physically and/or emotionally. They can be scared and confused, or sad – they don’t understand why their family left them there. They can be aggressive or extremely submissive, fearful of everything. The reward for me as a volunteer is to see the change in them as they heal physically, and mentally, learning that the world isn’t always a scary place, and not all people will fail them. Dogs are so very resilient, and I am always amazed at their ability to live in the moment and truly enjoy the simple pleasures in life. They keep me grounded and motivated to live a simple life. Volunteering has brought some amazing people in to my life as well. People who have the same passion and love for animals as I do.
I also want to say that the staff at Ayres is exceptional in their dedication to the animals in their care, and I am grateful that I can be a small part of what they do." - Kim Pacheco
"Volunteering has always been a core part of my being. Because its roots are so deeply personal, it's a little difficult to adequately express in words. It's just something my soul has always needed to feel whole.
In one way or another, I've always devoted time to helping and loving animals, since the very beginning of my life. As a shy (only) child, often lonely and bullied, animals became my brothers and sisters. "Volunteering" at the age of 6 or 7 consisted of sneaking cold cuts out of the fridge to feed a neighbor's sad dog permanently chained outside, and counting out piggy bank change to buy treats and toys for her from the corner store. It was inviting a local collie allowed to run loose into my yard to play ball. Later, as an adult, it was taking in stray cats sorely in need of medical attention and affection. The holes in my heart were filled to overflow, with the unconditional love that only animals have perfected.
I just kind of fell into Ayres. I routinely drove past the (old) faded Ayres Memorial Animal Shelter sign on Route 162 several times a week for a few years since we moved to the area, and always felt compelled to stop but never did. There always seemed to be something more pressing to do. And then at the end of 2016, the same day I had decided my 2017 New Year's resolutions would be to exercise more and volunteer more - somewhere, somehow - I stumbled upon Marissa's Facebook post looking for "shelter buddies" who would commit to bringing a resident dog on special weekly outings. It was a no-brainer. I signed up on the spot, and it's honestly one of the most spiritually and emotionally fulfilling things I've EVER done. My enthusiasm soon recruited my wonderful husband Karl too! Having two dominant Cane Corso mastiffs, one with specific aggression and guarding issues from a previous life with other owners, we knew we couldn't open our home to adopting another dog right now...but we could open our hearts. And we did.
One of our initial worries was that it would be next to impossible to return our buddy to the shelter after an outing - back to what we imagined to be a desolate kennel - without feeling sadness and guilt. But you know, meeting Marissa, Rich and the amazing staff and volunteers at Ayres immediately and permanently put that worry to rest. Their animals want for nothing at the shelter. They are shown compassion beyond words, and love beyond measure. Our outings with our canine buddy (currently a shepherd mix lovebug named Mason) are always joyous celebrations of life, love, the outdoors, and the spirit of giving. In a short time, you become more than just a volunteer and your dog becomes more than just a buddy. You become FAMILY. The bond you share forever enhances and shapes both of your lives, regardless of how much time you ultimately have together. Dropping Mason back off at Ayres is actually comforting - knowing he's housed in the best possible place in the world while he waits for a perfect adoptive family. It's truly a beautiful thing.
Advice to potential volunteers? Just do it. Volunteer in whatever capacity you can, as much and as often as you feel called to do. It ALL makes a difference. You'll see the deepest sparkle of gratitude in the eyes of the animals your kindness has touched, and the excitement when they're with you. You'll expand your heart. You'll feel a renewed sense of worth and of purpose. The most magical thing you always find about giving of yourself, is what your heart and soul receives abundantly in return.
I'm forever grateful to Ayres." - Sharon Markwardt
"At first I was a little apprehensive about volunteering because I was afraid of what I would see and I thought I wouldn't be able to handle it. As sad as some cases are, it brings me a great deal of happiness to know that these animals are coming into a great place where everyone loves them. The best part of Volunteering for me, is seeing these pups becoming the best dogs they can be through quality care, training and love, then helping them in finding their forever homes. It's incredibly rewarding to know that you were a part of that." - Sara Alfree