Fran is no stranger to APA!. She began volunteering back in 2016 and has become a regular morning presence as a dog walker. Now that Fran isn’t working fulltime, she comes to APA! just about every weekday when she’s in town. A self-proclaimed and inarguable “real dog lover,” Fran couldn’t think of a more fulfilling way to start her day than to take these pups out for a stroll.
When she’s not at the shelter helping care for our dogs, her and her husband have their hands full with two of their own at home: Charlie and Chisos. They’ve had their kiddos for ten years now; and like many great connections, each pup came into their lives in very unexpected ways.
Fran met Chisos after someone abandoned her at the couple’s vet. The vet told the couple that if no one claimed the tiny baby after two weeks, she’d be theirs. Sure enough, two weeks passed and the chihuahua was still there. Her husband proclaimed “Good!” when he heard the news. When choosing a name, the pair knew she deserved something special, something that really tied her into their life. They landed on Chisos, as it’s a mountain range within Big Bend Park, located in the Chihuahuan Desert, that is very near and dear to their hearts.
Charlie had as much little planning behind his adoption as Chisos did. Fran was driving to the store and passed PetSmart. Knowing they often hold adoptions, she decided to take a look on a whim. That whim led her to baby Charlie. Only five months old, he was a parvovirus survivor from a shelter in Lockhart. Her nor her husband could resist his cuteness. Years later, little Charlie is now a 65 pound ball of love and fur.
Charlie didn’t have as easy of a transition into his new home as Chisos did, though. It was quickly realized that he’d be needing some extra training. When Fran took him to a trainer, she realized how much of a difference that extra support makes for pups of all kinds to live more fulfilling lives – it was then that she also realized how important training is to making dogs with behavioral quirks more adoptable. Over the years, this thought has stuck with Fran. So as soon as she was an eligible volunteer, she received training to become a Top Dog and Canine Good Citizen trainer, something she finds deeply rewarding.
Fran’s experiences with Chisos and Charlie have set her up well to becoming a shining volunteer. What many may not realize is that volunteering can be quite demanding: physically and emotionally; and while there are many different types of volunteering, one thing is for certain: bonding with the pets you care for is unavoidable.
“I think it’s really hard to volunteer a long time when you see dogs like Minka [pictured] get adopted and returned, but it’s good that APA! takes them back if, for some reason, it doesn’t work out. You know that they’re not going to be on the street. APA! truly wants them,” shares Fran. “You can’t walk a dog here and develop a bond without falling in love with them, and that’s good; but if anything bad happens, it can be hard because you can tell that they’re sad because you know their personalities by then. But then you can help [them get] happy again and that feels so good.”
Our volunteers are a one-of-a-kind group of people. It’s no easy job to work with shelter pets day-in and day-out, but Fran, and our many other wonderful volunteers, do it with compassion, grace, and contagious positivity. Her relationship with Minka is a great testament to this. Minka’s adoption didn’t work out and she’s now back in our care. Sure, we would rather her be in the comfort of a home, but at least here we know she’s safe and will receive unconditional love while she waits for her perfect match. If you’re interested in fostering or adopting “the cuddlebug” Minka, take a look at her profile and follow her on Instagram, @adoptminka.
“If [you love] animals, this is a really worthwhile thing to do. The tough part is seeing them in a shelter, but it helps to focus on the fact that you’re giving this dog some quality time right now. If you can focus on that, you can do a whole lot for these animals. I wish people thought this way. People think that they can’t do it, they’d want to take them all home, it’d break their heart, but the reality is, if you go in there and spend time with them, you’re making their life so much better.”
We’re so thankful to have a volunteer like Fran dedicated to sharing her love with our dogs. If you’d like to make our animals days just a little bit brighter while they wait for their forever families, sign up to be a volunteertoday.