Volunteering Mavs: Get your animal fix at BENCHS

When I moved to the Mankato area to attend MNSU, I quickly found I had some free-time. I began working part-time, would exercise, and made sure to schedule time with family and peers. But they weren’t always available. As a result, I had to find other ways to occupy my time.

This article and a few others that follow, will share different volunteering opportunities in the local area. Some of these opportunities are well known, while others are obscure and do not receive a lot of coverage.

In the spring of 2012, I found BENCHS’ Regional Pet Shelter as I was bike riding the Rex Macbeth River Trail, which is situated directly behind the shelter.

“BENCHS is an acronym for Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society. Riverside Regional Pet Shelter is the name of the building we live in,” said Terri Hanson, Dog Adoption Specialist at BENCHS. The shelter is home to 18 dog kennels and 13 cat condos.

One of my favorite past-times in Mankato is dog walking at BENCHS. After completing a generic volunteer application and waiver, new volunteers attend an orientation session. The orientation is held on Dog Walking Days, 3:15 p.m.

Dog walking days during the months of March 01- November 01 are Monday-Wednesday from 3:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

In addition to the orientation, the shelter holds a dog walking training session several times a year. The training is conducted by Shannon Lloyd, a local and professional dog trainer.

“Shannon trains the certified dog walkers. They are an advanced group of committed volunteers who are able to dog walk throughout the entirety of the day. This is great for people who have busy or unpredictable work schedules,” said Terri.

The hour and a half training session is rather educational. Shannon uses one of the canines from the shelter as a training aid. Lecture topics include proper approaches to introducing yourself to a new dog, leash handling techniques, and methods to prevent aggressive dogs from fighting.

Other volunteering opportunities are available at the shelter as well. The shelter’s “Adopt-a-Condo” program is quite popular. The program allows volunteers to visit one of the 13 cat condos and spend time with the condo tenants.

After socializing with the condo inhabitants, the volunteer then cleans the space, refills water and food. Before departing though, volunteers make sure to properly say goodbye to each member of the condo. The volunteers can sign up for as many condos or days as they like. I typically fulfill my Caturday fix on Saturdays.

Besides fulfilling my passion for writing with The MSU Reporter, I also write for the BENCHS Monthly E-Newsletter. The shelter is always welcoming any and all writers to help with the monthly content.

General cleaner positions are available as well, like helping to clean and put away laundry, cleaning dog kennels etc. A receptionist, who is customer service oriented, normally greets and directs volunteers around the shelter. Crafters are welcomed too for all who can sew, knit and crochet blankets, beds and toys for the shelter’s residents. If your apartment or house allows pets, you may also foster a kitten, cat, puppy or dog.

If you’re an animal lover, volunteering at BENCHS does not feel like volunteer work. I have introduced many students, peers and family members to the shelter who have either adopted or have volunteered there over the years. Not to mention, it’s a great date idea to take your girlfriend or boyfriend to, or that cute girl/guy in your class who you’ve been meaning to ask out.

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