Volunteering at the SPCA

The local SPCA is in desperate need of volunteers. I was planning on doing hospice volunteer work, but the next class isn’t for quite some time.
You think taking care of animals would be considered a “valid” EC? This is something I can do very long term and the hours are very flexible. Another advantage is that it’s very close by. Disadvantage: I’ve already got 2 dogs and 4 cats and I probably shouldn’t be tempted. My husband would NOT be happy if I brought home more. He should be glad that I no longer own my two boa constrictors! laugh.gif
Hmm…I guess I’m afraid to do what I really want (SPCA) because I’m afraid it will be frowned upon as it’s not ‘people oriented’. Any thoughts?

I think it would be fun. I too love animals smile.gif I think the key for EC’s is to do things you enjoy. I think it will be fine as long as you have other ECs in which you have shown that you know what medicine is all about. I would only be wary of being asked “Why not a veternarian?” during your interviews.
Just my 2 cents,

I would also be cautious of volunteering for any organization potentially perceived as “politically extreme” - remember that medicine is traditionally a conservative profession. In other words, I would “see” SPCA as favorable & benign on the political front; however, volunteering for PETA might not be so warmly received. To be involved in pro-environment/eco-friendly groups a probable plus; but maybe not so for having served on the Rainbow Warrior threatening to block the passage of US warships from harbor…get my drift?

I think SPCA volunteering would be great. I've thought of doing it but I know that I'd be tempted…and at 2 (large) dogs and 5 cats, we are definitely full up! Another thought—if you want to do volunteering that combines your love of animals with clinical work with humans, have you considered something like Pets on Wheels? I've been taking my dog to an assisted living facility for 2 years now and it's a wonderful experience. The residents absolutely love it, and so does Max. Of course not every pet is good at that kind of work, but if any of your animals is calm and friendly with new people, you might want to think about it. If you don't like working with the elderly, they also send pet volunteers into residential homes for children.

There’s a gal at our hospital who coordinates animal visits. Lots of people bring dogs. Sometimes she brings rabbits, which are soft, furry and quiet. The weirdest to me is this cat that she brings. She puts it in a wheelchair and just wheels it down the hall from room to room. It’s the oddest thing to see this big cat sitting there, peaceful and unrestrained in the seat of a wheelchair, as she pushes him down a crowded hospital corridor, stopping every once in a while as a crowd gathers round to pet him.
My cat would scream in the car the whole way there, scratch and try to get away when I put him in the chair, and bite everyone who got close enough laugh.gif .

There might be some group that brings pets to Retirement/Nursing homes and you could do that and its a very nice thing to do besides.

First, on the original question, volunteering in your community should be for something important to you. Volunteering can serve several purposes in terms of your application: one is to show exposure to health care in some way but I do believe the more important thing is to show your interest in your community and your sense of commitment to a worthwhile endeavour. In other words, your exposure to health care does NOT have to come through volunteer service, but you DO need to show dedication to others in some way.
so I think getting involved with the SPCA, since that's an environment that really resonates for you, is great.
Now, the visitation thing is an interesting twist on this idea. We had a person from the local animal shelter bring pets to visit the residents of the mental health facility where I did my psych rotation. It was always a popular activity. But even if you don't have the occasion to get involved with a formalized visiting program, you WILL see and interact with people at the shelter and you undoubtedly will be able to come up with some observations about your experience that could make a good story for your application.

Thanks all, for the replies.
Like Tara said, I am afraid the adcom would ask “Why not Veterinarian?” I’ve actually pondered that many a time, but I don’t feel it’s the path for me.
I’ve already had a lot of both health care exposure and volunteer experience…EMT, CNA, literacy volunteer, hospital volunteer, have worked in several physicians offices, heck, I have even worked for a health insurance company paying medical claims!
That is a very interesting idea about visiting. My dogs tend to get very excited, but I think they would cool it after a few minutes and just soak up the attention. Hmm, I am going to look into this. Perhaps I can combine this with my work at the SPCA.
Beth Jolly, what do you talk about when you bring your Pup to visit? (silly question, I know)
Thanks guys, you’ve given me a lot to think about. My husband is quite adamant that I not do the SPCA thing, thinks it’s too dangerous as our house is already beyond capacity.
ROFL about the cat in the wheelchair. laugh.gif

Beth Jolly, what do you talk about when you bring your Pup to visit? (silly question, I know)

Not silly at all! A lot of the residents like to ask questions about Max--how old he is, how often I have to give him a bath, how much he eats. They loooove giving him goodies---graham crackers, pretzels, whatever they've got in their room. We do his one and only trick -- I get him to shake paws with me and then tell him "other paw" and he shakes paws with the other one. Not much of a trick but for some reason it always seems to be a hit. Mostly they like to pet him and talk to him, and tell me about the pets they used to have. With residents that are pretty lucid, we'll talk about their families, or my job, or gossip about what's going on at the home. With residents who are less lucid, we tend to have the same conversations over and over, sometimes on the same night. But they enjoy it, so that's what matters. One woman always asks me repeatedly to bring her a bracelet, a pocketbook and a lipstick when I come next time. That's about the sum total of our conversation. But she's always happy to see Max, so I know she's getting something out of it. Then there's one 90 year old woman who likes to read the newspaper editorials to me and discuss the war in Iraq. She can't hear much, so the discussion tends to be a little one-sided, but I think it's great that she's so engaged in life at her age.
Max is in heaven--he gets hugs and kisses, and sometimes treats--all this and a car ride too! I think he and I get as much out of it as the residents. It's very enjoyable and I love knowing that we're brightening up their day.

When I wrote my reply I didn’t realize that you already had a lot of health care volunteering/working experience. Now I would say that you’ve checked that mandatory application “box” and should do something you enjoy. You can still love animals and want to help humans too smile.gif