This is a guest post from John, the man behind the blog.
Maggie and I like to volunteer whenever we get the chance. It feels good to help causes that are important to us. Simply due to our schedules, Maggie was often more active than I was, but it was something I still liked to do. When I first got to Louisiana and Maggie was still in Indiana, I took the opportunity to put in as much time as possible at work. I wanted to make a name for myself, and I figured that since we weren’t in the best situation, I’d try and make the most of it so that it would pay off in the future. That meant that I didn’t have much time to do anything else.
After I’d been here for about 10 months, we were well into winter and things slow down for us, meaning I had more time on my hands. I told Maggie that I wanted to look into volunteering somewhere around here, and she immediately suggested that I get in touch with Villalobos, the pit bull rescue organization from Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls and Parolees. I went to their website, filled out their forms, and heard back a few weeks later. I got to volunteer at the rescue facility early on a Saturday morning in February. There were already people walking dogs when I got there, and I quickly figured out they were employees. There were only about 6 or 7 volunteers there, and there were too many dogs for all of us to walk. We had additional forms to fill out, and we had to write our name on a piece of paper and hold it in front of our face while a production assistant took our picture. We were told not to approach any of the cast members unless we had a real reason because they were filming the whole time. It was weird having cameras all over the place, but I got used to them quickly and was so busy I ended up not noticing them.
The whole process was a well-oiled machine. In their main parking lot/courtyard, they set up folding chairs with water bowls next to them. A leash was handed to us with a dog at the other end, and they had us all walk a pre-determined route. We were told to keep all of the dogs away from one another, just in case we had one that wasn’t comfortable around other dogs. But, we were allowed to give them as many treats as we wanted, we could take a little extra cuddle time. We could run if they wanted, and they had photographers snapping pics of everyone. When we were done walking and made it back to the courtyard, another employee would direct us to a chair and we had to wait until someone came and took the dog from us. Then, someone else would bring another and we’d do it again. Throughout the day, I probably walked 10 or 11 dogs in total, all of them wonderful. There was Tiger, Marsha, and my favorite, Gilbert. Right before we got started, the volunteer coordinator said that since I was the biggest volunteer there, I would probably get the stronger dogs, the ones that liked to pull. Seeing as how I had about 5 inches and 60 pounds on everyone else, I said, “Sure! Not a problem!”
Then came Gilbert. No one wanted to walk Gilbert. The same coordinator said to me, “You sure you can handle a puller? He’s big and he goes where he wants to go.” I told her that as long as he’s friendly it wouldn’t be a problem. If he weren’t friendly, I’d like to know so I could be sure to be extra careful. She said, “Oh, no! He’s happy as crap!”
Apparently, “happy as crap” means 120-lbs bulldog that goes wherever he wants. He was the sweetest giant I had ever met, but I had never felt so helpless on the other end of a leash before. By the time we were done, my wrist, ankles, shoulder, and back all hurt. When we made it back to the courtyard, the coordinator had everyone else move because she knew exactly where Gilbert was going.
The rest of the day went by quickly. At the end, we were given a tour of the facility, and we got to see some of the dogs that were rescued during last season’s episodes. They had on displays the chains that were used to secure dogs in yards, chains that looked too heavy for me to hold. They had dogs that were terrified of everyone but a few of the employees.
But, the important thing to remember, regardless of how sad any of their stories were, was that these dogs all were getting a second chance. Even though I was just walking a few dogs for one day, that day was better for those dogs than any day before they got there. What those people do every single day is nothing short of amazing. That goes for any rescue organization. And yes, I did get to briefly meet Tia Torres. And yes, she’s just as bad-ass in person as she is on TV.