April 7, 2024
By: Tristan Myers, SPCA Volunteer

Being a volunteer, I am aware of the crisis that plagues shelters due to overcrowding. Immersing myself in a 24-hour period of a day in the life of a shelter animal has shown me the depth in which it affects the animals daily. This is my experience with Franklin and our time together.

For the Shelter Slumber Pawty fundraising event, I decided to be with Franklin and I am so grateful to have spent that time with such a sweet, cuddly doggie. We started our day off with some adventures outside, enjoying the beautiful weather, going to the Paws and Play Dog Park where he let out some zoomies and we chased each other around a bit. Then back in we went to his enclosure.

The day started off really easy, just lounging around, with lots of pets and telling him what a good boy he is, reading my book, playing on my tablet or phone while he was cuddled up beside as people walked by smiling, while he patiently waited to be seen. One of the reasons I decided to be with Franklin is because he gets overlooked a lot and I wanted him to get extra attention.

In all honesty, I didn’t really think it was that bad to be in his enclosure with him hanging out. We took bathroom breaks, cuddled, I got to give him his dinner and breakfast. Day became night and we settled in for a night of sleep. I think this is when the reality and the reason for this event really began to sink in for me and I began to understand the impact that shelter life can have on a dog’s mental health.

The SPCA truly gives all the animals that come in the very best care, attention and love, but a shelter is still a shelter and while it has MANY positives, being kept in an enclosure day in and day out can truly impact the mental health of these animals, and I felt it first hand.

At about 3 am after struggling to get comfortable and fall asleep, I woke up in a panic; scared, a bit confused, and feeling a bit sick to my stomach. I only had about 3 hours of restless sleep at this point. Thankfully, Franklin was there to comfort me. I think he could feel my panic and moved to curl up under my arm, laid partly across my chest, putting some pressure on me.

All I could think about is how I wanted to escape, go home, be in my bed, warm, loved, safe and cared for. I realized that what I was experiencing is what the shelter animals experience every day. Even though my day felt easy, that my panic, fear, not feeling well was an accumulation of all the smells, activity, new people walking by the windows, dogs barking, trying to get comfortable and trying to sleep was affecting my mental health. And this was just a 24-hour period.

Franklin comforted me. He knew what I was feeling and in turn I wrapped my arms around him and we both fell back asleep. Even when Franklin had other places to sleep or rest, he stayed by my side. His loyalty, perseverance, love, and cuddles helped me survive 24 hours of a day in the life of a shelter pet.

I hope that one day he will find someone to do the same for him, so that he doesn’t just survive but thrive. He deserves so much and he taught me so much. This event not only raised awareness about the ongoing issues of overcrowding in shelters, but the effects of being in a shelter short term and long term and how it can negatively affect the mental health of these beautiful creatures. It definitely impacted me in ways I didn’t expect.

I know now even more than before how crucial my job as a volunteer is, how important fostering is and how important adopting from a shelter is. And Franklin, you are truly the bestest boy. Thank you for taking me in and showing me a day in the life of Franklin and all our other shelter friends!

Learn more about Franklin here, call 803-648-6863 or email [email protected].