My name is May and I have been actively volunteering at a private shelter for the past four years. Private shelters are slightly different from those run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or even SPCA. The private shelters are usually funded by individuals who wants to provide housing for rescues but yet they do not have enough space at home. These individuals rely on their own resources to keep their shelter going. Here are 5 life lessons I have learnt from my time at a private shelter.

​ Angel (F) from Paws for Love is up for adoption 1. RESPONSBILITY We are given tasks to complete when we volunteer at the shelter. With every task assigned comes responsibility. We are responsible not only for our own safety, but also safety of the dogs that we handle. When we take them out for walks, we have to ensure that the dogs do not run loose. Tasks such as picking up after the dogs have done their businesses, deticking the dogs and checking for .injuries are part and parcel of life at the shelter. I have learnt to be responsible, not just towards myself, but also to the dogs I am caring for and the people who are volunteering together with me.

Tiger (M) from Paw Perfect Love is up for adoption

2. THE ART OF GIVING Over the time spent here, I have learnt to give without expecting any favors in return because all I want is for the dogs to be happy and healthy, to feel like they are loved. We do not just give up their time to take care of the dogs. We bring food, treats, toys and sometimes even medicine and supplements too whenever we go to the shelter. Many of these dogs are looking for a new homes and have no owners to call their own but yet, we treat them like they are our own dogs. I have learnt that to be able to give is indeed a blessing.

Yenyen has been adopted and is renamed Kaixin

3. PATIENCE Not all dogs at the shelters are human friendly and love human contact. There are some dogs which are rather shy or fearful due to their past. They may have been through neglect and/or abuse. It takes a lot of effort and patience to take care of them and to gain their trust. Once, I met a dog who was so fearful that I had to sit beside her for weeks just to let her get comfortable with my presence. The process was long but ultimately, very rewarding when I managed to get her to warm up to me. The sight of her greeting me whenever I go to the shelter now with her wagging tail gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and pride.

Harvard (M) from Paws for Love is up for adoption

4. AWESOME MONGRELS 90% of the dogs in the shelters are mongrels. They are what most people will label as 'strays'. The first impression of mongrels are usually not pleasant. Most people find them huge, fierce and scary looking. I used to be afraid of them when i first started volunteering too. However when you really get to bond with them, you will realise that each and everyone of them have their own unique characters and behaviours that will make you fall in love with them. They can be as sweet & loving as the pedigrees you own at home, and some times, these mongrels are even smarter than them! They may look rugged, scruffy and rough on the edges, but deep within, these mongrels are a bunch of lovebugs who just want to love and be loved.

Credit: Mutts and Me Blog

5. HAPPINESS CAN BE SIMPLE Volunteering has taught me to be grateful and to appreciate every little thing in life. You need not own a sports car or branded bags to feel happy. Happiness here in the shelter is enjoying the walks with the dogs away from the hectic city life. I feel a sense of joy when I see their happy faces and I laugh when they roll around on the grass/beach like silly puppies. It does not cost much to feel happy and I love that.

Credit: May's FB page


Used to be very scared of dogs since young, but my life changed when I met a friendly stray dog. For more on my life with my dogs, visit my blog.

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Email hello@8paws.sg