All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Changing a Life for the Better Through Volunteer Work

Dear Marie,

I’ve enjoyed reading your articles and I thought I would write to thank you, plus I have plenty time to write.  I am currently in County Jail for drug possession.  This has been a wakeup call for me and I am really working to turn my life around.  I’m getting out next month and I would really like to adopt a dog.  More than that, I would really like to volunteer my time in some way to help dogs.  My motivation is – one, I love dogs, and two I think it would be beneficial to my recovery.  I was just wondering if you could point me in the right direction of where to adopt, where to volunteer, and ballpark price.  Thank you for your time to read my letter.


Dear Garett,

Thank you for the nice letter.  It sounds like you are on the right track to getting your life back in order and I wish you the best of luck in recovery once you are released.

Volunteering at an animal shelter would be fabulous.  There are many shelters and rescue groups throughout Orange County that can always use a hand.  Check out and type "animals" in the search box.  You'll get quite a few results from this search and one is sure to be perfect for you. This is a great resource for anyone interested in volunteering for almost any cause.

My advice to you would be to also check out as many shelters and rescues as possible to see which one feels right to you.  Some shelters or rescues may have policies that make volunteering less than fulfilling by greatly limiting what you can and cannot do.  Others would love to have all the help they can get and will have you (and need you) working all the time which may be more than what you are ready for.  Too many volunteers get burned out or overwhelmed quickly, and then quit within a short amount of time.  Don’t put yourself in this position.

I truly believe that working with animals helps people heal.  There are many jails across the country that pair inmates with shelter dogs in very specialized volunteer programs.  The inmates train “problem dogs” and give those animals a chance at having a new life in a new home.  In most cases, the people who have participated in this program leave their respective institutions as individuals who are truly ready to turn over a new leaf and continue volunteering within their communities.  Everyone involved benefits.  There is something beyond words that happens when a human being is able to connect with an animal and care for it, and you obviously recognize this. You are on the right path.

As far as adopting a pet, I would recommend waiting until you are back on your feet.  Also, by taking your time, you can get to know a lot of dogs at the shelter or rescue where you decide to volunteer.  You’ll no doubt fall in love with one of them – that’s one of the hazards of working with animals—you end up wanting to take a bunch home!  But one of them will definitely get to you and that’s the one you should adopt.

Adoption fees vary from organization to organization.  County and City facilities usually have the lowest adoption fees and even offer special adoption days during the year where the fees are greatly reduced or completely eliminated.  Rescue organizations tend to be more expensive since they do not have public money to help support their cause.  So you can expect to pay anywhere from $50-500 for a dog, depending on its age.  That price generally includes spaying or neutering, vaccinations, microchipping, and a vet visit with a participating veterinarian after you bring your new pet home.  Sometimes adoption fees are reduced or waived for volunteers.  That may be one thing you should look into when making your decision about where you want to donate your time.  Thanks for writing and I wish you the very best.

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