Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Animal Companionship on the Cheap

The Topic: Inexpensive animal companionship for those with a jet-setting, busy lifestyle with Editorial Assistant Joni Sweet

The Dish: As part of the VegNews staff, you can probably guess that I’m an animal lover. Cats, dogs, birds, even mice, I love them all! Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to adopt an animal since I was a kid, due to college dorm-life and limited funds. Also, given the opportunity, I love to travel for months on end, which makes me hesitant to commit to animal adoption, as I’d hate to bring stress upon my furry friend to find him or her a new home. Lucky for people like me, organizations across the US are here to help connect people with limited time, money, and ability to commit long-term with animal friends who need us just as much as we need them.

Raise a Service Dog

Teaming up with a service-dog organization, such as Guide Dogs for the Blind or The Guide Dog Foundation For The Blind, is a great way to build a relationship with a puppy while doing good for mankind. Typically, volunteers provide loving homes for puppies when they are between seven and nine weeks old for roughly one year. Puppy-raisers then socialize, educate, and complete basic training for the dogs, which includes lessons in obedience, traveling, manners, and appropriate behavior in a variety of settings. These go-anywhere service dogs are required by law to have access to many places, such as city buses, supermarkets, and other everyday settings, meaning that opportunities to bond with the pup are endless. As an added bonus, the service-dog organizations often cover all or most of the associated expenses, so the dogs only demand your patience, time, and love.

Foster a Sheltered Animal

The ASPCA, as well as most local shelters, depends on volunteers to help prepare special animals for adoption. Generally, fostered animals include very young puppies and kittens, mothers with newborn litters, animals recovering from injury or illness, and those in need of socialization. The ASPCA provides training for volunteers and covers all medical expenses, food, and necessary supplies. Fostering generally lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months, so while that period of time provides ample opportunity to love and care for an animal in need, it also makes it easy for those with a passion for travel to leave town after their foster friend finds a home.

Make a Career Out of It

If you're unable to welcome an animal into your home, head into theirs—and get paid for it —by becoming a pet sitter or dog walker. Animal lovers can apply to work for pet sitting businesses, such as Chicago Pet Sitters or Southern California's The Pet Staff, and spend nights and weekends indulging vacationers' dogs and cats with a few extra treats and lots of playtime. Also, in cities particularly, busy office-workers constantly need reliable dog-walkers to exercise their pups during the long workday. If you can't find an organization in your area that's hiring, consider placing a personal ad on Craigslist or the local paper and working independently. Both of these jobs will allow you to connect with fun, friendly animals and provide you with bonus pocket cash.

The Final Word: Hardly any lifestyle, no matter how restrictive, frugal, or busy, can put you completely off-limits for making a new furry friend if you’re willing to give your heart and time. There are many organizations which rely on help from dedicated animal lovers, and volunteers get to provide the best part—the belly rubs!

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