VRC - Villalobos Sign #1Happy April!  Yes, it’s April, and it’s been chilly, unseasonably chilly, but Spring will persist and pervade, and all will be well…eventually.

Last week, the kids were on Spring Break.  We intended on spending the week close to home, perhaps do a little camping if the weather cooperated, run some errands, lay low, but the Sunday prior, we got the call.  Villalobos Rescue Center (a.k.a. Pit Bulls & Parolees) had accepted our application to volunteer, so we answered.

Bayou #3We drove down on Saturday and arrived in New Orleans on Sunday.  Surprisingly, the South too was suffering from a late winter cold, but at least, there was some green.  Did you know Mississippi is hilly and full of pines?  I had no idea.

The volunteering program for “out-of-towners” starts on Tuesday and ends on Friday.  You walk dogs from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM.  We decided, long before we put in our application, that our focus was the dogs.  If we could bring a few minutes of joy and kindness to these animals, why wouldn’t we?  We weren’t there to see our favorite reality tv stars or even be one, but if we were lucky enough to meet them and join their cause, then even better.

We were greeted at the front gates by the efficient volunteer coordinator while Earl, one of our favorite stars, poked his head outside a 2nd story window to wish us a good morning.  It was truly the perfect welcome, and when I shouted to Earl that he was famous, he simply replied with a wry smile, “That’s what they tell me”.

People were running here and there, shuffling dogs from one end of the building to the other, carrying boxes, cleaning kennels, doling out medication, filling water bowls, etc.  There was a constant flurry of activity, and we seemed to be in the middle of it. This place was the real deal.  The family and staff portrayed on tv were real, and really busy. 

We walked the dogs, pet them, kissed them, talked to them and told each one they were special and loved –  because it’s true. Although my daughter is not old enough to handle a leash by the rescue center’s rules, she was able to love on the dogs all she wanted.  She, like myself, is a huge animal lover, and animals seem to sense her big heart and kind aura.  Tom & I had nicknamed her the “Dog Whisperer” by the end of the first day, as every dog we came in contact with managed to find her lap and loving arms.

Each day we were lucky enough to meet different dogs and learn their histories, some too unnerving to retell.  By the end of the week, we weren’t sure who was getting more out the program – the dogs or us.

I cannot tell you how meaningful this trip was for me and my family.  It was truly an adventure, but better than that, we were able to give without need or want for anything in return, and it felt good, and it felt right.  Our time at Villalobos, although limited, will remain in our hearts and memories forever.  We would do it again in a heart beat and hope to have the opportunity.

There are many places around the country, even close to home, that need volunteers, so before you plan your next vacation, maybe you could incorporate a little volunteering into the agenda.  It just may be the most rewarding, joyous vacation you’ve ever had.

“You make a living by what you get.  You make a life by what you give.”

– Winston Churchill

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney

VRC - Lily & Ellie #1Tom, Lily & Cooper #1Lily & Baby Girl #1VRC - Kim & Ellie