How exuding enthusiasm and asking the right questions allowed this volunteer’s experience on the Veterinary Assistance Program to go above and beyond her expectations.

As an avid animal enthusiast, I’d spent the past seven years volunteering at various animal shelters from China to the US, yet I can confidently say six weeks at TEARS has trumped the previous experience I’d obtained. The amount of care and love for the animals at TEARS is on a different level compared to any previous organization I’d been involved with, and I’m proud to have been a part of making a difference.

For someone who’s been pursuing their childhood dream of becoming a non-profit and shelter veterinarian, TEARS offered me a better understanding of how a low-cost clinic operates than I could have ever asked for. Without any practical or theoretical training, I thought I was going to shadow the vets and technicians working in the clinic since I was unqualified to do anything else. At first, I was only able to observe, but the overwhelming amount of questions I was asking and the genuine interest I was showing towards their work eventually won the hearts of the clinic crew. After the first week, the technicians started teaching me how to do the basic preparation procedures: inserting an IV catheter and breathing tube, administering antibiotic and painkiller injections, and setting up the breathing machines before the sterilization operations. Of course, at first, I was popping veins left and right, sticking the breathing tube down the wrong pipe, and stabbing kidneys with my injections, but the crew patiently walked me through the correct techniques and provided useful tips, to the point where mere weeks later I perform these procedures with ease. Beyond the practical experience, I was also able to watch extraordinary procedures with detailed description and dictation of the thought process of the vet during the amputation of legs, pinning together of broken bones, and removal of eyeballs. The interest and initiative I showed was definitely key to winning their trust, and I can say without a doubt that I’ve gained more insight than most people coming straight out of university before applying to vet schools.

Outside of the clinic, the kennel crew and other volunteers also impressed me with the amount of devotion and commitment I see every day. Each dog has a distinct personality, whose kennel roommates are carefully selected and experimented with to pair the most compatible dogs with each other. Each dog has a specially customized diet, with various kinds of nutritional supplements tailored to fit their needs. Kennel crew also conduct extensive follow-ups to adoptions to make sure the dogs end up in a loving home they deserve. Selfless volunteers dedicate three hours every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday to walk every single dog on the designated days to promote socializing and increase their chances of getting adopted. Puppy-training Tuesdays are also open to all volunteers who are interested to teach young puppies manners and also get coddled with the unconditional love of the cutest and purest animals. Long-term volunteers like myself are recruited to help with physical therapy of disabled dogs, and the amount of progress I’d witnessed made me extremely happy, as each visit to the physical therapist was marked with improvement and excitement for full recovery. Personally, it was amazing to go from day 1 where I didn’t know any names or personalities, to day 30 where I knew every name and associated personality.

At the end of the day, what struck me most about TEARS were the devout individuals who have been involved with the organization for years. Some of the staff members and volunteers had been there since the establishment of TEARS in 1999, who always, without fail, make appearances in their various promotional videos and fundraising events over the 18 years of operation. During my last week, everyone kept asking me when I was leaving, but also when I was coming back, and without a doubt, I will definitely be coming back to visit this amazing organization, whose people and animals deserve the very best.