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Over the past few years, my fiance and I have thought about getting a puppy. We really want one, you see. But we have a cat who is about 150 years old and just a tad grumpy. We worry that a puppy will not understand when the cat scratches his eyes out just because the puppy wants to play.

There are other issues, too. Full-time work and a busy life would make it difficult to provide the attention that a puppy needs. With that in mind, getting a puppy will have to wait until the day after I retire, which is still a bit down the road.

So what to do until then? I am happy to say I’ve found a way to get my puppy fix and do some good at the same time. A dear friend told me she volunteers at the Pet Connection. It’s a maternity shelter for homeless female dogs and their puppies. After reading up on the organization, I knew I wanted in.

Before I could start working – or as I like to say, playing – with the puppies, I attended orientation and learned how to socialize the puppies, helpful hints and all that good stuff.

After that, I joined a few other volunteers and was led into a pen where at least 15 puppies were on top of me within seconds. I felt pure joy! Each one wanted to be held, lick my face and bite my nose. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

After the initial introductions, each of us picked up a couple of the pups and carefully made our way down to a fenced-in area that had a pond, dog toys and lots of room for them to run around.

Did I mention it had rained and there was lots of gooey mud, too? We’ll get to that later. For about an hour, the pups chased each other and pushed their siblings into the pond so that the volunteers could practice rescuing them. We all had a jolly good time.

Then we had to round up all of the dogs. Have you ever tried to corral 15 puppies that are wet and muddy? They were all tired out and had a good coat of mud on them, as did the volunteers, so we returned the pups to their cozy home, cleaned them up and set them down for a well-deserved nap.

I would have joined them, but I don’t like napping on a bed of straw. However, I left feeling like a million bucks.

In addition to socializing the puppies, I am able to participate in fundraising activities that support the shelter. We go to local malls to sell dog treats and we usually have a few of the puppies on hand. I love seeing shoppers’ faces when they realize the dogs are there. People are just drawn to them.

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it feels to help this organization and to make sure these puppies are happy, adopted out to good families and well cared for.

I may not be ready to get my puppy, but boy do I feel like I am doing something worthwhile. I always thought that volunteering for an organization, no matter where you volunteer, helped the group’s cause. You hope you are making a difference.

I never expected to discover what a difference it would make in my life. It has brought me more joy and laughter than I ever could have hoped for.

Whether you want to help animals, people or a cause close to your heart, get out there and volunteer. You won’t regret it.