Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – 20 minutes of hurt, 4 hours of bliss

Name: Tristin Riggins-Walker
From: Hinsdale , IL
Grade: Highschool Junior
School: Hinsdale Central Highschool
Votes: 0



I was supposed to serve a detention this morning at around 7:10, which I didn’t mind, but my dad asked me yesterday (9/14/16) if I wanted to go volunteer at an animal shelter for his work and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my morning. Something in the back of my head was kind of upsetting me and I think it was the fact that this would’ve been the first time I would be volunteering at an animal shelter and even though I was mad that I never volunteered at an animal shelter before, it felt good being able to recognize what I wanted and what I wanted that day was to be there for those animals .I had been going through a somewhat stressful week and I definitely needed something like this, even though I had forgotten about the detention. Luckily, my dean (Mr.Edsy) and I had contacted my dad earlier yesterday to tell him I had a detention to serve. And since I forgot about the detention this morning, I guess my dad talked to Mr.Edsy at the school and convinced them that if I wrote a paper, I could go with my dad to the shelter.

           I believe the shelter was in Elgin, IL, and the drive actually wasn’t too bad. When we finally arrived at the shelter, my dad and I waited an excruciating 5 minutes before Elizabeth the trainer got us set up with the animals. My dad and I originally planned on just playing with the dogs, but then Elizabeth asked me if I wanted to see either the dogs, the cats, or both. I immediately started smiling and without a second thought said “BOTH”.

           So we finally were able to interact and play with them but dad said that he wanted to split up because he doesn’t like cats and I thought that was perfectly fine. For about 45 minutes, I played with only a few cats but it was still nice. They were all so sweet but tired as well. They all came from different backgrounds and it was honestly difficult for me to not tear up. While some cats were seeking attention, others didn’t want to be bothered. It wasn’t just because of how the cat was raised. There were a lot of different variables and they were all different from other cats which makes the cat unique (in my opinion).

           When I was finished saying goodbye to the cats, I was waiting around for Elizabeth to come around and train me on how to walk a dog (I have two and I walk them at the same time so it really wasn’t anything new). It took 20 minutes for someone to finally come and show me how to walk one of the dogs. But I think the hardest part of being there at the shelter today took place in between those 20 minutes.


There was a man who had brought his dog into the shelter while I was playing with the cats. I sat down beside him and just smiled at him and the dog (mostly at the dog but I was trying to be polite). I noticed he was filling out papers on a clipboard and his dog seemed anxious. I don’t remember the dog’s name but I know it was a girl so for clarification I’ll call her Hail. So the man kept telling Hail, “It’s okay girl. I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.” This went on for about 15 minutes until an employee stood up and walked over to them. She caught all three sets of eyes glancing at her. The man stood up and started showing the employee how Hail’s harness worked and what functions would make her yield. I heard the lady ask him if there were any little things they needed to about her regarding her walking routine, food brands, behavior towards other animals, and other things like that. I noticed that a sign on a door in the building said they do disobedience classes and stuff like that so I was thinking to myself, “aww the puppy is just a bit feisty and likes to have fun.”(Hail wasn’t a puppy though. That’s just what I call all dogs regardless of their age). But then something felt wrong really quickly after he was done informing the female employee about Hail and when he got her. Judging from the
length of her whiskers and the small grey hairs around her snout, I think Hail was maybe 8-10 years old. Another employee soon came in the lobby and took Hail’s leash. I swear it felt like my heart fell faster than the speed of sound when I heard the lady ask,” Would you like to say your last goodbyes before we take her?” Faster than when I responded to Elizabeth’s question earlier, I realized that Hail wasn’t taking any classes. She was being taken in from the man because he couldn’t take care of her anymore. I felt something in my eyes that made them feel like they were drowning. As discretely as
possible, I tried to wipe away a tear that was seconds away from visibly streaming down my cheek. I started walking to the bathroom right after I saw the other employee take Hail’s leash and lead her to where her new home would be. I closed the door and tried to be as quiet as quick as possible to let myself cry a little. I heard Hail whimpering and crying for the man that was once her caretaker. I stayed in there for about 3 minutes even though it felt like 3 days. I washed up and tried to make it look like I wasn’t crying when I came out of the bathroom. I passed by the man and I saw him wipe his face and adjust his glasses.

I went to another part of the building that had other employees working and stowing away donations to ask someone to “train” me with a dog. I stood there looking like an idiot, waiting for someone for a good 10 minutes. Eventually someone came along and I got to pick out a dog to play with. His name was Zeke and he was a fairly small black Labrador. As soon as they put on his leash for us to go outside in the backyard of the shelter, he would pull and try to leap away because he was so hyper. I didn’t have a problem with him pulling, I just forgot the feeling since it had been a long time since my dog
pulled me while walking him, granted he was only 3 years old at the time and I was 9. Eventually, we both got adjusted to how each other moved and although I knew I wouldn’t be taking him home that day, I gave him as much love as I would give my dogs when I get home from school. Zeke was so playful and energetic and I really liked that about him. He would pounce on me every few seconds, which then turned in to every few minutes after we sat down and relaxed. I had
intentions to serenade the dogs in the shelter with my guitar while I played with the dogs but I forgot it in the car and I think it was good I forgot about it because the dogs could’ve used is as a $300 wooden chew toy. Zeke and I walked, ran, and relaxed in the yard under sun for about 20 minutes until I went to bring him back inside. I tried to say goodbye but he was too cute to just walk away from so I stayed and played with him in his penn for a few more minutes before I went to go grab another pup. I wanted to play with all of them but I started getting tired and just played with one more after Zeke. The next dog I grabbed was Gumdrop (which I still think is a lame name but i just kept calling her cutie pie). She was a puller too and she didn’t want to relax at all. I just walked her around the yard for about 10 minutes and then went back inside.

My dad and I were at the shelter for about 4 hours and left after I said bye to all the dogs. On the way home, we talked about what we liked about the shelter and what dog was our favorite. It was a good day and I realized that I was happy that the man who brought in Hail actually brought her in before something happened to her that he would later regret. I remembered how Hail felt and realized that something similar happened to me. I had been admitted to a residential rehabilitation for about 3 months a few years ago. I’m glad I got the help I needed and I’m sure Hail will feel scared and overwhelmed because that’s how I felt in a place I didn’t know at first, but then she’ll soon realize that there are other people and animals that will love playing with her just like how I realized that there were people and animals that cared about me and look at me now. I’m a senior in high school with new friends who remind me how much they care about me. I’m happy I decided to stay around to see how my future turned out. Although I didn’t expect a detention to be a part of it, I’m glad I expected to see more dogs. And I’m really happy that I did.

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