Dawn Freeman (left) and Lolly Boley pose with Wally, a dog that is available at the Van Wert County Humane Society shelter. (Photo courtesy of Jess Ritchey)
Dawn Freeman (left) and Lolly Boley pose with Wally, a dog that is available at the Van Wert County Humane Society shelter. (Photo courtesy of Jess Ritchey)

VAN WERT – Each Wednesday for the past couple of years, Dawn Freeman and Lolly Boley have dedicated their evenings to caring for and comforting shelter dogs at the Van Wert County Humane Society.

Freeman began volunteering three years ago after her dog passed away, while Boley began volunteering around 2.5 years ago after finding out from Freeman how personally rewarding giving back to homeless dogs was.

“Dawn told me that she was volunteering and told me how wonderful and gratifying it was,” said Boley.

Freeman and Boley see that the dogs have clean water and food bowls and make sure that each dog gets to go outside while their kennels are being cleaned.

“They get a blanket and a Kong and a toy if we have them,” noted Freeman.

Boley said that she and Freeman make sure each dog receives a treat and a toy. She said, however, there are some dogs that can’t have fabric toys because they will eat them. Those dogs receive more durable toys.

“The best sound in the world is the squeaky toys when we leave here on Wednesday night,” smiled Freeman.

“We try to take care of each one of them individually,” said Boley.

“It’s a labor of love,” Boley continued. “I find it very rewarding when I see that someone’s adopted them. We know the love and care that we put into them. At the end of our shift, we pick a dog to love on. We sit in their kennel and give them love and personal attention.”

Boley said she and Freeman have been able to see the personalities of dogs change just by taking the time to work with them and show them compassion. Being volunteers and working with the dogs has allowed them the opportunity to help each dog get adopted.

“Us being around the dogs helps to socialize them so they can get a home a little bit quicker,” said Boley. “We know their stories so when people come in we can walk the people around and say, ‘This is what happened to this dog.’”

“I think it’s very important for people to realize that how the dogs behave in here is not how they behave at home,” she continued. “They are kind of like inmates and they’ve learned bad behaviors. So when they go home, people need to give them a bit of time. They have to relearn their home manners.”

Freeman and Boley’s love for the shelter animals has grown so much that they take on the task of putting on the Humane Society Quarterless Auction each year; the yearly auctions are helping to raise money for a new facility.

Freeman said that if a person wants to volunteer there are a variety of tasks they can help do besides just cleaning kennels.

“There is laundry, there is dishes, there is walking,” said Freeman. “People can come plant flowers to make the place look pretty. You can mow, spray weeds or make blankets and toys."

“Even if you can’t come in here there are always ways you can help,” added Boley. “We have community events that they can take dogs at; there are parades where they can throw candy. There are ways to help.”