A day in the life of a Best Friends volunteer
Yesterday, the day before the end of the 2014, we went out onto the streets of Vancouver. The streets are not always rainbows and flowers, they are sometimes harsh and cold, we just choose to see the good and share that part with you, but today, we thought we would share how a day can really go, what we really see, and how we sometimes really feel.
On a usual distribution day there are usually three or four of us out, yesterday, there were three. We travel from Anmore and Richmond and sometimes traffic is not always on our side. We have a hand out that says we will be at our first location at 11ish. This is our biggest distribution location, mostly cat owners. We work on being as punctual as possible but sometimes it can really depend on how long it takes to load up the truck and if we can find a parking spot for dropping off. Our day starts at around 10:00 am, loading the truck, and we leave as soon as we feel we have all the supplies we will need.
Yesterday as I turned onto the street where our first drop off is, someone in front of me snagged the last parking spot available, so I had to circle the block, come back around and hope, with fingers crossed, that another spot would be free. Imagine the roads of Main & Hastings, how slowly they move, this again is time that is not on our side. The second time around I got held up by a flagsman who was assisting a large truck and trailer attempting to back up into an alley. But it was my lucky day, a spot right up front, and another free one in front of me for our volunteer, Jackpot!!! Now, how could I save both spots so that we would all have parking. I wasn’t able to come up with a solution, other than double parking (which I just don’t feel right doing) and a line had started curbside. Our first clients of the day were waiting for their supplies.
I started to prep the vehicle for donations to fly out of the doors as they always do. Some doors locked (wallet and phone inside) and other doors open to allow immediate access to kitty litter, collars, leashes, and other supplies. As I came around back to push up the trunk the greeting I received from the first person in line was “you’re late!”. I gritted my teeth a bit, smiled and said, we say “11’ish and I think it’s only about 7 after”, as she proceeded to pull out her phone to confirm the exact time. This same person went on to explain that the last kitty litter we gave her wasn’t enough, she needed a bigger bag. I told her that we were only there to subsidize their supplies, just to help ease the burden of caring for a pet. The next person in line thanked me profusely, and offered a hug and a kiss on the cheek with a “Happy New Year to you and thank you for you do”. Another person told me that they had just run out of cat food the day before, and they were so grateful we could help.
As I was distributing, our other volunteers arrived but the spot in front of my car was not available any longer so they parked in the only place they could find, the loading zone across the street. You see parking in itself is a challenge, the streets are always packed, parking is tough to find, sometimes we circle multiple times just so we can be as close as possible. Although today was my lucky day for parking, it was not as lucky a day for our volunteer, we noticed parking enforcement a little too late, the ticket was already being written up before she could move her car. We are not exempt to the parking police on the streets we are sad to say. frown emoticon
Lately we have also had many people complaining that people who didn’t have pets were taking the food and selling it. We have always gone with the philosophy, if they ask, they must need, but when it is brought to our attention, people want answers. We aren’t sure if the answers we give are what they want to hear, we cannot prove who has a pet and who doesn’t unless the pets attend with them, we cannot turn someone away because it may mean a pet is hungry that night. Sometimes we make announcements that if people take and don’t have pets, they could be potentially leaving another pet hungry. We realize this is a touchy subject, however it is one we feel we must deal with to ensure that our mission of feeding pets is accomplished.
We also have some ladies who see us handing out supplies but don’t speak English and don’t understand that what we are giving out is for animals. Sometimes after much motioning, pointing at photos of dogs and cats, they understand, other times, they walk off with pet food and we just hope they aren’t eating it.
We usually run out of cat food, and yesterday was no exception. Because of the beautiful weather we also decided to walk the streets and as we packed up our cart, people continued to come over asking for food. It is always disheartening when we have to turn them away because we do not have enough.
The streets were very cold yesterday and we saw only one dog and one rat. The dog, a lab cross, received a warm fleece jacket as he was visibly very cold, shivering as he stood on a mat in amongst carts, capped needles, this and that. This is sometimes very hard to see, he was well fed and you could tell he was loved, but his living conditions were not what we would consider ideal, yet all we can do is offer supplies and advice on resources, and then carry on our way. These dogs never leave our minds though, they stay with us forever.
It seems the streets were cold enough to keep most hunkered down out of the elements as no other dogs in need were seen so we made our way back to our vehicles to move on to the next stop, which was Waterfront station. Usually we find the little rottie mix Izzy there, but this has been the second time we have been out and they haven’t been around. We hope this is a positive change, as she told us their living situation had changed for the better, so we can only hope they are keeping warm and snuggly inside.
Then on to Rex, Roach and now Otto, one of our newest friends. We had given Otto’s owner a time to meet close to where Rex & Roach are but because we walked the streets we took longer than planned. Sometimes securing times is difficult mid day as we change up our plans, may find a pet in need and it takes us longer than planned because we are sizing their jacket, collar or finding the supplies that they need, other times we find no one and we are there ahead of time. Today, we were late and we looked around for our friends, but to no avail. We are very grateful though to have an amazing vet clinic, Urban Vet, that is willing to hold onto supplies for Rex & Roach and now Otto, until they can get there to pick them up.
And this, dear friends, is a day in the life of our Best Friends for Life volunteers.
This does not include the hours it takes picking up donations, sorting through what we receive, storing the items, putting them into smaller zip lock bags, making treat packs, then loading them into the truck on distribution day, and unpacking whatever doesn’t get handed out. Plus, there are many behind the scenes things that take place, like coordinating fundraising events, finding sponsors willing to help, connecting with potential donors, etc, etc.
We have truly enjoyed our journey this year. We have learned lots, we have had good days and bad, but one thing we know for sure, we have definitely helped many pets have full stomachs and we have done this because of your support!
We will be looking at the BFFL program and will be making a plan for the coming year. Things may change, the look of BFFL may be a bit different, but it will always revolve around ensuring pets on the streets are warm, safe and fed.
So as the year winds down, we would like to take this time to THANK YOU all for your time, your patience, your words of encouragement, you advice, your donations, your financial support, your generosity, your kindness, sharing our page and following our journey.
We truly hope that 2015 brings even more great adventures for BFFL and we wish the very best for all of you too!