Spend time with a shelter animal

Tony lying on the sand/grass with the bay in the background

I’ve been volunteering with Bobbi and the Strays (BATS) animal shelter in Freeport, Long Island for a few years now (they also have a location in Glendale, Queens). And though I don’t post all of my animal outings on my blog, this is one I wanted to share.

Most of the dogs at BATS are pit bulls/pit bull mixes. Many are either found wandering the streets that people bring in, or they’re tied to a pole outside of the shelter. Because of the stigma associated with this breed, it’s often difficult to adopt them out. Add to the fact that many of these dogs are not puppies, the barrier to adoption is compounded.

Volunteering at a shelter can at times be heartbreaking. You see these animals (dogs and cats) who have been abused, neglected, are sick or a combination of all. As an animal lover, you are overcome with sadness and helplessness that you can’t save every one, or at least be in a position to find each of them a loving, stable home. But it’s so important to try to put your emotions aside to be selfless in the time you spend with one of these animals. Due to limited space, the dogs spend 22 hours a day in small kennels. For most dogs, the kennel they stay in are large enough to at least stand and move about a little, but it’s still a harrowing effort in adopting out an animal caged all day long with little socialization.

Being able to give one or two hours, or any length of time, with an animal really does make a world of difference for them, especially with these dogs since they are pack animals that inherently thrive on socialization and interaction with other dogs and people. As often as I can, I will go to BATS and take one of the dogs out for a day’s adventure. Since I am not allowed to have dogs where I live, I plan ahead so I can figure out a place to take them. On this particular day, I decided to spend time with Tony, an American Staffordshire tied up to a pole outside of the shelter along with another dog, which the staff had named Carmella. Carmella was adopted earlier this year, but Tony was still waiting for a home. I took Tony to my favorite dog-friendly place – Gardiner County Park in Bayshore, Long Island – where I had taken other BATS dogs in the past. This park is amazing. I’ve been there many times and have only seen a tiny fraction of the 231 acres which sit along the Great South Bay. The Park has everything you could want, whether or not you have a dog. It’s clean with endless meadows of green grass and trees, has various paths to walk along, there’s a nice covered picnic area, and of course the beach, which the dogs absolutely love, even if they’re afraid of the water! You get a clear view of the Robert Moses Bridge and can see the Fire Island Lighthouse across the bay.

I urge anyone who is contemplating volunteering at a shelter – even if just to give one dog a short walk, or to sit and pet a cat – to do it. Not only is it therapeutic for you, but the animals will enjoy every second, even if they can’t tell you that themselves!

Tony is STILL UP FOR ADOPTION. He gets along with all dogs, but because of his playful nature he’s best suited for medium-larger dogs as he gets overly excited with smaller ones. He’s calm, obedient, great on a leash, and loves being around people. See the pics and videos below and learn more about him on the BATS website

Tony standing on the sandy trail with the bay in the background   Tony sitting on the sandy trail with the bay in the background   Tony sitting on a jetty right next to the water






Bobbi and The Strays Animal Shelter in Freeport, Long Island

Anyone who knows me, knows how deeply I love animals. And when I meet someone who possesses that same compassion, I feel like telling the world about them. A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a co-worker of mine, and she told me a story that I will never forget. When she was 10 years old, while she was in the car with her mother, she saw two dogs run across the street very close to one another other, as though they were tied together. She soon found out that they were – with barbed wire. Seeing this, she jumped out of the [stationary] car, ran over to these two stray dogs, and removed the barbed wire with her bare hands, all while her mother was yelling at her to come back to the car. Another co-worker of mine recently told me a story about how after weeks and weeks of seeing a sick puppy being treated at the vet for Distemper and Parvovirus, she took the dog home to give him the love and personal care he needed to nurse him back to health, only to spend a week with him before he died.

These may not seem like heroic acts in the scheme of things, but to an animal lover like myself, it makes me feel so good to know that there are people out there who love animals as much as I do and will do whatever they can to help make life better for them.

Which brings me to the reason for my post. For the past few months, I have been volunteering at Bobbi & The Strays, a 100% non-profit no-kill animal rescue organization, located in New York – with an adoption center in Queens and a shelter on Long Island.

They rescue stray dogs and cats from the streets, and from situations of abuse and neglect, as well as from “death row” at kill shelters in New York. The organization was started in the summer of 1995, by Roberta “Bobbi” Giordano. Bobbi was driving on a busy street when she saw a car strike a dog and then drive away. She immediately came to the dog’s aid, taking him to a vet for care. Sadly, the dog had a broken back and was unable to be saved. Although Bobbi had always been helping animals, having done her first rescue at the age of nine, it was this experience that was the pivotal one. Soon after, Bobbi quit her job in order to turn her passion for helping animals into a full-time mission. In 1998 she established Bobbi and the Strays.

Roberta “Bobbi” Giordano

I discovered this organization with a simple Google search. When I found it, I saw all of the great ways to volunteer on their site. I immediately wanted to become a Bobbi Buddy (ie: people who enjoy the company of a dog but cannot foster or adopt due to time or housing restraints; they take the dog to local parks, beaches, training sessions, etc.) so I quickly called and left a message. To my slight disappointment, I was informed that before I could become a Bobbi Buddy, I needed to go through a dog walking orientation, as well as fulfill hours walking the dogs and learning the ropes at the shelter of how it operates. I realized that, although my desire to immediately become a Buddy couldn’t happen, their rules and protocol were put in place for a reason, and I was more than happy to oblige. With a few months of dog walking on the weekends under my belt, I finally become a Bobbi Buddy to Tasha, an adorable 10 year old black and white beagle who loves to play catch with tennis balls.


Yesterday was my 4th weekend with Tasha. I took her to Gardiner County Park in Bayshore, Long Island, an amazingly beautiful dog-friendly park (not a dog park – there are no unleashed areas). It possesses everything which makes an ideal place for dog owners to go with their pets. It has tons of grassy areas to sit/picnic; both separate no-dogs allowed picnic areas, as well as dog-friendly picnic spots; benches sprinkled throughout, especially by the pond; easy-to-walk trails; a beach; a water pump to clean off; poop bags, garbage pails and restrooms. Not to mention free parking, friendly and considerate pet owners, and a clean environment for everyone. I’m not sure it gets any better than that.

Tasha got some needed exercise and socialization, and I got to spend time dog watching and enjoying the day. Even though it makes me sad knowing that I can’t bring her home for good, giving her the type of day all dogs should have, made me really happy. I try to still make time to walk the other dogs at the shelter, and know that even 1 hour of time makes a big difference. While the dogs do get walks, they’re mostly confined to their kennels/runs. Being able to spend a little time with them outside, one-on-one lets you get a better idea of their personality. And working alongside the staff and other volunteers reinforces the fact that there are people in this world who love animals as much as I do. One person in particular at the shelter, Sonia, the kennel manager, always has a smile on her face. Even when she’s down in the trenches, cleaning the kennels, walking the dogs or feeding them, whether it’s early in the day or late at night, she always greets me with a smile, and expresses her appreciation for the little time I am able to volunteer. She is a real asset to that shelter and I like seeing her when I am there. I do not know all the names of the many volunteers and employees, but the ones I do know (Tracey, Tara, Michelle, Mary and Matt) also make my time there enjoyable and worthwhile.

Tasha is just one of dozens of dogs at the shelter. They also house over a hundred cats, and are constantly caring for any that need medial attention and treatment. Below are just a few of the many animals waiting to be adopted to a forever home, or just looking for someone to spend time with. If  you’re interested in volunteering, donating or fostering, you can do so through their website, which is user-friendly and has continuously updated content. A contribution in any form is invaluable to their efforts. And if you are looking to add a dog or cat to your home, PLEASE, consider adoption over purchasing from a store or kennel. Bobbi and the Strays have purebreds, and there are also tons of rescue groups who are trying to find homes for specific purebreds. [Ironically] you can find some listed on the American Kennel Club’s website, and of course using Google.

Alpha & Athena
Bailey & Rumpole
Misty Blu
Tony & Carmella