My Shelby dog died just over a year ago. She was a sweet and loving German Shepherd who was an integral part of our family. It was tough losing her and her wonderful spirit.

Shelby was my walking partner – twice each day, everyday. We walked in the rain. We walked in the snow. We walked before daylight and we walked at night. Shelby loved fetching sticks and she loved other animals. I miss her deeply.

Just recently, I began working as a dog walking volunteer at our Animal Shelter. Now I have an entire kennel full of wonderful, loving animals.

The resiliency of these shelter dogs inspires me each and every day. Once escorted outside their cage, they awake to the sights, sounds and smells of the outside world. Happily, their “dog-ness” returns almost immediately.

I begin each walk using my “baby-talk” speak which helps set the tone for our short journey. Each animal reveals a little about themselves, their background, their training, their needs and their preferences. My goal for each animal is to establish a trusting relationship so as to maximize their brief time outside in the fresh air.

Many of my dogs were previously owned. Many were house-trained. Many are used to walking on a leash while others are often scared to death of cars, humans and loud sounds.

But I learn something from each animal I walk. Their backgrounds are as varied as life itself and my hope for each of them is that they find a good, safe and loving home.

I do have my favorites and once they are adopted I am saddened. Yet, I know that a part of me is with them – my smells, my “baby-talk” and my memories.

— Thomas from Raleigh, NC