Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Closure

Last Saturday, my family and I attended a fundraiser for Boxer Rescue. It was the 16th annual Boxer Bash, and I had worked at the first 15. My friend Vicki and I first dreamed up the event back in 2001 (she founded the rescue and then the two of us got it up and running more formally). A Boxer Rescue organization in a neighboring state hosted a similar event, so we took their idea and put our own spin on it. It was our first big fundraiser. Over the years, the event has grown considerably, sometimes generating as much as $20,000 in revenue.

I left the organization last year after 15 years of service. I have to admit that it was a painful time for me. I felt that I had to move on (for lots of reasons) but at the same time, I truly felt lost. The organization had been a part of my life for a very long time. I loved helping dogs. I loved hanging out with my Boxer-loving friends. I loved feeling like I was making a difference for animals in need.

Within any volunteer organization, you'll generally find some challenges when it comes to large groups of volunteers working together. When passionate people come together, it's not always smooth sailing. Some volunteers need lots of recognition and some would be embarrassed by the attention. Some volunteers have the time/inclination to do a lot for the organization and others just have a little time to spare. I always tried to make sure we were appreciative of all volunteers and their efforts. Conflicts arose from time to time, of course. Sometimes I was in the middle of such conflicts, sometimes not. We were all pretty good at "agreeing to disagree" in those times. I know that I'm not always a dream to work with.

Sometime last year, I began to see that there was some writing on the wall that I hadn't noticed before. I felt that I was being given some pretty clear signals my involvement was no longer needed. At the time, I was truly devastated. I don't know if my self-esteem has ever been lower. Thinking back on it now, I am reminded of that song with the line "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms."  I'm sure I was just feeling sorry for myself.

In the months after my departure, I was contacted by several of the volunteers. To my surprise, many said that they had enjoyed working with me and would miss my involvement with the rescue. I cried over a lot of those emails. I was just so touched to have people reaching out to me like that.

Ultimately, I came to realize that while a few people may have wanted me to go away, not everyone shared that sentiment. And honestly, maybe it was time for a change anyway. When I get comfortable, I don't leave. I was at my last job for 13 1/2 years and would probably still be there if I hadn't been part of an acquisition 6 1/2 years ago. Sometimes change has to be forced on me, and it's very hard at the time it's happening, but I can usually get some perspective on it later on.

I have found other things to do with my time, of course. I've taken on a board position at my church. I've done some volunteer work for a German Shepherd rescue.  I learned a lot about fundraising and fostering during my years with the Boxers and I still wanted to share it with an organization . . . if they would have me. I've been friends with the lady who runs the German Shepherd Rescue since before I was even involved with Boxer Rescue. So, she lets me help out with the Facebook page and foster from time to time.

As much as I do love German Shepherds, I am still a Boxer girl at heart. As the fall fundraiser for Boxer Rescue rolled around, I was pretty excited about attending as a regular ol' dog lover. I still want to support the rescue. I still want to be a cheerleader from the bleachers. Our family made plans to attend with Grover (Gretchen is too dog-aggressive to take to such events).  Our main goal was to have Grover run the lure course and wear his ass out.

Saturday turned out to be a rainy day. Fortunately, it dried up in the afternoon and they did end up setting up the lure course outside. I was ecstatic. We had driven two hours to wear out our puppy and were determined to do so! While waiting for the lure course to be set up, I bid on silent auction items, bought raffle tickets, and bought some tee shirts (there is a new theme and a new tee shirt every year). I did manage to win a door prize and a gift basket in the auction (bidding was pretty hot and heavy on some of that stuff). There was a painting in the raffle that I really wanted. A friend of mine won it, so now I just have to show up at her house unexpectedly and wait for her to leave me unattended for a few moments.

When the lure course opened for business, Grover was first in line. We got back in line several more times throughout the afternoon. He ran his little brains out.  We let him keep running, chasing the lure (AKA "plastic bag from the grocery store") until his tongue hung out of his mouth. Mission accomplished!  You see, our sweet puppy wakes up at 3 or 4 a.m. if not exercised thoroughly. Tired puppies sleep through the night.

Anyway, it was a great day. I was nervous about going but I'm glad I did. It was great to see the volunteers. I got lots of hugs and felt warmly received. One of the volunteers said, "You helped a lot of dogs, Claudia." I feel really good about that.

Me and my boyfriend Benny (if there was ever a dog I wish I could have adopted myself, it was him.)

Grover getting his ya-ya's out.

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