IDEA #55. Take care of an animal—as a volunteer at a zoo, an animal shelter, or a veterinarian’s office. If you can’t find such an opportunity, put up signs offering yourself as a volunteer dog-walker or a pet-sitter for neighbors on vacation. It’s a big responsibility, though, so you must do it consistently and well.
Some children are drawn irresistibly to animals, and vice versa. For such fortunate children, service in animal care can be a natural match. What matters most of all is the ability to regularly assume responsibility for the health and welfare of other living things.
Some zoos, animal shelters, and veterinarian’s offices are happy to have volunteers who can come regularly to look after the basic needs of the animals, although there are often age limits; some clinics are uninterested in amateur help. It would be important for the young volunteer to have all inoculations up to date and of course for him or her to be able to commit to regular hours.
If making a long-term commitment to a zoo, shelter, or veterinarian is not feasible, shorter arrangements can often be made with neighbors who work or who are headed for vacation. An daily dog-walk or a week or two looking after household pets can provide owners with much-needed relief, and youngsters will enjoy building relationships with new animal friends.
Although pet-sitting and dog-walking often become paying jobs, there is no harm in the child undertaking some duties of this sort on a volunteer basis, at least as a first attempt; this might be especially true if the youngster’s reliability is not fully established. If more opportunities for this sort of work present themselves as time goes on, then it would be perfectly fine to go professional.