"Arriving in South Africa over a year ago, I was excited about the two volunteer programs I had signed up for through African Impact. I was starting my journey by volunteering at the TEARS Animal Sanctuary in Cape Town, moving on to volunteer in Namibia for EHRA, and then completing my time in Africa by doing some independent travel. After that I had almost a year of travel for myself lined up, but what I didn't expect was to meet one of the loves of my life while volunteering! Piper was the smallest puppy that I helped to take care of at TEARS, but she had the most spunk and independent spirit of the group. It was love at first sight.
My role as a volunteer at TEARS included helping to take every dog to the "green space" so they could have time to interact and play off-leash, helping to walk every dog at the sanctuary, helping potential adopters meet dogs, and taking care of the puppies. What we were doing felt so important because it was making a difference in the quality of life for these dogs, but what mattered most to me was the time I got to spend with Piper. When my three weeks were up and it was time to move on to my next volunteer trip, I was heartbroken to have to leave her behind. I knew that it wasn't even feasible to go back for her for almost a year, since I already had other non-refundable travel plans that I had worked for years to be able to afford and arrange. I comforted myself with the thought that there had to be someone else out there who would love her and adopt her....but over time I realized that idea wasn't really good enough for me.
Telling yourself that someone else will take care of a problem, or help out where help is needed, rings false when you know you are perfectly capable of doing that work yourself. Wasn't I always lecturing people on adopting and not shopping for puppy-mill dogs? Didn't I believe in acts of service, and making a difference in this world? If I cared so much about homeless dogs and the lonely lives they can lead, why wasn't I dedicating more than three weeks of my life to helping change this? When my year of travel was up and Piper was still homeless, I was thrilled to adopt her myself. Having her home with me in the USA and knowing the responsibility of her life is all mine is so completely gratifying. She brings me so much joy and faithful companionship. I feel peaceful knowing that I am doing my own small part to help with the pet overpopulation problem. Volunteering in Africa has truly changed my life! I hope to impact others that we meet and inspire them to do what they can, no matter how small or large the act is, to make a difference."
Please note that adopting a dog in South Africa to take abroad is a very complex process and only allowed in exceptional cases.