Tweeton: Make a resolution to volunteer at Arizona Small Dog Rescue

Arizona Small Dog Rescue annually helps more than 1,000 abandoned and neglected dogs find their forever homes.

So it comes as no surprise that this popular non-profit (501(3)C) shelter — considered one of the Valley’s best — relies heavily on its corps of fosters and volunteers to help, and why so many continue to dedicate whatever free time that can to saving these animals and giving them a second chance at the lives they so richly deserve.

Leslie Tweeton

When a friend suggested I help her out with a dog adoption event, I had no idea what to expect, nor did I predict that, six years later, I would still be volunteering!

We met early that morning, my first visit to Arizona Small Dog Rescue, whose shelter is located in south Phoenix (plans to move are under way). There before me, in large rooms along the left side of the hallway, were the facility’s current residents: dogs of all sizes, shapes, ages and breeds; some jumping, some barking, and some so fearful they hid in the corner or beneath their beds, like the little blonde terrier that would soon be mine.

Working from a list provided by the shelter’s manager, we carefully loaded that Saturday’s 15 or so “event dogs” into crates fitted with towels, grabbed their files, and headed off to the pet store to welcome potential adopters and the scores of folks “just looking.”

Over the course of the next three hours, there was a lot of barking, plenty of peeing, and friendships launched with fellow volunteers. There were also nine dogs adopted that day. I was hooked.

The rewards of volunteering for a rescue are tremendous, and often immediate, as each week, dogs you have come to know and love find new homes. And the opportunities to help are so wide-reaching, which means people can volunteer anywhere from an hour a day to several days a week.

While the weekend adoption events are always in need of an extra pair of hands, AZSDR also needs help at the shelter, bathing the dogs, helping socialize the shy ones with hot dogs in the “Meet and Greet Room,” and exercising dogs by taking them for walks or outside in the back for some greatly appreciated play time.

By far the greatest volunteer need of all is for fosters — those who are able to open their homes to care for moms who just had their litters, dogs just out of surgery who need a quiet place to rest and heal, or the fearful dogs who need time in a home to learn love and trust at the hands of a human.

AZSDR’s Laura Burgess discovered fostering when her oldest daughter needed a few community service hours for the National Junior Honor Society. That was in 2010, and her family has since fostered more than 300 dogs.

“We have grown closer as a family through fostering,” she says. “The kids have learned to put the needs of others before themselves and that they can make a real difference in the world. They have gained life skills, communication skills and self-esteem, all through fostering. Knowing that we have helped find homes with so many wonderful people is an indescribable feeling.”

To learn more about foster and volunteer opportunities at Arizona Small Dog Rescue, please visit or follow the shetler’s Facebook page. Donations are currently being matched through the end of the year and can be made online or mailed to the shelter, 1102 W. Hatcher Road, Phoenix, AZ 85021.

Editor’s Note: Leslie Tweeton is the personal assistant to two dogs and two cats. In her spare time, she is also a PR consultant and AZSDR volunteer.

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