Sunday, September 15, 2013

Action Day Rewind: Why Volunteer?

Sometimes my mind gets all over the place when I lack organization and structure.  So to compile my thoughts, I turned to the Dog Agility Blog Events Action Days to find some prompts.  Hence, Action Day Rewind.  The first is from 2011: Why Volunteer?

I have been volunteering at trials since the first one I entered.  I really enjoy volunteering at trials, for the following reasons:

1. The Murr is calmer (and can rest) if I am not sitting right by his crate.  If I'm right there, he will bark at those passing by.  But he will sleep or rest if I'm away.  So happy Murr = happy me = one more volunteer!

2. I am calmer if I'm working.  Because then I'm not anxiously sitting next to dozens of other exhibitors who are all pumping adrenaline through their bodies like woah and getting nervous or pacing.  Instead I'm doing something slightly more productive and can take my mind off the runs at hand.

3. I learn SO much in the ring.  Jump setting is the perfect place to observe (scribing is the worst, unless if you want to be well versed in judge's hand signals).  I can watch different handling styles, strategies in point games, and learn the course better just by working in the ring.  Things that I may not be ballsy enough to do on a run (reverse spin?) I get excited about when I see in action - especially when it is executed with great success.

4.  I watch YouTube videos of agility for fun at home, so why not get to see a variety of dogs get to run... in real life, and while getting some sun or breeze?

5.  I get to know other dogs and exhibitors by working in the ring.

6.  The vouchers help me justify entering trials (it's not that much money!)... and it's nice not having to worry about packing drinks because they'll quench the workers' thirst.

Yet many are wary to volunteer, and I totally understand that.  If your dog isn't well crate trained or has separation anxiety, they'll be barking their head off (or trying to escape) and that's more stressful for both you and the dog.  So being away from your dog is not beneficial.  Many are afraid of taking a job that they'll "mess up."  None of the jobs are rocket science, but write an extra "R" on the scribe sheet or confuse someone at the gate and you fear for your life.  If you always see the usual suspects in the ring, you may not feel like your needed - or wanted.  Or maybe you want the weekends to relax and not do manual labor, but rather just chill with your dog.  I think these are all valid concerns.  With that said, if you're standing outside the gate watching the class ahead of you and they're short a jump setter (and the judge is setting the jumps themselves), climb over the netting and jump set a class.  You may even get lunch for it!

I've recently started experiencing a sort of "volunteer burnout" despite not trialing for very long.  Because I have stayed through the end of the novice class at every gosh-darn trial, I would come home late every weekend.  So, just like everything else, it's about balancing.  In prioritizing where I will work, where I won't work, and where I will work just a teensy weensy bit, I have established some criteria:

1. If it's a club that I belong to, I will work and plan to spend the day.

2. If the group is appreciative of its volunteers, and puts them in jobs where they'd like to work, I will participate.

3. If the group compensates its workers well (the going rate here is ~$5/class) I will work through the end of Excellent, unless if they are *super* nice in which case I'll stay longer.

4. If I am more than an hour's drive away, I will leave after I'm done (see #2 and #3) so as to not have an even longer day.

Being nice and appreciative goes a long way.  Even at $5/class, that's less than most of us make at our day jobs, and this is a "fun day."  So I have to enjoy working, and I hate to say it but I don't want to be setting and resetting a chute at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon when I've written on my volunteer form that I am game for "anything except chute."  But thanking workers, whether it be a pat on the back or a worker raffle, putting them in jobs they want, and showing other forms of appreciation makes me want to come back and work more classes.

I would encourage others to volunteer in whatever capacity they deem appropriate, as if the club or show chair has to hire outside workers, the entry fees could ultimately increase.  So volunteer where you can, and if you're running the show thank your workers - you may wind up with some more eager beavers the next time around!

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