By Dawn Watson
Over the course of the past five years, Mina Kahofer has walked hundreds of dogs. Practically every single day without fail, she leaves her Wainscott home in the morning and again in the afternoon to head down to Daniel’s Hole Road to visit her furry four-legged friends at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.
Many of the dogs that Mina walks have been saved from kill shelters and puppy mills. They arrive at ARF sad and scared, having been neglected and locked away in cages. But their fear and loneliness turns around quickly after the pooches experience the human kindness that Mina and her fellow volunteers have to offer.
Walking the dogs is about much more than just exercising them, she says. It’s about showing them compassion and love, teaching them how to trust people, and helping them to become adoptable so they can find their forever homes and the happiness they deserve.
Mina not only takes the pooches out for their daily constitutionals, she’s also a doggie foster mom. Right now she’s taking temporary care of Lovely, a 10-year-old miniature poodle who came to the Wainscott-based shelter in need of medical attention and some good old-fashioned TLC. And then there’s Sherman, a 10-year-old mutt she’s taken care of for the past two years after he was brought in to the shelter, rescued from being tied up alone and with no food and water.
“He’s such a good boy,” she says of her longer-term foster pet, who “looks like a big black bear but is just so docile and sweet.”
Although Mina’s commitment to the animals is extraordinary, her reason for donating her time is similar to many of those who come to bond with the dogs and cats at our local animal shelters. She lost a pet and wasn’t quite ready to adopt again but wanted to share her love.
Similar circumstances brought Nancy Buscemi to donate her time at ARF. The East Hampton resident began spending four or five days a week walking the dogs after the loss of her beloved pet, whom she had also adopted from there. She’s since brought another pet home from the shelter but she still keeps coming to help out as often as she can.
The need for volunteers is great, she says, urging animal lovers to come and spend even 15 minutes to help out. Any amount of time spent will find grateful recipients, she adds, and it’s guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of all involved.
“It gives you the most wonderful feeling to see a dog start to wag his or her tail, allow you to pet them, and receive a dog kiss in a few days after arrival,” she says, describing her time as a volunteer. “You can make that big difference in the life of a deserving dog even if you only have a short time to spare. And who knows, like many of us volunteers, you may just find that perfect new addition to your family.”
During the holidays, many people look to find ways to share their resources. Bettering the lives of homeless animals is a perfect way to do it, says Jamie Berger, ARF’s director of marketing and communications.
Each and every shelter around the East End could use the help of volunteers and supporters, she says. For those who are looking to become more involved, there are numerous opportunities, including sharing even short amounts of time to come play, walk and cuddle the dogs and cats; fostering pets; donating money and supplies, including food, linens and toys; adopting; taking part in reducing and caring for feral cat colonies; and participating in various fundraising drives.
Ms. Berger is quick to point out that adoptions are hopefully the end goal for many sheltered animals, but that they should be approached thoughtfully, especially during the holidays. So instead of running out to the shelter and picking up a dog or cat as a present, make sure to bring in all involved parties when choosing a future forever family member.
“Don’t give a pet as a gift that can be returned,” she says. “Do it the right way. ”
For those who are seeking the thrill of surprise for under the tree, pick out all the necessary care items — such as the food and water bowls, supplies, beds, leashes, litter boxes — and giftwrap them. Then, bring the whole family in to choose and bond with the new pet.
“That way, everybody wins,” she says.
To learn more about the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, visit www.arfhamptons.org. Additional local shelters and rescue organizations include the Southampton Animal Shelter (www.southamptonanimalshelter.com), Last Chance Animal Rescue Fund (www.lcarescue.org) and Elsa’s Ark Animal Rescue (www.elsasark.org).