The bright white blink from the camera’s flash caused ‘Duane’ to crouch low, and flinch with trepidation.
Donna Linke and Pauline Markle rubbed the muscular, two-year-old mastiff mix’s shoulders to reassure him that all was OK.
The two local seniors are akin to nurturing moms to many of the 15 dogs at the Patti Dale Animal Shelter in Aldergrove.
Markle, 77, and Linke, 75, spend five days of their week taking dogs for walks at the shelter.
Through the years they’ve strolled alongside canines of all breeds and sizes, in all sorts of weather, from snow and ice, to pouring rain and searing heat.
They’ve acquired “a ton of skill” with walking dogs since they began volunteering at the shelter, says LAPS executive director Jayne Nelson.
“I bet you they’ve handled hundreds and hundreds of dogs,” estimated Nelson. “They’ve been to every training session we’ve ever offered, they do clicker training with the dogs… because of their skill level and their experience, they’re able to give just that much more.”
The two are driven by a love for animals and dogs in particular.
“We love dogs and they need walks,” Linke said. “They need to be taken out of their kennels and (be) given a nice walk on a beautiful trail.”
Markle said she feels empathy for the dogs who are suddenly placed in a kennel.
“They don’t know why they’ve been given up or abandoned,” Markle said. “They need that one-on-one attention and that’s where we come in. We give them a bit of love and attention.”
Markle said dogs love unconditionally. “They’re just so good-hearted, so loving, they just love any attention you can give them.”
Their volunteerism has been invaluable at the shelter, says Nelson.
“They are extraordinary women,” Nelson said. “They are super dedicated and their longevity, to last 15 years, volunteering five days a week is extraordinary.”
Nelson said LAPS “could not do what we do” without the help of the society’s roughly 250 active volunteers.
“LAPS was started by volunteers and volunteers are the heart of our organization, from reception to animal care,” Nelson said.
The efforts of volunteers such as Markle and Linke are integral in enriching the lives of the animals at the shelter, says Nelson.
“It’s stressful (for animals) to be in a shelter, no matter how good we try to make it,” she said.
“One of the best ways to reduce stress for dogs especially is to provide that social enrichment. They get that one-on-one time with people, they get to go out on a trail and go for a walk and in lots of cases they’re getting to go off-leash because it’s all fenced.”