How Volunteering at an NS SPCA Shelter Rescued Me: Emma’s Story

By Judy Layne

Where can you turn when the world seems to have been pulled out from beneath your feet?  When Emma’s life fell apart, she never imagined that she would be rescued by new friends with four paws.  Emma selflessly agreed to share her experience so it might help other people who felt like her.  Here’s her story……

”I’ve always dealt with anxiety and depression.  Being around new people would make me anxious, being alone would make me depressed and I wasn’t always sure how to deal with it.  But this was different.  My dad died, a relationship I was in ended badly and I got laid off – all within the space of 3 months.  I felt like my world was going to come crashing downI was a mess.

After several weeks of feeling hopeless, I told myself that ‘Enough is enough’.  I wanted to change.  I needed to change.  With encouragement from a close friend, I found a new job.  I always had a love of animals, so I started volunteering at an Nova Scotia SPCA Shelter.  I got to help socialize the cats and walk the dogs.  These may be simple tasks, but they meant so much to the animals that they meant a lot to me.

I had read that the act of simply petting a cat or dog could improve your mental and emotional health, but I didn’t think it would work for me.  But it did.  Each time I left the shelter, I did so with a more positive mindset.  I never could have imagined how volunteering with these sweet homeless animals would change my life in the way that it did.

When I was volunteering, it never felt like ‘work’.  It was something that I started to look forward to.  I thought it would be exhausting, but it wasn’t.  It was actually a great time to de-stress, to rid my mind of any worries or problems that I had and focus on the animals.

On my second day there, I met a 10-year old cat whose owner had just died.  Smokey was very sad and understandably scared.  I talked gently to him and told him that I knew how it felt to be so down. After a few minutes, Smokey came out of his kennel, curled up on my lap and fell asleep.  It was such a simple thing, but it was beautiful.  To think that an animal trusts you enough to sleep in your arms and find comfort in being held.  It helped me so much.

I was amazed to see what care, patience and love can do to restore broken bodies and spirits.  I saw animals that had been neglected or abused learn to trust, open up and bloom.  And to know that I had a small part to play in their transformation made me feel great and boosted my self-confidence.  Although it was hard to say goodbye to an animal you’ve become attached to, when their perfect ‘forever’ home was found, it reminded me of why the Nova Scotia SPCA is so important.

All the animals I have met give me unconditional love and accept me for who I am.  The shelter staff and other volunteers make me feel welcome and comfortable because we share a common purpose. I still have some depression and anxiety, but volunteering at the shelter gives me a purpose again.

If you get the chance, I’d encourage you to volunteer.  It can be a life-changer. I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to share my love with these wonderful animals and help them on their journey to finding families who will adore them.  I wish the animals understood the positive impact that they have had on my life.  I wish they knew that they rescued me.”

This year, the Nova Scotia SPCA will care for more than 6,000 pets. Some pets were abandoned, injured, homeless or abused… but they all deserve a second chance. It’s tough – but you can make it easier. Learn some of the many ways to help and get involved here.


Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.