The setting sun casts golden light on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains. A group of students waits behind a strip on the other side of Foothill Boulevard, just a few minutes’ walk from the edge of Harvey Mudd College.
At last, a door opens: out comes Blue, a bluish-black pit bull with huge, sweet eyes. She looks adorable, eager to receive pets and ready for a walk around the block. Soon after comes Jethro — a hound full of energy with ridiculously soft ears — and Marty McFly, Opal, Nova, Bubby … all very good dogs living at Priceless Pets, a no-kill shelter about a 15-minute walk north of the Claremont Colleges.
According to Pitzer College economics professor Maya Federman, a volunteer at the shelter, there are two other locations, one in Chino Hills and another in Costa Mesa, with a fourth in Irwindale opening soon. Beyond dogs, they rescue cats, rabbits and guinea pigs, taking care of them until they find forever homes.
At this HMC event on Nov. 21 organized by Mudders Making a Difference (MMAD), students volunteered to walk the dogs. As a student organization affiliated with the Community Engagement Office at HMC, MMAD organizes community service events, such as this dog walk, and advertises them to students.
This is their second time organizing this activity, after their first one on Nov. 7 was met with great success. For each event, more than 20 students signed up, doubling the initially projected turnout. As a result of this paw-pularity, MMAD hopes to hold a third walk on Dec. 11, according to Georgia Klein HM ’24, who is leading the events.
A dog-related event had been in discussion at MMAD meetings since the beginning of the semester. Dog walking turned out to be an easy event to put together; unlike other ways of volunteering with the shelter, it does not require any training or form-filling.
“You can see how happy [the dogs] are.” —Georgia Klein
“We are going off-campus, engaging with the world around us,” Klein said about the appeal of the activity. “Sometimes as a 5C student, I feel like I just go to Mudd and forget where I am in the greater context of the world.”
And, of course, there are the dogs.
“It’s really amazing to interact with them,” Klein said. “You can see how happy they are.”
Federman helped coordinate the activity with MMAD. She’s been volunteering with the shelter for several years, helping out almost every day. She said a couple of volunteers at the shelter are students from the Claremont Colleges, and Federman has been reaching out to the colleges to find ways to connect with more students.
So, events such as the one organized by MMAD are more than welcome.
“We would love to have more students [volunteering], because it’s so therapeutic,” Federman said. “It’s a very flexible volunteer opportunity. You don’t have to commit to a certain time. If you have an hour, or even half an hour — that’s a half hour that a dog gets some love.”
To volunteer for Priceless Pets, students fill out a form, then complete an online or on-site orientation. Though there’s no time commitment or expectation, the shelter needs volunteers in the mornings during weekdays the most. Federman recommends that students email her if they apply to make sure that their form gets processed.
“If there is a group of students who want to organize an event, they can just shoot me an email,” Federman said. “It’s so easy — we are right here, and it’s a great opportunity for the dogs.”
Fur sure, volunteering and helping walk the dogs are not the only ways of supporting the shelter. They have a link to an Amazon wishlist on their page for donating supplies — there is always something they need, be it cleaning supplies or poop bags.
For students who live off-campus and in housing that permits pets, fostering is also an option. The shelter often has medical fosters or older dogs who would benefit from a calmer environment than what it can provide. Moreover, sometimes there are also pregnant dogs or cats that can only be taken in if a foster is available. Priceless Pets offers everything that may be needed to take care of the foster, including supplies like food and toys and support like vet care.
“I think that [fostering] would be great for a student,” Federman said. “You know you are going to graduate and can’t necessarily commit to a dog for the next five years or eight years, but you can commit for a couple months or weeks.”
Those interested in fostering can also find information about it on their webpage or contact Federman directly via email.
And if anyone is looking to adopt, all the pets in the Priceless Pets system are posted on their website.