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Marines help the hounds in town

By Cpl. Michael Nease | | November 16, 2005

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Five station Marines volunteered some time and effort to the community Nov. 16 by exercising stray and orphaned dogs at the Humane Society of Yuma, Ariz.

This community service opportunity arose through the Single Marine Program, which aims to improve quality of life for unmarried service members. Community service is one of the program’s tenets.

The Humane Society, a non-profit organization, holds all kinds of animals -- mostly dogs and cats, but also raccoons, chickens, rabbits and others -- until they are adopted into a good home. If the Humane Society staff deems an animal unadoptable due to a violent nature or other reasons, they will euthanize the animal. It can be a sad place, said Elkie
Wills, society community relations representative.

As the Marines walked down the long aisles of cages, dogs of all breeds, from dachshunds to Dalmatians, turned their eyes to their would-be saviors. These animals only leave their cages during daily cleaning, or when staff or volunteers have time to take them out on a leash. But with roughly 80 dogs in the kennel, even these moments of relative freedom are rare.

“That can be detrimental to their chance of finding a home because some of them just can’t take it,” said Wills. “They either become really timid or aggressive. So the handling -- the socializing with people -- I think it really helps ensure that they’ll get a good home.”

The Marines took the very excited dogs from their cages and ran and played with them along a nearby canal. Though for only a short while, these caged lives got a whiff of free air.

The volunteering event was dubbed ‘Help for the Hounds’ by SMP Coordinator Angie Marchman, who worked for a veterinarian in town for a while and became familiar with the Humane Society.

The Marines went to help the dogs, but they got something good out of it too, said Marchman.

The Marine Corps does not allow dogs in its barracks. For single Marines who are far from their families and pets, volunteering at the Humane Society lifted morale on a few levels.

“It’s a lot of fun because we don’t have the opportunity to have dogs in the barracks,” said Lance Cpl. Ben St. Cyr, a station identification clerk from Sanford, Maine. “Here, we can take care of them, play with them and run them -- they need running.

“I love animals and wanted to get off work -- it breaks up the week a bit,” St. Cyr added,
“and it’s always nice to help out the community.”

Wills said she has some Marines who volunteer regularly, which is ideal, but she is thankful for all the society’s volunteers.

“We’ve had such good luck with Marines and their families because they’ve been dedicated to helping out. They work really hard and have no problem getting in there with the animals,” said Wills. “We’re thankful for the group that we have, especially for the group that’s consistent.”

Marchman plans to make this a regular event. The next scheduled Help for the Hounds will be Jan. 20. For more information about volunteering or SMP, call Marchman at 269-6556.

The Humane Society of Yuma is located at 285 North Figueroa Avenue, just north of Avenue C off of 1st Street. For more information about the Humane Society or volunteering, call 762-1621. 

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