Text: Verónica G. Kaufman (@vero_g_kaufman)
Translate: Robin Motheral
Photos: Ana María
Ana María: «Volunteering is a big step against capitalism and in favor of collective responsibility.»
To listen to Ana María is to remember the important things in life. To stop, breathe and get back to basics: love, empathy, and solidarity. The story of Ana María and Walter didn’t start with a spark. She couldn’t explain it to me in words, but I was reminded of those stories of friendship that are formed in a silent, natural way. Nothing more.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I first decided I wanted to be a volunteer when I was 14, but I didn’t actually do it until I turned 19. At the time, I was feeling sad and needed something that really gave me purpose. That’s when I started volunteering in hospitals. Volunteering is a big step against capitalism and toward collective responsibility.
Why did you choose Voluntarios Itinerantes (VI) in particular?
What caught my attention most about VI is that you can choose your level of commitment. This gives us freedom and peace of mind. Every week you’re free to sign up to help or not, depending on your availability. Few volunteer groups allow you to do that.
Do you remember your first day at the shelter?
Yes, I remember it well. I’d never had a dog before, so it was all new for me. I didn’t know how to walk them. That day I got to walk several dogs and my arms were sore the next day.
Was it difficult for you to see the reality of shelter animals that first day?
The first day was emotional. I felt bad taking the dogs back to their cage after walking them. I wanted to take them all home with me. But then, I decided I wasn’t going to feel that way anymore. Now, every time I go, I only think about giving them my best while we’re together.
And then, you met Walter…
Yes. The first time I met him, he bit me (nothing serious!) because I was holding him in my arms while his cage was being cleaned and he wanted to be put down. He was just a puppy and had endless energy. With a friend, we joked that he was too ugly to be adopted. I thought about adopting him myself. At first it was a joke, but then it became a reality. It wasn’t love at first sight. We didn’t have a strong connection, but I knew we would become family.
«It wasn’t love at first sight. We didn’t have a strong connection, but I knew we would become family.»
What was the adoption process like?
When I made the decision to adopt him, one of the leaders from Voluntarios Itinerantes visited my apartment. She checked that my living conditions were appropriate for a dog, and that I had sufficient funds and a network of family and friends to take care of Walter if I couldn’t.
Has Walter adapted to his new life?
Completely. Walter is the most simple dog. At first, the city noises scared him. But, he adjusted quickly. He listens to me and gets along well with the other dogs in the neighborhood. He truly lives like a king. I take him with me everywhere. We’re family and I do my best to make sure he’s in good health and that he has a better life than he did before.
To anyone who’s afraid or hesitant to adopt a shelter dog, what would you say to them?
The dogs you see on Instagram are stereotypes. My dog doesn’t “play dead” or look like an Instagram dog. But he’s a happy dog. There are so many dogs who need us and are waiting for us to give them a better life.
«My dog doesn’t “play dead” or look like an Instagram dog. But he’s a happy dog.»
I didn’t want to sign off from my conversation with Ana María without meeting Walter. She held him in her arms, put him in front of the camera and kissed him. You’re a lucky guy, Walter!