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Volunteer helps dogs find their forever homes

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Lynn McBee plays ball with a dog available for adoption at the Southern Oregon Humane Society shelter in Medford.
McBee named Jackson County’s volunteer of the month

Lynn McBee has some tricks up her sleeve when it comes to running successful dog play groups.

“We have a few groups — the rough and rowdy group and the gentle and dainty group,” said McBee, a volunteer with the Southern Oregon Humane Society, also known as SoHumane.

She’s the March winner of the Jackson County Community Service Award, a monthly award honoring local volunteers.

Dividing the dogs by temperament and play style helps minimize fights, bring shy dogs out of their shells and make sure each dog has a fun, safe experience. Play group might seem like it’s all fun and games, but having time to romp and socialize is critical for shelter dogs who have to spend time in their kennels while awaiting adoption.

“Twenty minutes of play group is like two hours of walking. We try to put dogs together every day in play groups,” McBee said.

She watches over each play group while wearing what she calls her tool belt. Her tools include a horn, squirt bottles and a soda can filled with objects that rattle in case she needs to grab a dog’s attention and distract it from negative behavior. If a vicious fight does break out, McBee has pepper spray as a last resort.

“I’ve never had anything horrible happen, but we’re prepared,” she said.

McBee said it’s important not to bring food or toys to group play time, because that can prompt resource-guarding behavior.

“That causes possessiveness. As humans, we’re possessive, too. We guard our food. We guard our cellphones,” she said.

Back in 2014, McBee started volunteering to walk dogs at SoHumane with her daughter, who was helping at the Medford shelter to fulfill community service hours for school.

“She did four hours a week,” McBee said of her daughter at the time. “I started saying, ‘Gosh, I’d like to do more.’”

McBee now volunteers almost every day of the week at SoHumane. She works mornings as an exercise specialist at Superior Athletic Club in Medford, training humans to be their best, then changes clothes and heads to SoHumane’s shelter.

Although fitness clients sometimes need to be encouraged and uplifted, McBee said the athletic world is generally upbeat. Volunteering at the SoHumane shelter is rewarding, but can be emotionally hard, she said.

“You’re seeing the dogs come in that have been surrendered by their owners from their homes. The dogs are very broken. For the first three or four days, you just see how distraught they are. They’ve been left and they don’t understand why,” McBee said.

Volunteers and staff members spend time with the dogs and show them love, she said.

“Dogs are the most unconditionally loving things on the planet. You work to get them rehabbed and adopted,” she said. “Sometimes they come back.”

McBee said some people aren’t prepared to be dog owners. Many people adopted puppies during COVID-19 lockdowns, and now that they are back to work, they’re bringing the grown dogs to SoHumane’s shelter and the Jackson County Animal Shelter.

Then there’s the perpetual problem of people who don’t take responsibility and spay and neuter their pets — resulting in litters of animals that don’t have homes.

But on the flip side are the people who adopt dogs and provide loving care, plus the staff and volunteers at the SoHumane shelter who take care of animals and help them get adopted, McBee said.

“It’s the most amazing organization,” she said. “The executive director is so compassionate, and the staff are amazing. It’s a hard job. You have to be tough and able to clean with bleach, do the laundry and deal with humans, cats and dogs.”

Southern Oregon Humane Society Executive Director Karen Evans and SoHumane volunteer coordinator Kira Welch nominated McBee for the monthly volunteer award presented by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. They said the special attention and training McBee gives to dogs with behavior issues is critical for the animals’ chances of adoption. The play groups she runs offer enrichment and socialization for shelter dogs.

In addition to working directly with dogs, McBee serves on SoHumane’s board, bringing her hands-on knowledge and experience to that leadership role, according to SoHumane staff.

McBee said she was honored to receive the county’s volunteer award for March.

“Come on down and volunteer,” she said. “People say, ‘I can’t volunteer because I would take every dog home.’ I have three dogs and I only took one home from the shelter. They need people. They need volunteers. If you’re having a bad day, go in there, and five minutes later, you’re having a good day.”

For information about volunteer opportunities at SoHumane and animals available for adoption, see sohumane.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.