Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Lynn McBee plays catch with a dog available for adoption at the Southern Oregon Humane Society shelter in Medford.
McBee named Jackson County Volunteer of the Month
Lynn McBee has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to running successful dog playgroups.
“We have a few groups: the rough and tumble group and the gentle and gentle group,” said McBee, a volunteer with the Humane Society of Southern Oregon, also known as SoHumane.
She is the March recipient of the Jackson County Community Service Award, a monthly award that honors local volunteers.
Dividing dogs by temperament and play style helps to minimize fighting, bring timid dogs out of their shells, and ensure each dog has a fun and safe experience. Group play may 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 group play is like two hours of walking. We try to get the dogs together every day in playgroups,” McBee said.
She watches over each playgroup while wearing what she calls her utility belt. Her tools include a horn, spray bottles and a soda can filled with objects that she rattles in case she needs to get a dog’s attention and distract him from negative behavior. If a fierce fight breaks out, McBee has pepper spray as a last resort.
“Nothing horrible has ever happened to me, but we are prepared,” he said.
McBee said it’s important not to bring food or toys to group play, because that can trigger resource-protecting behavior.
“That causes possessiveness. As humans, we are also possessive. We save our food. We protect our cell phones,” she said.
In 2014, McBee began volunteering to walk dogs at SoHumane with her daughter, who was helping out at the Medford shelter doing community service hours for school.
“I was doing four hours a week,” McBee said of his daughter at the time. “I started to say, ‘God, I wish I could do more.'”
McBee now volunteers almost every day of the week at SoHumane. He works mornings as an exercise specialist at the Superior Athletic Club in Medford, training humans to perform at their best, then changes clothes and heads to SoHumane’s shelter.
Although fitness clients sometimes need encouragement and encouragement, McBee said the athletics world is generally upbeat. Volunteering at the SoHumane shelter is rewarding, but it can be emotionally difficult, she said.
“You are seeing the dogs enter that have been delivered 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 stayed and they don’t understand why,” McBee said.
Volunteers and staff members spend time with the dogs and show them love, he said.
“Dogs are the most loving and unconditional things on the planet. You work to get them rehabilitated and adopted,” she said. “Sometimes they come back.”
McBee said some people aren’t cut out to be dog owners. Many people adopted puppies during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and now that they’re back at work, they’re bringing the adult dogs to SoHumane Shelter and the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
Then there is the perpetual problem of people not taking responsibility and spaying and neutering their pets, resulting in litters of animals that are homeless.
But on the other side are the people who adopt dogs and provide loving care, as well as the SoHumane shelter staff and volunteers who care for the animals and help them get adopted, McBee said.
“It’s the most amazing organization,” he said. “The CEO is very compassionate and the staff is amazing. It is hard work. You have to be strong and able to clean with bleach, do laundry, and deal with humans, cats, and dogs.”
Humane Society of Southern Oregon Executive Director Karen Evans and SoHumane Volunteer Coordinator Kira Welch nominated McBee for the monthly volunteer award presented by the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners. They said the special care and training McBee provides to dogs with behavioral problems is critical to the animals’ chances of adoption. The playgroups she runs provide enrichment and socialization for the shelter’s dogs.
In addition to working directly with dogs, McBee is a member of SoHumane’s board of directors and brings practical knowledge and experience to that leadership role, according to SoHumane staff.
McBee said she was honored to receive the county’s volunteer award in March.
“Come and volunteer,” he said. “People say, ‘I can’t volunteer because I’d take all the dogs home.’ I have three dogs and only brought one home from the shelter. They need people. They need volunteers. If you’re having a bad day, walk in and five minutes later, you’re having a good day.”
For information on SoHumane volunteer opportunities and animals available for adoption, visit sohumane.org.
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.