Animal lover gives a lick

Candice Lafourcade of Hahnville and shelter dog Paula.

Volunteers 126 hours at shelter

For Candice Lafourcade, there is no better feeling than the one she gets when she walks into the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter and finds  one of the many furry, familiar faces is missing.

“I love to go and see who isn’t there, because that means they’ve found a home,” said Lafourcade, a regular volunteer at the shelter. “That means the world to me.”

She volunteered 126 hours of her time at the shelter last year and finds the experience endlessly rewarding. Her efforts began with her introduction to the process at the shelter’s Give-a-Lick volunteer training and orientation day in February of last year, an event the Luling shelter will be hosting again on Saturday.  Lafourcade learned of the event after speaking with a Hahnville neighbor as the two were walking their dogs one day.

“I mentioned volunteering and she told me she and her daughter had been volunteering at the St. Charles shelter and that they were about to hold a training,” Lafourcade said.

After researching the event on Facebook, she made her way to Give-a-Lick to explore volunteering for the first time — though it wasn’t her first time at the shelter by any means.

“I’ve adopted three dogs and two cats (from the shelter),” Lafourcade said. “We’ve been going there to get our pets for about seven years. I’m kind of a bleeding heart though, and I was afraid volunteering might be a bad experience for me, that the dogs would be depressed, it would be sad and that I’d just try to bring all of them home.”

The experience has been anything but that, she said. While she noted with a laugh that the fear she’d want to “take them all home” wasn’t exactly unfounded, she realized quickly the animals at the shelter were socialized, happy and, most of all, grateful for some playtime with a new human friend.

“I told Dr. Jena (Troxler, the shelter’s supervisor) that I didn’t want to come here and be sad,” Lafourcade said. “And she said that the last thing she wanted was for the shelter to be a sad place. When I realized these dogs were happy, it just made me want to go back. And I’ve been going ever since.”

Typically, she arrives once a week and makes sure every dog gets walked — the length of each depends on how many volunteers are in on the effort that day. Some weeks she’ll set up dog beds, others she’ll clean up the side yard for the animals to have a nice play space. Volunteers may also socialize cats by playing with them in a visitation room.

Her favorite part, though, is to help potential adopters find their perfect fit — and for that perfect fit to find its forever home.

“We help them choose their dogs, and that’s something I really love,” she said, noting pet adoption has a plethora of benefits for both adopter and adoptee. “Shelter dogs didn’t ask to be there …. My experience with adopting shelter animals is they will thank you for the rest of their lives. They’ll do anything they can to please you, to thank you and to love you, and it’s unconditional. It lengthens your life as well, makes you active by taking them outside to play. It’s just good all the way around.”

Give-a-Lick was established in September of 2016 as a way to engage the community with the animal shelter and improve the perception that one can help in many ways, not just by adopting.  Troxler’s children actually created the name Give-a-Lick and made a banner for that first day for attendees to sign as the shelter gave volunteer training and behind the scenes tours to prospective helpers.

Lafourcade says many people are hesitant to adopt because they may worry the dogs will misbehave or bite, which she said is a misconception. Another deterrent is that many of the dogs don’t have developed social skills yet, all the more reason she finds her trips to the shelter rewarding.

“I feel like I’m adding to their lives,” she said. “I was worried I wouldn’t have time at first, but once I began doing it, it became a priority for me and I made the time. Some people may come in once a month, or once a week … it all helps.”

And that experience has led her to challenge her co-workers who voice the same hesitation.

“They’ll say, ‘Maybe when I retire.’ But I say, ‘Try it once.’ You may find you really like it and it may just become something you’re happy to make the time for,” Lafourcade said.

Give-a-Lick will be from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturday morning (March 24).


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