Bridget Vargas: Why I volunteer

A passion for helping dogs turns into a rescue and rehabilitation project between Minneapolis and Puerto Rico

Bridget Vargas, founder of nonprofit Forever Loved, with her dogs

How do you currently volunteer?

In addition to my fulltime job, I founded a volunteer-run nonprofit animal rescue called Forever Loved, and I spend a lot of time volunteering for it. Forever Loved focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs from Puerto Rico where there are an estimated 200,000 unwanted and abused stray dogs roaming the streets and beaches. In addition, my daughter and I volunteer at the Farm Sanctuary. I am also a certified yoga instructor and teach classes to help other volunteers relax and find ways to cope with the stress that can come into play while working in the animal welfare arena.

What were your volunteer experiences as a child?

When I was in junior high, I volunteered at our local animal shelter with my mom. We really enjoyed our time walking the animals, cleaning their cages and making sure they got companionship while they waited to find their forever homes.

What enables you to volunteer like you do?

I've always had a passion for animals and helping people in need, and have had many opportunities to connect and network with other like-minded individuals. Once I found my purpose, everything else just fell into place and has allowed me to share my skills with others.

Talk about a time you received more than you gave.

Each time I place a dog in its forever home, I recall the work it took to get the dog to us in the first place and all the suffering that some of the pups have gone through. But when I see the pup and the adopting family interact with one another, it is such a touching experience. I get so much more from that heartfelt moment than I gave in the entire process.

Share with us some lessons you have learned through your work as a volunteer.

I fostered a little three-legged pup who was hit by a car, left to live on the streets, and he was abused. It took him a couple days to even come out of his crate once he got to my house. I wasn't sure if he would ever come around, as he was very shy and scared of everything. But thanks to time, patience and lots of love, he did, and it was amazing to see him emerge from this shell. However, I was a "foster failure" with this little guy, because I ended up adopting him. He has been such a blessing to our family!

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