If you come across Ron Vrabel wearing a mud-splattered volunteer t-shirt and a big smile, it probably means he has just spent the morning at one of his favorite spots: St. Hubert’s Doggy Day Camp. Ron volunteers there two mornings a week, helping staff wrangle up to 30 dogs at a time and making sure everyone is happy and safe. An aspiring dog trainer himself, Ron thinks there is no better place to observe dog behavior. “So many interesting things happen. I love to see how the dogs behave around each other; the dynamics are amazing,” he says. He drops off his own dog, Daisy, for camp one day a week when he is not volunteering.
Doggy Day Camp staff greatly appreciate Ron’s commitment, reliability and affinity for the dogs. “The dogs all love him, and run up to the fence when he arrives. He is part of us,” says staff member Terri.
A volunteer since 2016, Ron has cleaned kennels, helped with transports, and enjoys walking dogs at the shelter. He gravitates towards the bigger, higher energy ones who may be having trouble adjusting to the kennel environment. He takes them for much-needed long walks, into the play yards, or out “swamping.” He is out for an hour or more, and the lucky dog always looks happy and relaxed afterward.
Ron also assists the behavior team with morning playgroups, which assess the sociability of dogs and provide a valuable way for them to expend energy and reduce their frustration. Playgroups offer Ron another great opportunity to observe canine dynamics. “There are so many opportunities to interact with the animals at St. Hubert’s,” he says, “so much care and feeding here.”