With only two years of retirement under her belt, Cindy Friedman is still figuring out how she’d like to spend the rest of it. But what she does know is she likes volunteering – especially with groups focused on animal adoption like the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village and BREW Beagles.

At Rescue Village, Friedman volunteers walking the dogs, assisting in various places. Though since the pandemic began, she hasn’t been going very often.

“But when I do go, it’s about letting dogs be dogs,” she said. “Giving them a break to run around and play. I walk the dogs on (Geauga Humane Society’s) beautiful grounds and trails in the woods. It’s fun. You get to meet these beautiful dogs and I love dogs.”

She also works with Rescue Village to put on outreach events, taking adoptable dogs to a location and passing out fliers. She has also helped with Woofstock in the past, the organization’s biggest yearly fundraiser.

With Midwest Beagle Rescue, Education & Welfare (BREW Beagles), which serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, she found the group when fostering a beagle with health issues.

“I was looking online for information and I found this group,” she recalled. “For them, I do home visits and take (the dogs) around the houses, introducing them to families and their current pets.”

Right now, she doesn’t have a beagle but Friedman calls the applicant, tells them about the adoption process and drives dogs around to get adopted.

“We don’t currently foster any dogs (at home), but we plan to,” she added.

CJN: What made you choose these organizations?

Friedman: I volunteered previously, but not as much because I didn’t have the time. My husband doesn’t let me have all of the dogs I want to have, so I started working with rescues so I could be with more dogs. The downside is you meet a dog you want to have, but you can’t. Even as a kid, I’ve always loved dogs and wanted them all. So, that was a pretty easy decision. With work, I was just so sick of meetings and dealing with a bunch of personalities, and dogs don’t have that. They have their own thing. I loved my job, but I didn’t love dealing with office politics. With dogs, there are no boring meetings.

CJN: How has your Jewish identity played a role in your effort to give back?

Friedman: I take my Jewish identity seriously but not really. But to be kind and to give back, that is a big Jewish thing. It’s even more so about being a human being. You give more than you take. And I have the time and ability to do it. I give to these dogs and it’s hard to say who is doing who the favor. I wasn’t brought up very religious, so this is me just doing the right thing.

CJN: What have you learned about volunteering in retirement?

Friedman: I’ve learned how nice it is to not have to work. But seriously, it was time for a change and I could be more fully involved. I couldn’t squeeze in time to help these rescues. But, it has brought a lot of joy to me and the dogs I help. When you take a dog to be adopted, like those beagles, and you see the people meet the dog and everyone is so happy and smiling, sometimes you just tear up a bit.

You get people who have recently lost their pets or are lonely, so when you’re there to facilitate them opening their arms to a new best friend, it is magical. At the shelter, the dogs who have stayed there longer, start to open up to you and show their personality. A shelter can be a very scary place for a dog, so it feels good to help them out of their shell.

CJN: To whom do you credit your interest in volunteering?

Friedman: I didn’t learn it from a young age – but I just love it so much. I just wanted to help and be with dogs more and help more people. The only way to do that is to volunteer. I can’t have 10 dogs at my house, no one would get the proper attention. Dogs at a shelter need that attention. So, helping at the shelter brings me and them joy, so that’s why it is important to me. It did start because I wanted another dog, but my husband said no. So, this is like my therapy. You’re not thinking about your problems. Dogs live in the moment and I like to emulate that.

When asked why other retirees should consider volunteering, Friedman said it’s simply because it gives you something to look forward to.

“It gives you a schedule and fills the time because you can’t just watch TV and read books all the time,” she said. “It gets you out and about, and you engage with people and are social. You have a place and purpose. Now I have the time to just enjoy it all. So, I would encourage anyone who wants to give back to do it. You have the time, so use it. Why wouldn’t you volunteer?”

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