Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
His name was Tiger. He was a 13-year-old Yorkshire Terrier with eyes that were too big for his face. He was nervous, understandably, having been displaced after his family had to give him up. Tiger was one of 3.9 million dogs that enter shelters every year, and was one of the 1.2 million who were scheduled to be euthanized (according to the ASPCA).
I met Tiger while volunteering for an organization called Freedom Train Animal Rescue Transports. They transfer dogs from overcrowded “kill” shelters in the south to “no-kill” shelters in the north. Each volunteer drives one leg of the trip, about 60-90 miles, to a meeting spot where the dogs are transferred to the next volunteer, “relay style,” until they reach their destination. I did not know what to expect during my first time volunteering with Freedom Train. When we arrived at the meeting spot to pick up the dogs we were assigned to transport, another volunteer walked Tiger over to me. She explained that Tiger was put into a shelter when the family he had lived with since he was a puppy had to move away and was unable to bring him with them. I was heartbroken that this dog had to give up his home and everything he knew at such an advanced age. But Tiger embraced his second chance at life. He was so excited walking toward me, tail wagging, as I lifted him into the car. He spent the next hour and a half sitting on my lap and licking my face. He was so happy to have the love and attention that he was deprived of in the cold, bleak shelter. Quality cuddle time was all that he really wanted. Tiger was adopted shortly after he arrived at the no-kill shelter, and was able to live out his life with dignity in his new “forever family”.
I started volunteering for the Freedom Train in 8th grade. We were required to perform 25 hours of volunteer service as a graduation requirement. I love dogs, and figured the Freedom Train would be as good an organization as any to join. I didn’t expect much to come of it – I never believed that one person could make a significant impact solving a big problem. My experience with Tiger changed my view on volunteering, and influenced how I planned to spend my Sunday mornings from that point forward. I realized that it is not about one person solving a problem by themselves. I was working as part of a 25-person team, each responsible for their piece of the puzzle: figuring out which dogs to pull from the kill shelters, getting them medically cleared to travel, driving a leg of the journey, and securing the space at the no-kill shelter. If any one of us failed to do our piece, the transport would have fallen apart, and Tiger and others like him would fail to be rescued.
What started out as a way to “check the box” for my middle school graduation requirement turned into an important cause that I am passionate about fighting for. I’ve travelled over 3,800 miles to save over 110 dogs just like Tiger, and I am not done yet. Helping these defenseless animals has become my passion. I intend to continue helping “no-kill” animal shelters during my time in college, by driving as part of rescue transports, by volunteering at the shelters, and by raising awareness about the magnitude of the shelter dog problem. My experience with Tiger has helped me realize that even the smallest assistance you can give may make a huge difference in the life of another. While my volunteer efforts alone will never be enough to stop the overcrowded shelter problem, for the dogs I transport it is literally the difference between life and death.