May 6, 2015 at 6:30pm
Caitlin Husted ’16

Conner Kerrigan

An hour of a student’s time to play with a furry friend may seem inconsequential, but the benefits reaped by both animal and student are significant.

Many Millikin programs and organizations require participants to volunteer a minimum number of service hours each semester. Those hours add up, says Pam Folger, director of the Career Center. Folger has oversight for student service hours.

For example, during the 2012-13 academic year, student organizations at Millikin volunteered 12,156 hours of co-curricular service, Folger says.

Delta Sigma Phi is one student organization that makes a commitment to service. In addition to helping with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a Rock Springs Environmental Center clean-up, they are now branching out to assist the Decatur Macon County Animal Shelter.

At Right: Conner Kerrigan ’15 rewards shelter dog “Pringle” with a treat for sitting on command. The pair have formed a strong bond through Kerrigan’s visits to the Macon County Animal Shelter.

“We’re learning to help train dogs,” says Delta Sig’s Conner Kerrigan ’15 of Frankfort, Ill. “Since many of these pets come from abusive homes, they’re often malnourished and some can be rambunctious. We’re going in to help curb that.”

Kerrigan began volunteering at the shelter on his own as a Millikin junior. Passionate for their cause, he donated $1,600 raised through his participation in the Bank of America’s Shamrock Shuffle 8K race.

“Volunteering is a really good feeling because when you’re working with animals, you’re not just helping an animal, you’re also helping a family,” says Kerrigan.

This summer, Beth Wallace, a Decatur Macon County Animal Shelter board member and local dog trainer, approached him about a program that focused on training individuals to work with shelter dogs.

“One of the top reasons owners surrender animals is because of behavioral issues,” Wallace says. “If we can get [dogs] trained before they leave, or help their new owners with the problems they are having, we can help keep [the pets] in their homes.”

This fall, Delta Sig members are learning basic training techniques, such as teaching a dog to sit, lie down and walk calmly on a leash. Instilling these commands in the dogs’ minds trains them to accept discipline with obedience.

These traits are not insignificant. According to Wallace, animals that receive attention and training from volunteers are adopted more quickly. Being able to follow commands makes them more appealing to potential families.

Although the training is important, the love and attention these furry creatures receive is far more significant, Kerrigan says.

“You see dogs that are jumping and running around ... [until] they see that one individual who can pet them and calm them down,” he says. “That connection is just so real.”

Even though this is Delta Sig’s first semester assisting the program, Kerrigan hopes that the fraternity’s work will continue after he graduates.

“We’re taking dogs and putting them into better situations while providing happiness to the families that adopt them. Because that’s what a pet brings,” Kerrigan says. “A pet brings happiness to [a] family.”  

Caitlin Husted ’16, an English writing and English literature double major from Germantown Hills, Ill., grew up immersed in the world of pets found in her own backyard. However, she has begun to see the importance of helping animals who have no home to call their own.

Photography by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06.

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Macon County Animal Control and Care