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Michelle and Emma Kinsey say daily volunteering at the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter has strengthened their bond

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FARMINGTON — Every day, rain or shine, Michelle Kinsey and her daughter, Emma Kinsey, can be found walking dogs from the Farmington Regional Animal Shelters along the river trails at Animas Park.

"We've been out here when it's snowing," said Michelle Kinsey, while walking a dog on Thursday. "We've been out here when it's raining."

The mother-daughter duo are committed to walking the dogs, they said, because otherwise they might not leave their kennels all day.

The Kinseys are part of a core group of residents who volunteer daily at the shelter, said Amber Francisco, the shelter's volunteer coordinator. The shelter has more than 2,000 people signed up to walk its dogs, but only a handful volunteer daily and about 50 volunteer regularly, Francisco said.

After putting in more than 100 hours of service from September and December, the city of Farmington honored the Kinseys at a volunteer appreciation dinner in February.

The shelter is also looking for more volunteers like the Kinseys. A volunteer orientation will take place at 11 a.m. April 16 and a foster orientation will be at 2 p.m. April 24 at the shelter, 133 Browning Parkway.

Francisco said dog walkers can help the pets get adopted by educating potential owners about the animals.

"They get to know the (dogs') personalities," she said.

On average, the Kinseys spend four to five hours a day at the shelter. And since they started walked dogs in September, they have befriended other volunteers.

"It's kind of a volunteer family," Michelle Kinsey said.

The 49-year-old Farmington woman, who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes, said she has also experienced health benefits from her volunteerism. She received good news from a checkup last week: her cholesterol levels have dropped 30 points. She attributes that to the increased excercise she has been getting recently.

"I feel so good to know that my health is in good shape, and it's because of this," she said.

The mother said the volunteering has also provided a chance to spend more time with her daughter.

"It keeps us together, bonded," she said.

Each day, the mother and daughter walk five to six dogs. But their volunteering doesn't stop when the walks do. The duo also bathes dogs, washes laundry for the shelter and finds time to play with the pets. Emma Kinsey — an 18-year-old San Juan College students who is studying to be a veterinary technician  — has also helped spay and neuter pets.

Still, they almost always start off the day with a walk. Emma Kinsey often chooses to walk a golden retriever-chow cross named Reggie. A sign on the dog's cage warns that only experienced volunteers are allowed to walk him.

 

That's how he greeted Emma Kinsey when the two first met. But the teenager said she was determined to win Reggie's trust.When Reggie arrived at the shelter, the dog was so aggressive that staff debated using a catch-pole to move him to a kennel. About a month later, the 5-year-old dog still growls and bares his teeth at strangers who approach him.

"Something about Reggie, she fell in love with," her mother said.

So the teen said she spent time sitting outside his kennel to get the dog comfortable with her presence. Then, she entered his kennel and spent time inside with Reggie.

Now, the large dog allows her to wrap her arms around his neck and hug him during their walks.

"Once he started trusting me, he got more and more excited seeing me each day," Emma Kinsey said.

Michelle Kinsey admitted many of the dog walkers have their favorites and it can be difficult not to fall in love with the animals.

"We've been known to cry when some of them leave," she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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