Paying it forward: Marietta man transports animals in humane society van

When Marietta resident Ron Friend started volunteering at the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, he was a bit wary of dogs that were taller than his shins.

“When I started, I wasn’t really much of a dog person,” said Friend, 61.

But it did not take long for him to take to the bigger dogs and vice versa.

“All you have to do is give them a treat and you’ve got a friend for life,” he joked.

Last week Friend and his wife, Debbie, loaded up the shelter van with a pair of his new friends-two Labradors named Honey and Chocolate-to transport them to a Columbus shelter where they have a better chance of being adopted.

Question: How did you get started volunteering for the humane society?

Answer: I retired a couple years ago from the railroad company and when you retire you find you have plenty of free time. My wife and daughter already volunteered here, so I started too.

Q: What sort of volunteer work do you do for the humane society?

A: We come out on Saturdays and we walk the dogs. They always are looking for people to walk the dogs and pet the cats. We always had to pet the kittens and take them out. Then we started walking dogs on Saturdays. My wife worked on their flower garden out front, so we went out and spent a day doing that. Just a few little things. There’s so many people that do so much more than we do out there. For us it’s just an opportunity to help. Our daughter, she’s a photographer and she’s doing a benefit on Aug. 31 (9 a.m. to noon) where she’s taking pictures of pets at Muskingum Park and all the proceeds go to the humane society.

Q: And how did you get into transporting pets in the humane society van?

A: As far as driving the van, we just started doing that last year. First they needed someone to take cats to the spay and neuter clinic in Barboursville, (W.Va.) and I said ‘OK, I can do that.’ That clinic is also open to the general public and they get a reduced rate. We take them down and get them fixed and people can pick them up at the humane society. And then they wanted someone to take the dogs, and we said, “sure.” It seemed like a good fit because as a railroader, I drove all over the country.

Q: Have you transported pets to a lot of places?

A: Actually, this is the first time we’ve delivered dogs. We got a call from an organization called RedRover. They go in to help animals after a disaster. They call people in and they go into the disaster area and help. Celeste Ridgway (a local animal rescue liaison) knew we’d had the RedRover training and they have contacts all over that help place animals, so she called us this morning and asked us to deliver these dogs to Columbus.

Q: Do you have pets yourself?

A: We’ve got two cats. They sort of found us. Little Orphan Annie and Little Orphan Ollie. We just had the backyard fenced in two weeks ago so now we can start hopefully fostering dogs.

Q: What should people know about the humane society?

A: They generally adopt out over 100 animals a month. And I guess I was surprised by how hard they work not just to find these pets homes, but to find them really good homes. It’s not just like people come in and say, “OK. Give me a dog.” They work really hard to make sure these pets are going to a good, loving home. The shelter needs so much and it’s something I knew I could help by giving back.

Jasmine Rogers conducted this interview.