12-year-old 'dog whisperer' volunteers at Humane Society

Zeb Charlton, 12, and his family have become regulars at the Central Missouri Humane Society.
Sunday, September 14, 2008 | 8:27 p.m. CDT; updated 9:28 p.m. CST, Monday, February 9, 2009
The Charlton family volunteers at the Humane Society about one to two hours a day during the summer. Zeb, 12, left, Dina and Hailey, 16, take dog MacGyver for a stroll on Aug. 12.

COLUMBIA — Zeb Charlton, 12, is known as the "dog whisperer." He has a way of working with dogs who need extra love and special care. He is currently working with schnauzer brothers, two 4-year old dogs that came from a puppy mill. They are always scared and don't do well on a leash, Zeb said. His hope is to get them people ready, to become adoptable.

"For some reason, Zeb has a heart for those types of dogs. He likes to build a relationship with them and get them adopted," said Dina Charlton, Zeb's mom.

Central Missouri Humane Society

Need: Community outreach, pet visitation, dog walking, grooming, bathing, kennel care, etc.
Time frame: 1 to 2 hours
Who: Anyone, adults or youth
Cost: None
Contact: Volunteer Coordinator at 443-3893 or
Web site:
   Pets are in need, too. Unfortunately, many pet owners have had to give away their pets because of economic woes. Most often, those pets end up at the Humane Society.  
   Volunteers are needed for a variety of positions such as community outreach, shelter-based programs, kennel care or dog and cat socialization.

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Zeb volunteers with his mom, Dina, 45, and sister, Hailey, 16, at the Central Missouri Humane Society.

The family decided to volunteer because Zeb has always wanted a dog, and this activity fills that need. However, each of them enjoys volunteering at the Humane Society. They all get extremely excited when a dog they have worked with gets adopted.

"We don't have to solve all the problems here or take all the animals home. We help in our little way so that other people can," Dina Charlton said.

The family has become known as regulars. Each week during the summer, they worked one to two hours a day. They did just about anything that needed to be done, such as pet visitation, kennel cleaning and taking dogs to the KOMU news station. But they've only done bathing once, because it's not their most favorite thing to do, the family said. Their favorite activity, besides working individually with the dogs, is walking the animals. They know the dogs enjoy it, but also, it's great for them to spend time as a family.

"We catch up and talk, and it's nice to have one-on-one time with each of my kids," Charlton said.

As a mother, Charlton knows the lessons that volunteering teaches her children are important. As a child, she volunteered with her family and said she believes that for her kids to do so, she needed to set the example. "I can't expect them to do it if I'm not," she said. "And besides, kids can make a difference. There is something that anybody can do."

Charlton has noticed the differences in her children already. Volunteering has helped build confidence for her daughter, who is somewhat shy.

"Before, it sounded scary, and I was afraid to do it," Hailey said, "but then I did it. You need that ability to gain confidence."

The family has realized that even the smallest things can make a big difference. While their work hasn't always been glamorous, it has shown the Charltons that everyone's job at the Humane Society is important for the welfare of the animals.

And, the Charltons say, it's just plain fun.


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