HOUSTON -- Armed with motivation, energy, a positive work ethic and fund-raising ideas, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Wiggins is dogs' best friend at the Humane Society of Northeast Texas.

Wiggins, Longview Recruiting Center commander, had only been in the area for a short time when the family's 16-year-old Dalmatian passed away. That loss of his four-legged friend spurred the former Eagle Scout to visit the Humane Society, which led to a regular volunteer gig with the center.

For many people, work has a tendency to follow one home. Wiggins ended up adopting an Irish Setter/Rottweiler mix and his wife adopted a miniature dachshund.

Valerie Mills, an animal relocation specialist with the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, said volunteers are the lifeblood of keeping organizations such as theirs in operation. While some volunteers tackle specific areas or tasks, Wiggins takes on each task with unbridled enthusiasm.

"Being in the military myself, I see his coming in to volunteer his time as awesome," said Mills, who serves in the Army Reserve. "There are not too many people from the community that come in to help. He is a wonderful role model. My son helps make videos to get the dogs adopted. He and Wiggins are buddies."

She is actively involved with 14 volunteers who invest time in the shelter. Every Saturday, Wiggins helps direct the work flow, and Mills said a lot gets accomplished.

Wiggins was featured in a Kilgore Magazine article about the Humane Society. And when he was featured on the Humane Society Facebook page as a volunteer, Mills said their Facebook page "blew-up" and foot traffic increased at their location. Because of their efforts to post available animals photos on Facebook, people check out the page before visiting the shelter.
"It is amazing," Wiggins said. "People come in with their phones and show me a picture of the dog they want. This is pretty cool. It is a wonderful job the volunteers do with the Facebook page. About 60 percent of the animals get [adopted] because of that page."

In addition, the Humane Society set up a table during a Fort Hood military police working dogs demonstration for members of the community. Teaming up with the Army resulted in the adoption of five dogs and three cats.

Volunteering does have its price. Wiggins said it breaks his heart to see boxes of puppies being turned over to the Humane Society. It becomes imperative to him, Mills and others at the Society to find the right dog or cat for each person who wants to adopt. According to Mills, with helpers like Wiggins, more animals have found their own human than ever before. For Wiggins, it's just another way to give back.