The ice-breaker question, "Do you have a dog?" is almost always followed by, "What kind is it?"

While some people have an immediate answer of "Golden Retriever" or "Labradoodle," I'm never quite sure what to say.

Border collie, Dalmatian, Labrador, pointer. My dog, Ranger, is a little bit of everything. After being in and out of different shelters for the first two years of his life, it would be nearly impossible to track down where he came from.

Even though he had a rough start, I couldn't ask for a better best friend.

The words "pound" and "shelter" often carry negative connotations. Many people assume these places are filled with cast-off pets that have done something to deserve their place there. Others believe shelters are simply a holding place for certain dogs, such as pit bulls, before they are put down.

These destructive stereotypes take away from what shelters truly are.

Shelters are an amazing resource for both those looking to adopt a pet, or volunteer their time giving back to the community. With a wide selection of ages and breeds for both cats and dogs, at any given time, shelters are one of the best places to find a new family member.

Many of the animals were born on the streets, or in another shelter, and have never known what it is like to have a home. Being able to provide a lifetime of happiness to an animal is one of the best feelings in the world.

Shelters also give you the opportunity to adopt a senior dog or cat, giving them a second chance at life. Many shelters also have foster programs, allowing you to bring a pet into your home temporarily until a permanent home is found for them. If your family is unsure about a pet, both of these options are great ways to see if they are ready for an animal.

Another experience you can gain from a shelter is volunteer work.

For the past six months, my friends Kylie Redcay and Lexi Goodwin, both seniors at Conrad Weiser, and I have been volunteering at the One by One Cat Rescue adoption center at the Temple PetSmart. The Friday visits are our favorite parts of the week, and being able to care for the cats and give them something to look forward to is incredibly satisfying.

Volunteering is also an opportunity for animal lovers who are unable to have a pet of their own due to family members having allergies.

Most shelters are always looking for volunteers, and the hours you earn could go toward community service requirements for graduation.

Whether you are volunteering your time or adopting a pet, shelters will always be filled with amazing pets who will love you unconditionally.