Celebrating our Volunteers
by Julie Mazzola | Nov 01, 2011
Making a difference one life at a time
PAWS Chicago is a movement, dedicated to changing the status quo, setting new standards and raising the bar for animals at each step along the way. It is the volunteer culture that cultivates new talent and creative ideas that brings forth solutions that will ultimately end the killing of homeless pets.
Since its founding 14 years ago as a grassroots organization, PAWS Chicago has focused on changing the face of animal sheltering in Chicago, which would not have been possible without the support of a growing roster of more than 5,000 people who give their time and passion and open their hearts to homeless pets in need. In 2010, PAWS volunteers donated more than 91,000 hours to helping homeless animals – this equivalent of 44 full time employees more than doubles the organization’s output.
Volunteers bring personal expertise from their own careers and passions and play an invaluable role in nearly every aspect of PAWS Chicago, enabling the organization to reach so much further and do so much more to leverage every dollar so that limited financial resources go directly to animals. Through their experiences as business and financial professionals, photographers, lawyers, artists, students, contractors, physicians, teachers and more, volunteers also have the autonomy to shape the organization through the creation of new programs, best practices and enhanced procedures.
Large, bureaucratic, staff-run organizations are often resistant to innovation and change and can often resent the idea of volunteers’ involvement. By contrast, PAWS Chicago is run by volunteers – most senior employees start out as volunteers, so they understand the culture. A dedicated legion of volunteers is one of the Core Four Pillars of PAWS Chicago’s No Kill Model, in addition to proactive adoptions, targeted spay/neuter, and state-of-theart shelter medicine – each element is essential to operating a progressive No Kill organization.
Read on to learn about volunteer opportunities and meet some of the amazing people behind PAWS Chicago’s lifesaving success. And to every one of you PAWS Chicago volunteers – thank you!
PAWS Chicago’s First Two Volunteers
Paula and Alexis Fasseas’ involvement in animal welfare started 15 years ago when Alexis was a volunteer at a traditional “open door” shelter while she was in high school. They were shocked by the massive killing of homeless pets unknown by the community at large and wanted to raise awareness, founding PAWS Chicago as an advocacy organization. By working on weekends, getting friends involved and creating the organization, PAWS Chicago grew from its volunteer-only roots to an established progressive No Kill model.
Today, Paula serves as a full-time volunteer Chief Executive Officer, directing the organization’s strategic vision and new initiatives, overseeing operations and quality control, and focusing on organizational sustainability. Alexis, also a volunteer, helps with strategic planning and directs much of the organization’s written communications and marketing, including PAWS Chicago Magazine. She also has led PAWS Chicago’s rescue missions following nature
Pippen Fassaes Adoption & Humane Center
Marshall Field Family Dog Town
Dog Town Level 1 Volunteers
The role of a Dog Town Level 1 volunteer focuses on providing potential adopters with an excellent customer experience and caring for the needs of Level 1 dogs. In addition to ensuring that living spaces are clean, and dogs are walked, socialized and fed, volunteers introduce potential adopters to Level 1 dogs and help them find the most appropriate pet for their lifestyle. To become a Dog Town Level 1 Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation and Dog Town Level 1 Training.
“I spend the majority of my time in Dog Town. There’s nothing like seeing a dog wagging his tail to make my day better. Volunteering at PAWS means a lot to me. People tell me I light up when I talk about PAWS.” Marie Kukielka Dog Town Level 1 Volunteer
“PAWS has a great mission statement and a great reputation and I just wanted to be a part of it. Dogs and cats are really taken care of here: it’s like a pet hotel. Besides, whatever Oprah says goes.” Michael Lin Dog Town Level 1 Volunteer
Dog Town Level 2 Volunteers
After completing Level 2 training, which prepares volunteers to become more experienced dog handlers, these volunteers have an opportunity to interact with and socialize Level 2 dogs who often have more energy or special needs. Volunteers, who can be seen in green aprons, participate in and mentor Level 1 volunteers to ensure that essential cleaning protocols are met to maximize the health of the dogs. They also serve as lead volunteers and provide potential adopters with educational information and resources about Level 1 and Level 2 dogs to help them find their perfect match. To become a Dog Town Level 2 Volunteer, volunteers will need to complete 12 full shifts in Dog Town before attending Dog Town Level 2 training.
“Volunteering for PAWS gives my life meaning. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without PAWS. It gives me something positive to do, and I feel indebted to helping homeless fur babies. They’ve always been a part of my life, with their unconditional love and the joy that they bring- it’s the least I could do to volunteer and give a little bit back to the animals.” Ron Jamiolkowski Dog Town Level 2 Volunteer
“I believe in the No Kill philosophy of PAWS Chicago. I’m always happy to see how PAWS has an eye on the future while keeping the current momentum going at warp speed. The education programs, pet food bank, and Gus Mobile are just a few examples of how PAWS reaches beyond the obvious issues and tries to make real change. I feel like I’m part of something innovative and worthwhile.” Beth Ford Dog Town Level 2 Volunteer
“For me volunteering means helping set an example for the kind of world we want to live in, growing as a person, and feeling happiness and joy inside. There was a dog who was relinquished to PAWS. As I held the dog, I noticed that he was terrified, shaking and backing into a corner. I sat down to try to make him comfortable. I looked in his eyes and almost immediately felt what he was feeling. I started crying. The best part of this story is that he went home in four days time. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him or see him leave. But, I know in my heart that he is doing well and I am really, really happy for him.” Steve Lotho Dog Town Level 2 Volunteer
Dog Town Level 3 Volunteers
Level 3 volunteers have a proven history of demonstrating leadership and having strong handling skills. These volunteers, who can be seen in dark brown aprons, socialize and interact with Level 3 dogs, dogs with special needs or who require an experienced handler, conduct dog-to-dog introductions, assist in the room pairing of current dogs and provide assistance to potential adopters of all available dogs. In addition, Level 3 Volunteers help to certify Level 2 Volunteers. To become a Dog Town Level 3 Volunteer, volunteers are invited to attend Dog Town Level 3 training after meeting all requirements for Dog Town Level 2 and demonstrating leadership and strong handling skills.
“I volunteer because my own pets bring our family so much joy and happiness. Since they reward us with so much every day, I wanted the opportunity to give back. I’ve learned that you can’t underestimate the importance of volunteering for a cause you care about. One person can truly make a difference in an animal’s life and in a person’s life in ways that you never imagine. Volunteers come from all walks of life – we’re an incredibly diverse group in so many ways. It is a pleasure to see that the love of animals brings us all together. I’ve seen this affection strengthen and enable people to overcome so many obstacles – be it physical or societal – all for the benefit of these wonderful animals.” Mark Lukas - Dog Town Level 3 Volunteer
“When I retired and was looking for things to do, I started volunteering to be of service to an outstanding organization and to help the dogs become ready for adoption. I’ve met great people that I enjoy volunteering with and Dog Town keeps me active and fit. I’m always telling my friends what a great “job” I have and that they should volunteer too. Now, I am a Level 3 Dog Handler and volunteer each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. But now, I find I get as much out of volunteering as I give.” Andy Lane - Dog Town Level 3 Volunteer
“I entered semi-retirement, looking forward to the relaxation and extra time. After a couple months, I had all of the extra rest that I could handle. I looked around for something I would enjoy and would make a meaningful difference. When I volunteer at PAWS, I noticed that the same skills that were successful in business were helpful in volunteering. I use my business problem-solving skills to do whatever is needed at PAWS. Sometimes that means teaching Level 1 volunteers the skills necessary to be a PAWS volunteer and other times, it means pitching in if the staff is short-handed and rooms need to be cleaned.” Jeff Shanken - Dog Town Level 3 Volunteer
“I began volunteering at PAWS three years ago because I was impressed by PAWS Chicago’s approach to saving the lives of dogs and cats – not only through adoptions but also through the spay/ neuter clinic, legislation and education. Because there are so few Level 3 volunteers, I spend most of my time working with Level 3 dogs which are dogs that need more socialization, training, and will need the right home environment. They are some of our most intelligent, loving and enjoyable dogs. I would encourage anyone who is dealing with stress, problems, and especially with loss, to volunteer at PAWS Chicago. From my volunteer experience, I have received much more than I have given.” Wayne Gailis - Dog Town Level 3 Volunteer
Barbara Bradford Kitty City
Kitty City Level 1 Volunteers
Level 1 volunteers begin the day by assisting with the cleaning, care, feeding and socialization of the cats and kittens throughout Kitty City. Once the Adoption Center opens its doors, volunteers help match potential adopters with Level 1 cats, provide background information about the various cats and kittens, and help to pair them with a perfect furry friend. To become a Kitty City Level 1 Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation and Kitty City Level 1 Training.
“I am currently in college living in a dorm, so I don’t have any pets of my own here in Chicago. It’s the best feeling to see extremely shy cats slowly become more social, and soon go to a loving home, which opens up space for another cat. Given time, any animal will find someone who will love them forever, and PAWS gives every animal the chance to find that person or family.” Alison Lindholm Kitty City Level 1 Volunteer
“I normally volunteer in the morning at Kitty City which involves cleaning and preparing the rooms for adopters. I am always really impressed when members of the adoption team or the front desk offer to help out on days that we are low on volunteers. The level of commitment from all sides is what makes PAWS so special.” Kevin Donnelly Kitty City Level 1 Volunteer
Kitty City Level 2 Volunteers
After completing Level 2 training, where volunteers learn more about the importance of cleaning protocols and how to handle some of our more frisky felines, volunteers, who can be seen in green aprons, serve as lead volunteers and mentor Level 1 volunteers to ensure the greatest safety and health needs are met for each kitty resident. To become a Kitty City Level 2 Volunteer, volunteers will need to complete 12 full shifts in Kitty City before attending Kitty City Level 2 training.
“I am a lifelong animal lover and I believe in what PAWS stands for. I began volunteering after I was laid-off and left the corporate rat race for the “cat race.” When I’m around the animals and animal loving volunteers, I get so pumped that I want to do everything! Plus where else can a grownup hang out with kittens and puppies?” Andy Zmuda Kitty City Level 2 Volunteer and Location Manager
“Volunteering at PAWS Chicago is a great way to give back. I was very fortunate to spend 30+ years in the financial industry which allowed me to retire at a relatively young age. All those years I was working, I couldn’t have animals due to the long hours away from home. Now, not only can I have animals, but I can help find homes for those that have been displaced. When you hear the stories of cats that seemed aloof at the Adoption Center and how they can turn into loving affectionate animals, it makes me smile.” Andrea Bartecki Kitty City Level 2 Volunteer, Adoption Counselor, Location Manager and Foster Volunteer
“I began in Dog Town walking dogs, socializing them, and doing whatever needed to be done to assist the Caregivers. When a bum knee made it difficult for me to work with the more challenging dogs as a Level 2 volunteer, I suggested that I might be of help in other ways. This led to becoming one of the initial volunteers who followed up via telephone with adopters post-adoption. I continue to do that today. When it became clear that we were producing many reports manually at a great expense of time, I pulled together a couple of fantastic technologically talented volunteers and we are in the process of streamlining production.” Jane Fouser
Available to children over 12 years of age with a guardian, PAWS Chicago’s Family Service Volunteer Program empowers kids to help enrich the lives of homeless animals and serve as advocates for them. Volunteers implement cleaning protocols for the health of the animals, and also get up close and personal with the cats, dogs, puppies and kittens to socialize and assist with their daily care.
Adoption Counselors meet with potential adopters and help match them with appropriate animals based on their activity levels. Counselors, who wear black aprons, also walk guests through the adoption process and answer questions, discuss the background of the pet, and provide the resources on how to best integrate the new pet into their home. To become an Adoption Counselor, volunteers must complete eight full shifts in Dog Town or Kitty City as a Level 1 Volunteer before attending formal training and shadowing experienced Adoption Counselors.
Welcome Center Volunteers
Volunteers welcome potential adopters and guests into the Adoption Center and provide the information they’ll need to get them started (whether browsing animals or starting the adoption process). Welcome Center Volunteers are true ambassadors of PAWS Chicago. To become a Welcome Center Volunteer, volunteers will need to attend a New Volunteer Orientation.
“My goal is to be sure people feel welcome and immediately understand how our processes work. Every person who walks through our doors has a story and they are all unique and interesting! I could write a book – maybe call it, ‘Miracle on Clybourn Street!’” Bonnie Spurlock
“PAWS Chicago is not just a charity that I contribute to, it is an organization that I believe in which saves the lives of animals and is working to transform our community to a No Kill city.” Judy Tullman
Location Managers provide an excellent customer experience for potential adopters in both Dog Town and Kitty City and ensure a safe and clean environment for the animals. Location Managers, who can be seen in black aprons, also manage and lead all volunteers in their respective area on the weekends and confirm volunteer assignments. To become a Location Manager, volunteers must spend at least three months as an active Kitty City Volunteer and demonstrate leadership before attending Location Manager training.
“Knowing that the city euthanizes animals every day is a heartbreaking reality that we can lose sight of in our beautiful Adoption Center. It fills me with warmth that PAWS Chicago and its staff, volunteers, and supporters are so committed to finding homes for the adoptable cats and dogs that we pull from Animal Care & Control (ACC) and other shelters, and are working so hard to promote spay/neuter to reduce the numbers going into ACC in the first place.” Morgan Hill - Location Manager, Adoption Counselor & Dog Town Level 2 Volunteer
“I wear many different hats, or I should say aprons, at PAWS Chicago. Regardless of what I am doing, the common thread throughout is education and advocacy - whether it is to help to set an adopter up for success when they take an animal or animals home, inform new volunteers of all the different opportunities to help us, train and coach Kitty City volunteers, or just talk with the public at the Adoption Center, a special event, or anywhere else, about PAWS and advocating the No Kill message. I am so proud to be a volunteer here at PAWS Chicago. It means being a part of something so much bigger than me. Knowing that whatever I am doing with PAWS at any moment is genuinely helping to save thousands of lives, building a No Kill Chicago, and being part of the solution. It is such an amazing feeling and I can’t help that I want to do more.” Sonia Lindsey - Kitty City Level 2 Volunteer, Location Manager & New Volunteer Orientation Teacher
Developing the Holiday Program
Rick Turley exemplified leadership and creativity as a Kitty City Level 2 volunteer, with extensive knowledge on each long-term cat and a knack for matching adoptions. The PAWS Adoption Team asked Rick to develop a program that would find homes for long-term cats at the Adoption Center. Shortly thereafter, Rick took the lead in creating and managing The Kitty City Holiday Program.
The Holiday Program is like a much-needed vacation for cats. “At the start of the program, PAWS had several cats who had been with us for over a year and a number for over six months,” said Rick. “The program’s goal was to give the longer-term cats a break or holiday in a home setting and set a cat up for success when he or she returned to the Adoption Center.”
Cats eligible for the Holiday Program have been at the Adoption Center for more than several weeks. Senior cats or FIV+ cats often go on a Holiday even sooner. PAWS Chicago also has cats eligible for an immediate holiday if they are just not adjusting well to shelter life.
PAWS matches each cat up with the right person and the right home environment so the he or she will thrive. The Holiday period can be as short as a month, but many last closer to two months. “We ask each Holiday volunteer to provide a personality profile and some pictures at the end of the holiday which are then placed on the cats suite door and on the website so potential adopters can better visualize how the cat would be in their home, despite how it is acting at the Adoption Center,” explained Rick.
Almost all the cats who come back to PAWS after a holiday are adopted within a short time, and many are adopted by their foster families who can’t bear to part.
Thanks to the Holiday Program, cats who arrive at PAWS Chicago have shorter stays than ever before. And under Rick’s leadership, more than 220 cats have gone on holiday, many of whom are adopted into loving homes while on holiday. The Holiday Program, which has become a favorite among volunteers and adopters, was created and led by Rick, but continues with a network of volunteers who support this great initiative.
Calling All Leaders!
Do you have the desire, time and dedication to take on a new initiative for PAWS Chicago?
- Current or retired educators to develop Youth Education and Community Outreach Programs both off site at schools and at the Adoption Center to engage the next generation.
- Professionals in compassionate fields such as psychology, nursing, counseling, or social work to support PAWS Chicago’s owner relinquishment program for people looking to give up their pets.
- Customer Service or Telemarketing experience to support the Adoption team, following up with adopters and assisting the Adoption Center Front Desk.
- Product or Brand Marketing experts to help market longer term animals available for adoption or on holiday.
- People with Feral Cat Trap-Neuter-Return experience to expand the reach of this important program. Read more on page 33.
Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic
Volunteers at the Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic, the Midwest’s largest low-cost sterilization and vaccination clinic, provide customer service to guests and assist PAWS veterinarians and vet techs with surgery support.
Customer Service Volunteers
Customer Service Volunteers work with PAWS customers to schedule and prepare for their pets spay/neuter surgery date. After the surgery is complete, volunteers facilitate the pet release process back to their families. To become a Customer Service Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation.
Surgery Support Volunteers
Volunteers who provide surgery support enable PAWS Chicago to perform even more high-volume spay/ neuter surgeries. These volunteers assist with animals immediately following their surgeries, including cleaning ears, clipping nails, putting e-collars on dogs, placing animals in their cages or carriers, spot cleaning, surgical instrument cleaning, and prepping syringes. Volunteers also restock supplies and make next-day preparations. To become a Surgery Support Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation.
“I enjoy volunteering in the recovery room because it gives me a chance to do something I ordinarily would not be able to do – help animals who have just come out of surgery. I get to meet dogs and cats who will eventually make their way to the Adoption Center, where, hopefully, I’ll be their adoption counselor.” Pat Oleck - Surgery Support Volunteer & Adoption Counselor
Community Outreach Volunteers
Community Outreach & Humane Education Volunteers serve as liaisons for PAWS Chicago who support at-risk communities. Volunteers are advocates for the animals and educate the community on the importance of issues like pet homelessness, dog fighting, puppy mills, spay/neuter and the No Kill movement, and what they can do to make positive changes in their neighborhoods. To become a Community Outreach Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation.
The GusMobile, PAWS Chicago’s mobile Spay/Neuter van, provides Chicago’s most impoverished communities with donor-subsidized free and low-cost spay/ neuter services and vaccinations. Here, volunteers play an essential role in educating the community about the importance of spay/neuter and ensuring a quality customer service experience - from customer check-ins/out to animal placement before and after surgery, they ensure the day runs smoothly. Volunteers are also key to setting-up and breaking down the GusMobile each day. To become a GusMobile Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation.
“I wake up every Sunday at 5 a.m. to be at the location by 7 a.m. Waking up at 5 a.m. is really hard for me, but when I see the GusMobile pull into the parking lot, it’s well worth it. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I guess all I can say is ‘thank you’ for the opportunity to be of help to a great organization. And I hope that in the time to come, I can be of more help. Once again, thank you. I can’t say it enough.” Steve Olson GusMobile Volunteer
“I found PAWS Chicago when I was looking for a place to have my pets vaccinated and spayed/neutered, and now, I volunteer at the Rescue & Recovery Center. I help by cleaning out cages, giving reminder calls for appointments, and helping to care for the animals after surgery. It was there when I heard about the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van. It was fantastic to know that PAWS Chicago would be close to home and be a place where I was able to help out my community. PAWS Chicago has done so much for the community by opening the door to those who are not able to afford to spay or neuter their animals.” Rebecca Madrigal - GusMobile Volunteer
“I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. My patients face a myriad of life challenges including stigma and other psychosocial issues. Yet, they live courageously, finding ways to endure and live life abundantly. Similar to my work, I connect with folks and their animal companions at their point of need, with a non-judgmental and strengths-based approach. While at the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van, whether someone has questions about spaying and neutering, expresses ambivalence about the procedure, nervously brings their animal companion to their appointment for the procedure, or is fully engaged in the process, I am present to provide a listening ear, support and resources. I am grateful for the ways that PAWS Chicago creatively and resourcefully seeks to meet the needs of homeless animals in Chicago inclusive of all geographic locations not only through its shelter services but through advocacy and education. I believe PAWS Chicago seeks to serve the Chicago community at-large, wherever and however the need arises.” Gina Sourelis - GusMobile Volunteer
Trap, Neuter, Return Program Volunteers
PAWS Chicago’s Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program is the only humane solution to reducing the outdoor cat population and thereby, number of cats and kittens who come into Animal Care and Control (the city pound). Volunteers respond to individual inquiries about the program and offer information about how to help community cats in the Chicagoland area. In addition, volunteers organize trapping projects, help trap outdoor cats, assist with the before and after surgical care of cats, record keeping, and running TNR workshops. Special training will be provided for volunteers interested in running TNR workshops.
“I moved to Chicago two years ago and wanted to find a way to help animals. With a little research, I discovered that PAWS Chicago is the area’s largest No Kill shelter, and after my experience as a volunteer and board member at a traditional shelter in Michigan I decided that No Kill was clearly the way to go. My primary focus is on feral-neighborhood cats. To me, this is the number one companion animal issue, both in sheer numbers of animals and in their dispersion through almost every community in the United States. There is a tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of these cats and reduce their numbers over time using TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return). I talk with a lot of folks who have questions or concerns about feral-neighborhood cats. My teaching experience comes in handy, as sometimes the methods and goals of TNR are tough to get across. I most enjoy the chance to volunteer with an organization that not only has its heart in the right place but also has the drive and resources to commit to its mission of “Pets Are Worth Saving.” Tom Hay Bauer - Trap Neuter Return (TNR) Program Volunteer
Special Event Volunteers
Special Event Volunteers provide support in virtually every aspect of an event – from set-up to tear-down. Although roles vary from event to event, volunteers manage roles including animal transport, dog handlers, cat monitors, greeters, silent auction/raffle ticket sales, dog spa and more. Events include the Fur Ball, Animal Magnetism, Beach Party, Run for Their Lives and Angels with Tails. To become a Special Events Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation.
Rescue & Recovery Center
PAWS Chicago visits Animal Care & Control (ACC), the city impoundment facility, every day and transfers in as many homeless pets as there is capacity. Volunteers with strong dog handling skills accompany the PAWS intake team and assist in the behavioral assessment of the dogs that are transferred into the PAWS program. Volunteers also foster relationships with staff and volunteers at ACC and often serve as liaisons between the two organizations. To become an Intake Volunteer, volunteers will need to participate in a New Volunteer Orientation. Volunteers should also have knowledge about dog behavior and be comfortable handling dogs with whom they have no history.
Animal Care Volunteers
Animal care volunteers are central to providing daily animal care (feeding, walking and socializing) and ensuring cleaning protocols are met to prevent disease transmission. Volunteers also help maintain organization throughout the Rescue and Recovery Center to optimize efficiencies. To become an Animal Care Volunteer, volunteers will need to attend a New Volunteer Orientation. Dog Town Level 1 training is highly encouraged so that volunteers are familiar with proper dog handling for various types of dogs.
“I have always felt that there has existed a historical bond between mankind and dogs. They are inherently linked to us emotionally. The dogs have, for the most part, kept up their part of this partnership. Mankind, unfortunately, has not always done so well. The people associated with PAWS are the ones who help rebalance this equation. It makes me feel good to be part of this. There is a major feeling of satisfaction and achievement that I get when I am able to take a scared, shivering dog and get him/her to finally calm down. PAWS’ track record of saving these animals from fatal termination makes me feel like I am assisting in something that truly makes a difference.” Karl Riedl - Animal Care Volunteer
The Foster Program is an integral part of PAWS Chicago, where foster volunteers provide an invaluable and life-saving service for homeless cats and dogs. They open up their homes to caring for sick and injured pets who need anywhere between a few days and a few months before they are ready for adoption. In addition to home care, fosters provide animals with lots of love, necessary medications or special diets, transport their foster animal to scheduled medical appointments and/or adoption events. To become a Foster Volunteer, please contact the Foster Coordinator at email@example.com or 773-475-9464 for more information.
“One exciting moment as a foster parent was when one mom gave birth at my house. Seeing how well she took care of her pups was incredible. As is true with many litters, not all the pups survived and it felt like team work with her – trying to give her pups the best chance to live. Finding out they all got adopted was just pure joy.” Lati Trung - Foster Volunteer
Pet Food Bank Volunteers
The Pet Food Bank Program, which provides temporary support of food, supplies and basic medical care to pet owners in financial need, has been in place since 2008 and is run almost solely by volunteers. Volunteers manage the procurement of thousands of pounds of food and supply donations from individuals and businesses, organize the transport of pet supplies, pack and distribute pet food pick-ups and keep records of the PFB. Thanks to their efforts, more than 41,000 pounds of food have helped 516 pets this year alone.
Ham’s Foster Story
Chris Dowsett and Amie DeLuca started volunteering as foster parents for PAWS Chicago after their first dog, Geri, passed away. “After the passing of Geri, we decided that we were going to wait a while until we adopted another dog,” said Amie. “A couple weeks later, we agreed that it was much too quiet and lonely around our house without a dog, but instead of adopting another dog – we would serve as foster parents. We started fostering dogs for PAWS Chicago in December 2009.”
This is where they met Ham, a two year-old Shepherd mix who was in need of special care in a home environment due to a neurological condition that challenges his mobility and makes him incontinent. According to Chris, “When we first met Ham, it was evident that he really needed to be taken into a home.”
Chris and Amie – along with their dog, Boomer, a three-year-old Pit Bull mix and PAWS alumnus – welcomed Ham into their home. “When we first got him home, we were amazed by his resilient spirit and attitude. Ham has a “whatever you can do, I can do better” approach with Boomer. He doesn’t let his handicap interfere with his daily life. Whether it’s trying to get up the stairs, but only making it to the first landing, or trying to jump to get a squirrel in the tree, he always goes at it with great effort, despite his disability,” they said.
Thanks to foster parents like Chris and Amie, dogs like Ham are experiencing love and joy in a home environment. “We love playing a part in helping dogs on their journey to finding their forever home. By fostering dogs, we know that it allows for other dogs to be taken into PAWS and keeps the organization focused on it mission to help dogs in need find good homes. Ham wouldn’t be where he is today without strong advocates at PAWS and their partner organizations. We are truly grateful to volunteer our time to PAWS, as it has given back to us ten fold in providing us with an opportunity to share our passion and love for dogs,” they said.