Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Vince Milinati

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago? 

I’ve been volunteering at PAWS Chicago for close to eight months, starting in early March 2013.

My wife and I adopted our first PAWS Chicago dog in the summer of 2007 from the Rescue & Recovery Center location, before the Adoption Center was open.  It was such a positive experience, working with the staff, meeting our new puppy, Jonas (PAWS name Kernel), and watching how attentive everyone was to the needs of the dogs and cats at the facility.

We had a similarly positive experience when we adopted our second PAWS Chicago dog in January of 2011, Cooper (PAWS name Super Fly), this time from the Adoption Center.  The new facility, the attention to detail in the design, the staff, it all spoke of how much PAWS Chicago was committed to their mission.

We talked casually about volunteering for a long time, but it wasn’t until my wife took the first step and signed us up for level one training and orientation that we became committed to helping.

Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

When I attended level one training / orientation, the instructor mentioned transport volunteer opportunities.  It involves transporting dogs and cats between the Rescue & Recover Center and Adoption Center locations.  This sounded like a great fit for me; I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that was more ‘behind the scenes’ and this seemed to fit the bill.  I was right.

Every other Saturday for the last eight months, I have transported dogs and cats between the two locations and it’s great.  I get to spend time at the Rescue & Recovery Center, helping out the staff before and after the transport run, I get to meet new dogs and cats all the time, and the staff is great to work with.  I really enjoy it.

We are also part of the foster program, though we haven’t had much success with it.  We adopted the first dog we fostered, Cookie, just last month.  If you’re counting, that makes three PAWS Chicago dogs.

Is there a favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?

I’ve met dozens and dozens of dogs and cats while driving transport, and I remember most of them.  Every day after I drive transport, I go home and tell my wife about my ‘passengers’ and to keep an eye out for them next time she’s at the Adoption Center (she volunteers every Saturday morning). 

One Saturday several months back I transported Sapphire. Sapphire was very scared to leave the Rescue & Recovery Center, so scared that she wouldn’t walk on a leash so I ended up carrying her to the van – fortunately she was a smaller dog.  She must have felt very comfortable in my arms because she stopped trembling and snuggled her head by my neck.  I put her in a crate directly behind the driver’s seat and while all the other dogs in the van for that trip barked or howled, Sapphire just sat in her crate staring at me.  When I reached the Adoption Center and the volunteers there started unloading the van, I made a point to say goodbye to Sapphire.  She ran over to me and, as much as a dog can, she gave me a big hug.  I’m sure I’m projecting my own emotions onto her behavior, but for what it was worth it was a special moment.

I visited the PAWS Chicago website nearly every day to see if Sapphire had been adopted, and when she was I was very happy but also a little sad that I wouldn’t get to see her again.  So, to the family who adopted Sapphire, please say hello for me and give her a big hug.

How does what you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?

I work for DePaul University, which is also a strong mission-driven organization like PAWS Chicago.  While my exact work may not compliment my volunteer efforts (finance and dogs??) there certainly is symmetry between the two organizations as it relates to community service outreach and helping those less fortunate.

I have participated in many DePaul sponsored volunteer events over the last 15 years that I’ve worked there and I enjoy the rewarding experiences I get from volunteering.  I have DePaul to thank for helping me discover the benefits of volunteering.  Volunteering is such a big part of the university’s identity and I know that, in some way, by volunteering at PAWS Chicago I am furthering DePaul’s mission of servicing others – even if it’s dogs and cats!

Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?

My number one reason for volunteering is simply due to my unabashed love for dogs.  A close second is simply that I want to do my part to ensure that many, many other people can experience the same joy of adopting a dog or cat from PAWS Chicago that I felt when adopting my dogs.

What I enjoy most about my experience as a volunteer is, of course, working with the dogs and cats.  They’re always so sweet, even when they’re not being so sweet.  I also really enjoy working with the staff at the Rescue & Recovery Center.  Their level of dedication to the animals is something I aspire to.

Do you have any pets at home?

In addition to the three PAWS Chicago dogs mentioned above we also have a fourth dog, Maizie, the matriarch of our dog family whom we rescued in April 2004.  In a way, our home is a mini PAWS shelter – only our dogs are not available for adoption.

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?

I always knew that pets were worth saving, but now that I’ve had an opportunity to volunteer here I have a much greater appreciation for all the work that goes into saving them.  Every time I volunteer I’m reminded of how much I admire this organization and how without them I wouldn’t have my furry friends waiting for me at home.