Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Andrew Tobin

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?

I began volunteering in June 2013 but have been a contributor to PAWS Chicago for about five years. The desire to work with homeless dogs initially brought me to PAWS. The more time I spent at the Adoption Center and the more volunteers I met made me want to spend more time volunteering.


Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

I am a Dog Town Gold Star Dog volunteer and an Adoption Counselor for dogs and have hosted visiting groups at the Adoption Center. I also serve on the PAWS Chicago Development Board and am a member of this year’s Beach Party Committee.


Is there a favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago? Three experiences volunteering have had the biggest impact on me since I’ve been at PAWS Chicago. This past October I signed up for the Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) tour and was the only volunteer that came for the tour. PAWS Chicago’s Executive Director spent almost three hours giving me an in-depth tour of CACC. Although CACC is not a very pleasant place, the tour energized me to want to do more for homeless animals. The CACC tour can be upsetting for some people; however, I highly encourage every volunteer and Development Board member to take the tour at least once. CACC is so central to our mission at PAWS that seeing it first hand is the only way to really understand the importance of the work we do.


The second experience that stands out was watching Mark Lukas and others saying goodbye to one of our long-term dogs, Marcie, as she left the Adoption Center for her forever home.  It was clear that Mark was deeply invested in Marcie and in making sure that we did everything we could to find the right forever home for her. It was very moving to see everyone say goodbye to Marcie.


My third memory, that happened just recently, was when I introduced, showed and did the adoption counseling for Maria, another long-term dog and staff and volunteer favorite.  Maria was getting very sad in the Adoption Center as she desperately wanted a human of her own to love and protect. I have spoken with her new family several times since the adoption and knowing that Maria has found a safe and secure home where she is very loved is incredibly rewarding.


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

After 29 years in various corporate finance roles, I retired in May 2013 after spending the last 14 years as U.S. Finance Director at Dentons, a large international law firm. Skills such as team building, problem solving and public speaking easily transfer from the corporate world to the not-for-profit sector and allow me to work effectively with other volunteers, potential adopters, Adoption Center visitors and PAWS leadership.


Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? 

I volunteer in an animal welfare organization because I care about the sad plight of the many homeless animals in Chicago and beyond and I want to help make a difference in their lives. I volunteer at PAWS Chicago because I enjoy working with the other volunteers, staff, leadership and Development Board members who are also passionate about making a difference in animal welfare. PAWS Chicago is a well-run organization with strong leadership and great volunteers and staff that are committed to improving the lives of homeless animals and is so much more than just finding homes for animals – although that is obviously a critical component of what we do. PAWS Chicago is a thought leader in the No Kill movement, Shelter Medicine, spay and neuter programs, volunteerism and humane education. I thoroughly enjoy being part of such an important organization that is helping to transform animal welfare in so many ways and that inspires so many people to donate substantial amounts of their time as volunteers and others to provide significant financial support. Every time I participate in any part of the process that culminates in another dog or cat finding its forever home, I feel like not only have I helped save an animal, I have helped expand a family.


Do you have any pets at home?

My husband Gary (who is also on the Development Board) and I have a Shih Tzu and Tibetan Terrier mix named Sheeba who we love very much and will be nine years old in July. We bought Sheeba from a retail store as a puppy before we understood the horrors of puppy mills. Our ignorance about puppy mills at the time we adopted Sheeba is also a primary reason that led me to volunteer in an animal welfare organization so I could help educate others about the need to put puppy mills out of business.


Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events? I volunteered at the 2013 Beach Party, 2013 Fur Ball, 2014 Animal Magnetism and am on the planning committee for this year’s Beach Party. Gary and I plan on being guests at this year’s Beach Party; Sheeba is on the Pet Host Committee.


What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you? 

When I left the corporate workforce after many years of working 50 to 60 and sometimes 70 hours a week, I was looking for an opportunity to help make a difference and to become engaged in work that is fulfilling and rewarding. PAWS Chicago has exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable and I am incredibly grateful for being provided numerous opportunities to learn and grow in the relatively short time I have been volunteering. I thoroughly enjoy coming to the Adoption Center every time I volunteer and the more time I spend learning about canine behavior, the No-Kill movement and what we do at PAWS Chicago, I can’t help but be inspired to want to do more.