What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
After I had been out of vet school for a couple of years and felt confident in my skills, I started looking for shelters where I could volunteer on my days off. A friend of mine fosters for PAWS and from hearing her talk, it sounded like a great organization and one with many opportunities for veterinarians. I have been a volunteer with PAWS for Life Outreach for about a year and a half now and I love it!
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
I work exclusively with the PAWS for Life Outreach program in Englewood. Once a month I go out into the community with the team. I perform exams, give vaccines and prescribe medication for minor illnesses. We discuss the benefits of spay and neuter, give behavior/training advice and deliver food, cat litter, flea preventative, leashes and other supplies.
Is there one favorite experience or fondest memory/animal story that has stood out or touched your heart during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
I have many favorite patients and experience quite a few "feel good" moments every time I go out to volunteer but my most memorable patient was a cute little long-haired Chihuahua mix named "Here We Go." She was such a sweet and spirited pup but sadly she suffered from painful glaucoma in one eye. I recommended that "Here We Go" have her bad eye removed (a common treatment for glaucoma) and fortunately the PAWS for Life program was able to accommodate her and the vet surgeons at PAWS performed the procedure. She now lives a comfortable and happy life and her "winking" appearance gives her even more character. One day we brought her some dog clothes and we had a mini fashion show trying on different cute outfits!
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
I work as a small animal veterinarian, so I utilize the same knowledge and skills in my volunteer work with PAWS as I do in my job. I do feel that my work with PAWS has made me a better communicator. Some of the volunteer work I do is hands-on, like performing an exam or giving vaccines, but most of the time we are engaged in conversation with the pet owner. As a veterinarian, much of my job relies on my ability to gather information from the owner. I also have to effectively communicate my recommendations and treatment plan so that the pet can receive the proper care.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? What do you enjoy the most about your experiences a volunteer?
PAWS was a good fit for me because of the opportunity available in the PAWS for Life Outreach program. At first I expected to be performing spays and neuters (where there is always need), but I was encouraged to participate in the outreach program (relatively new at the time) which was in need of a veterinarian. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being just what I wanted. I enjoy meeting the community members in Englewood and talking to them about their pets. Everybody is friendly and welcoming. Driving around, going door to door, you never know what to expect. We do have a schedule of appointments to see but there are always new people and animals we meet along the way. It's always an adventure and you never know where the day will take you!
Do you have any pets at home?
I do have a Norwegian Forest cat whom I love dearly. His name is "Marius" and he came from a rescue organization in Wisconsin. I support adoption and rescue which is why I chose to volunteer for a shelter that is so successful at finding forever homes for so many wonderful animals. In the clinic where I work, I see many patients from PAWS!
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events that supports animals?
Sadly, I have not but hope to one day! I don't run but my husband does... maybe I'll sign him up for a marathon with TEAM PAWS Chicago and cheer him on!
What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?
It is both a humbling and gratifying experience doing the type of work that I do with PAWS. I can instantly see the difference that I make in the lives of the animals and their owners. Doing volunteer work has made me a better and more well-rounded veterinarian and person. Prior to working with PAWS, I was not aware of the lack of access to veterinary care in some parts of Chicago. By doing this work, I know that I am helping animals who otherwise would likely have no care. I take this responsibility seriously and am honored to be involved in a program doing such outstanding and revolutionary work. I hope PAWS for Life continues to grow so they can service even more areas.