Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Chris Steele

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?  
A friend of mine was looking for animal shelters to volunteer for, and when she found PAWS Chicago she showed it to me and asked if I wanted to volunteer with her.  I’d never done any volunteer work for an animal shelter before so I said, “sure.”  I thought it’d be fun to volunteer a couple times play with a couple dogs or pet a few cats.  When we got to PAWS for the first time I was surprised at how nice the adoption center was and how nice everyone that worked and volunteered there was.  That was almost four years ago.  What was going to just be a couple volunteer shifts has turned into a regularly schedule event on my calendar.

Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

I started out in Dog Town, primarily the morning shifts before work.  The morning shifts were great (except they were so early in the morning). I was there 2-4 times a week.  Within a couple months I’d taken the level 2 Dog Town classes.  There seemed to be so many dogs I couldn’t help with, so talking the level 2 classes allowed me to be more versatile.  For that some reason I took the Kitty City training as well.  Soon after, I was leading the level 1 Dog Town training classes (and from time to time, the Kitty City classes too).  I’ve also helped out at the PETCO adoption events and most of the Angles with Tails events in the last three years.  My favorite event, so far, is the Adopt-A-Thon.  It’s such a high-energy event you can’t help but get swept up in it.  I’ve also fostered several cats (including a litter of kittens) and a couple overnight dogs.  For the last two years my primary role has been as an Adoption Counselor but I still try to help in as many areas as I can.

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

Recently, I found myself fostering a litter of four kittens.  One of them had a possible case of ringworm (turned out that it was a false alarm) so they had to be held four weeks longer than normal.  I took them for this time.  I ended up falling in love with all of them, but one in particular that I couldn’t let go.  I already had two cats and a chinchilla – so it would have been impractical to adopt another kitten, so I did what any logical person would do…  I got a friend to adopt her!  It wasn’t a hard sell, I just had him come over to meet her and he fell in love.  After all the appropriate waiting time was done and we were sure there was no ringworm, he came to the center on the day they came in and I did the adoption consoling.  I recently kitten sat her over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and she’s doing great.  Super friendly and “energetically curious” about everything! 

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

During the day I’m a lead developer on iOS applications.  I’ve been doing that for, pretty much, the entire time I’ve been at PAWS.  I wrote the first Dora the Explore and Diego games for the iPhone.  I also rewrote the Sears and Kmart shopping apps, several Bloomberg Sports apps, and a few games that I designed and personally released.  I really enjoy working with the iPhone and iPad on a regular basis.  Some day, maybe I’ll get a chance to write something for PAWS…

Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? 

I started volunteering for something to do, I continue volunteering for what PAWS stands for.  The people at PAWS really care about the animals and the mission that PAWS is trying to accomplish.  It can be a tough job at times because you see both sides of a shelter animal’s life.  Often times, when a new animal comes into the shelter, they are scared and their background stories are rarely “happy.”  But then you see them find a good family and that makes doing what we do worth it. 

Do you have any pets at home?

I currently have two pets at home.  A cat, “Z”, who came from another shelter (I got him before I knew about PAWS) and a chinchilla named Bunny.  Bunny likes to chase Z around, Z would rather I never let Bunny out of his cage.  He does like other cats, but has issues with kittens, kids, and anything else that moves too fast.


Have you participated (attended or volunteered) in any PAWS Chicago special events?

Besides volunteering at the Adopt-A-Thon and Angles with Tails events, I’ve also run the marathon for PAWS.  I’ve never been a very enthusiastic runner (I ran a 5k once before and that had been the extent of my running experience) but I figured if I was going to do it, I might as well do it for a good cause.  Like most who’ve run a marathon will tell you, it’s the training that’s the killer.  I didn’t stick to the training schedule all that well.  But on the day of the marathon, the energy all around and the fact we had “Team PAWS” backing us, was enough to help us finish.  I haven’t run much since the marathon either, but the experience will always stick with me.  It just goes to show that if you put your mind to something and have a good support system, you can accomplish just about anything.  I think the same applies for our goals at PAWS.

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?

I think the biggest lesson you can learn from volunteering for an organization like PAWS is that there is always more to do, but by being part of the solution, you are always doing something worthwhile.  We all need to keep the positive energy going and try to inspire those around us every day, so that they will know how to inspire us when we need it.  Everyone at PAWS is there because they believe in what PAWS stands for.  Volunteers give their time but the full-time staff are really there for the same reason (it’s certainly not for the money, non-profits aren’t known for their high paying jobs).  We have to support each other as we support the animals.  Together we can continue making a difference in the lives of thousands of homeless animals’ lives.