What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
I began volunteering with PAWS five years ago. I have always had a deep fondness for animals. I also felt that my free time was not being spent in an important or useful fashion, so it occurred to me that working with animals would be something I would enjoy doing and could also contribute to the important work being done toward caring humanely for homeless animals.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
When I first started as a Level 1 volunteer, I knew immediately that PAWS was a very special place that I definitely wanted to be a part of. So I happily agreed to participate in everything I was asked to do. I took the training to become a Level 2 volunteer and then Level 3. I became an Adoption Counselor, and I also teach the New Volunteer Orientation. I am also a Location Manager. I especially enjoy mentoring new volunteers to show them how I engage visitors at the Adoption Center, how I present a dog and also how to safely handle a dog. I always tell the new volunteers in my orientation class that you will be busy form the moment you arrive until the time you leave. And when you leave, you will always feel a sense of accomplishment that you have done something important with your time and you have.
Is there one favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer?
Early on there was an older, Level 3 dog named Spot. He had lived his entire life in a cage as a dog food tester. He had bad teeth, cataracts and his fur was dry and brittle. Even his name was generic! But he was a gentle, soulful creature. He was the first dog I would greet when I arrived and the last dog that I would give a treat and say ‘good night, sleep tight’ when I left. I wondered who would adopt this dog. He’s old, not that cute anymore. Would anyone take the time to look beyond the packaging and see what a wonderful dog he is? I remember coming in one cold, snowy night and Melissa Dragovan was standing at the front desk, grinning from ear to ear. And she said “Judy, Spot got adopted!” I just started crying - we all did. It just reminded me that there are some very special people in this world and two of them came into PAWS that day. Things like this happen all the time and it renews ones faith in humanity.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?
I volunteer at PAWS because of my love of animals. We are like-minded people here, regardless of race, religion, or politics with a common goal. And that is to care for these lovely homeless animals in many different capacities.
Do you have any pets at home?
My beloved American Bulldog, Niko died just a year ago. However, I am certain that another dog will find me one of these days. I also believe that by providing a good home to another homeless dog, I will honor the memory of my Niko.
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events?
I have participated at the Fur Ball, and also with Petco. The Petco event was interesting. Twice a month, another volunteer Holly Swanson and I would go to the Marshfield Mall in an at-risk area and encourage people to spay and neuter their animals utilizing the GusMobile. The Fur Ball is a beautiful event. It highlights the amazing generosity of those who support PAWS.
What value has volunteering at PAWS brought you?
I would like to share a very profound experience I had while doing the tour of Animal Care & Control. ACC is a very hard place to visit. It is a city organization, with a limited budget and I am certain that they do the best they can with limited resources. However this place will make anyone cry. I highly recommend everyone take the tour. It gives a sense of urgency and importance regarding the work being done at the Adoption Center. We will never solve this problem of overpopulation through adoptions, however seeing the horrific conditions these innocent animals are subjected to, is a great motivator, and enables us to see the big picture. When you consider what Paula Fasseas has accomplished is truly inspiring. She started this organization with just a few volunteers and through her vision and passion, has motivated so many people to help make this world a better place for animals. I highly recommend you join us and make a difference in the lives of these wonderful creatures.