What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
This may sound funny coming from me but I heard about PAWS from the Oprah Winfrey Show while channel surfing several years ago. The mission to make Chicago a No Kill city through finding caring homes for these awesome animals makes so much sense compared to just euthanizing our way through our city's stray problem. I love how comprehensive our approach is by partnering with Chicago Animal Care & Control, providing free and low-cost spay and neutering services, hosting a pet food and supply bank for needy families, having a terrific foster program and educating many people on responsible pet ownership.
How long have you been a volunteer?
About three years now. After adopting my first PAWS dog in early 2008, I began thinking about volunteering because one of my good friends was dating a girl who volunteered at PAWS and she really enjoyed the experience. However, it wasn't until I lost my job in late 2009 as the economy tanked and a running injury and medical complications sidelined me for a while in 2010, that I finally made it in to volunteer. I soon became hooked because it is such a rewarding experience, from the animals to the dedicated staff and volunteers and the interesting people who walk through our doors.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
My primary focus is as a Level 3 Dog Handler and Adoption Counselor for both dogs and cats but have also done some short and long term fosters and helped with intake at PAWS Chicago’s Rescue & Recovery Center.
Is there a favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
It seems like there is something memorable every day I volunteer so there are many great experiences and memories, but probably the most rewarding so far is seeing how beautiful, sweet and enthusiastic Diamond has become. She is a Pit Bull who came to us with a terrible skin condition called demodex mange and she was in miserable shape. She spent nine weeks with me and my two dogs while she recovered and is now available for adoption. I am so hopeful we can find her the right home.
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
It has probably gone both ways. Volunteering at PAWS Chicago has improved my life both in outlook and confidence, especially after being bumped around in the job market and recovering from my injury and illness. I am fortunate to work in a business development role with a large manufacturing company that specializes in industrial process control automation. I support our sales organization in promoting field service capabilities with industrial customers. We have to understand our customers’ needs by asking the right questions, understanding what we offer and making our best recommendations, which sometimes involves resetting customer expectations and pointing them in a different direction. As Adoption Counselors at PAWS Chicago, we do this quite frequently in trying to match adopters with the right pets and giving them realistic expectations on behavior and training so they can create an environment for success in a forever home.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?
It has almost become my second home and family. I absolutely love hanging out here spending time with the dogs, and as others have said, it is a great place to escape life and job stress, pressing world issues, and political discord while making some very good friends among the awesome staff and volunteers.
Do you have pets at home?
Yes, two dogs. I had been thinking about getting a dog for a few years when one day, while doing some last minute shopping for my Super Bowl party in February 2008, I drove by the PAWS Chicago Adoption Center on Clybourn. I had heard of PAWS and knew of the old location on Clark but didn't realize they had moved. I decided to stop by on the way home after shopping and have a look around. Three hours later I left with Shirley who was a 20-week old Husky/Shepherd mix. Then almost three years later I fostered Henrietta, a 20-week old American Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix, for the December 2010 adopt-a-thin. She was such a sweet, affectionate girl who played well with Shirley that I decided to keep her.
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events?
Yes, I've been fortunate to help out at the Fur Ball the last two years, Angels with Tails in Roscoe Village, and a couple of Team PAWS running events.
What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?
It has actually made me a better and more responsible dog owner. I've learned so much about dog behavior, handling and what makes them happy and healthy. In return, adopting and volunteering at PAWS has made my life much happier and more relaxed and provided a new source of joy and friendship. It is a great place to be and we are so very fortunate to have it here in Chicago. If you've thought about donating your time and talent to PAWS, don't waste any more time and do it now. There is so much to do and we can sure use your help. You won't regret it. In fact, you'll wish you started sooner.