What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
I have been volunteering at PAWS Chicago for almost four years now. I love animals and always wanted to volunteer, so one day I did a little research to learn about the shelters in Chicago. I knew I had to find a No Kill shelter so I would not take all the animals home with me! I initially decided on PAWS because I assumed it was affiliated with a PAWS in Ohio, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society. My grandma had recently passed away, and that PAWS, also a No Kill shelter, took her dog in and re-homed her for us. That meant so much to me because I knew how much my grandma loved her dog, and it gave me such peace knowing that her dog was safe and would find a new loving home. I now know that these two shelters are not related. But luckily it brought me here.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
I started my volunteering in Kitty City. I had two cats at home so I liked that I had the experience of being a cat owner to socialize the cats and help potential adopters select their new pet. I became a Level 2, then started teaching the Level 1 Training Class, and then joined the Lead Level 2 Program. I also became a Cat/Kitten Adoption Counselor and started teaching the Level 2 Training Class. As I continued to get more involved with PAWS, I realized I had no idea what happened on the "other side" of the Adoption Center. I became a Dog Town Level 1 this year and have to admit I love it! I am now also a Dog/Puppy Adoption Counselor and am currently in the Dog Town Level 2 Training Class. I also teach New Volunteer Orientation so I find being cross-trained with both cats and dogs is very helpful. My goal is to be able to walk into PAWS and assist wherever they need me! I also recently joined the Dog Town Running Program. It is so much fun, and running with a shelter dog is truly a full body workout.
Is there a favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
Being a No Kill shelter, I get to fall in love with all of them. But I have to admit my favorites so far are a pair of long term cats, Hoppy and Twiny. Hoppy came to PAWS after he had been thrown out of a 2nd or 3rd story window, and he hobbled around until his leg healed, hence his name. Twiny weighed 15+ pounds, but he had no idea how big he was, and he was so timid. Until Hoppy came along. Twiny attached to Hoppy and became so much more trusting of people, as long as Hoppy was around to show him it was okay. They became so bonded that they became a required pair. Because Twiny in particular did not show very well, they were at the Adoption Center for more than a year. But one day, the right pet parent came along, and I was at the Adoption Center that day! I still miss them but am so happy for them that they found their forever home that they deserved. I chose to have my picture here taken with Kent and Caroline, Kitty City's current long time pair. They are so wonderful, and just like Hoppy and Twiny, are simply waiting for the right pet parent to come along.
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
I am a structural engineer at an architecture firm downtown. My job is very technical but also requires a high level of organization and communication. I am often in meetings, in front of clients, and on construction sites where I need to convey my ideas clearly. These communication, presentation, and project management skills can be directly applied to my Level 2 role at the Adoption Center where I mentor new volunteers and teach training classes, as well as when I am an Adoption Counselor and am counseling people on becoming new pet parents.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?
I started volunteering because I love animals. And I am still volunteering actively almost four years later because I have learned so much about animal welfare, the amazing impact PAWS is making, and that these animals need us to be their voice. I can still remember the very first time I helped someone select the cat that they decided to adopt, and it was the best feeling in the world knowing that I had helped someone find the newest member of their family. The excitement that a child has as they pet a cat for the first time or the joy a young couple has as they walk their new puppy out our front door is infectious. I think I enjoy the educational aspect of volunteering the most, and that is why I teach so many different kinds of classes and do adoption counseling. I love talking to people about our mission, animal behavior, and how to be a new pet parent. Volunteering at PAWS has also made me a better pet parent. I have learned so much about animal behavior and appreciate all of the training I have been given and look forward to future training opportunities.
Do you have any pets at home?
I am the proud pet parent of two PAWS cats, Apollo and Gus-Gus. They are both gorgeous domestic long hairs and are also both part Maine Coon, and I wear their picture buttons as my flair on my apron every time I volunteer. When I first began volunteering I had two young cats at home, so I thought it would be many, many years before I would be ready to adopt again. About six months after I began volunteering my cat Athena suddenly got very sick, and we tested her for everything we could think of, but we lost her within only one week of when she first showed symptoms. I was completely devastated and could not even come back to PAWS for more than two months. One of my first days back, a one-eyed cat looked up at me, and I immediately fell in love. That was Apollo (PAWS name Eddie). Last year my other young cat Venus was diagnosed with lymphoma. I administered chemotherapy to her at home to keep her comfortable, and she passed away three months after diagnosis. I was very sad and still miss her today, but what I have really learned over the past few years of volunteering is that there are so many animals to love. I knew the right cat would find me once again, and he did. Gus's PAWS name was Mister Mister, and a lot of people might remember him. He had been returned twice for behavioral issues and was so upset and anxious to be back at PAWS, again. But after reviewing his file, I could tell he just needed a quiet calm home, and I just knew he was the guy for me. Today, he adores me and is my little shadow following me everywhere I go when I am at home, and he and Apollo are best buddies.
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events?
I have participated in Run for Their Lives twice and am excited to be participating again this year! It is such a fun event, and I find that all of my friends and family are animal lovers and generously donate to support my participation and give to PAWS. I also love getting friends to come participate with me. I have also volunteered at Angels with Tails.
8. What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?
Volunteering at PAWS gives me such happiness. There is nothing better than a kitty curled up in your lap on a cold winter night while the classical music plays, taking a dog for a walk on a beautiful summer day, and helping someone find the newest member of their family. The more I volunteer, the more I cannot wait to get back to the Adoption Center to volunteer again. Being a PAWS Chicago volunteer has become an integral part of my life and routine, and I am so grateful to be a part of an organization doing such amazing things for the animals of Chicago and beyond. I love the Adoption Center and that we have this happy place where people can come to adopt. But more importantly, I am so proud that PAWS focuses their mission on saving as many lives as possible to work toward a No Kill Chicago and that we are very close to making this a reality.