Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Jeff Shanken

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?  
I entered semi-retirement, looking forward to the relaxation and extra time. After a couple months, I had all of the extra rest that I could handle. I looked around for something I would enjoy and would make a meaningful difference. It became clear to me quickly that volunteering at PAWS would be beneficial to the community and that every volunteer makes a difference in the interactions he or she has with the homeless dogs and cats.  I started volunteering two years ago and have been a Level 3 for about a year now.

Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

Dogs have so much exuberance and personality that I really enjoy spending my time with them, either at PAWS or when I foster them at my house. I have fostered two beagles who, through being immersed in life at my home, were able to have experiences and learn skills that helped move them to their forever home.

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

Every year, PAWS hosts a 36-hour Adopt-a-Thon. During the last Adopt-a-Thon, so many dogs were getting adopted that the Executive Director and I went to the Rescue & Recovery Center to bring more dogs to the event to be adopted.  It was very exciting to me that, even at 11 p.m., there was more demand for dogs for adoption than we ever could have imagined.  

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

I worked as the President of a small family-owned business where I managed the sales force and the day-to-day operations.  When I volunteer at PAWS, I noticed that the same skills that were successful in business were helpful in volunteering. I use my sales skills to understand concerns that potential adoptive families have and try to find a dog that is a good match for them.  These same skills are useful to me in educating adopters about that dog’s personality traits and dog-human interaction skills that are useful in alleviating their concerns. In addition, I use my business problem-solving skills to do whatever is needed at PAWS. Sometimes that means teaching Level 1 volunteers the skills necessary to be a PAWS volunteer and other times, it means pitching in if the staff is short-handed and rooms need to be cleaned.

Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? 

Even though it is such a rewarding feeling seeing dogs get adopted, I enjoy most the hard work that my fellow volunteers and I put into PAWS to keep the animals happy and the facility looking flawless.  I have made many new friends among the volunteers and the staff, which has enriched me as a person.

Do you have any pets at home?

I have a mature beagle named Jak whom I had brought into my life before I started to volunteer at PAWS.  He is what you would call a “bombproof” dog which means that no matter what happens, he is calm and non-aggressive.  This circumstance allows me to foster long term resident dogs in need of additional training or socialization. They have a chance to interact with Jak and learn to become comfortable with another animal in the home.

Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events?

Yes, I have participated in two of the PAWS Adopt-a-thons and am excited to be an invited guest to this year’s PAWS Fur Ball.

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?

I am thankful to the staff who trained me to become a Level 3 volunteer.  I would also like to thank all volunteers of PAWS for the hard work they do every day.  It makes a real difference to the lives of the PAWS animals.  The adoption of 4,000 cats and dogs in the last year shows that.