Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Meghann Hussmann

None of this could have been possible without a small army behind me. My friends, family, and TEAM PAWS members have helped every step of the way through networking. The support is amazing, and the connections and friends I have met along the way make it all worth it.

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
Funny story, I was on a blind date and he was running the Chicago Marathon that year for TEAM PAWS! Our first date was to the TEAM PAWS Pawsta Party before the big race. I met him at the bar next to the Adoption Center and then we went to the dinner. During the dinner PAWS played the History of Paws Chicago video and the rest was history for me, I fell in love with the organization and enjoyed all of the nice people I met that night. He is long gone from my life, however we parted on good terms. One of the last things he said to me was that I would run the full Chicago Marathon for TEAM PAWS – and I did! I ran last year on TEAM PAWS, finishing the full 2015 Chicago Marathon and I am a member of TEAM PAWS again this year.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
Although I have been involved at all of the PAWS locations and events my primary focus is at the Medical Center. At least once a month I teach the New Volunteer Orientations for the Medical Center, give tours to the New Volunteers, and I often host visiting volunteer groups including the PAWS Chicago Professional Board. I also have been known to leave my volunteer shifts a time or two from the Medical Center with a foster cat or two. My fiance supports all I do with PAWS. He goes above and beyond, but his “fee” for me bringing fosters home: the foster rent is two FOSTERS beers per animal. He likes to tease me about this, but it makes it fun. I come home with two cats, and I bring him four Fosters.
Is there one favorite experience that has stood out or touched your heart during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
There is more than one of course! To name one however, I work closely with the Volunteer Manager at PAWS, and she calls me often for transport needs. She called me one day and told me there was a small black PAWS alumni dog named Mackie that was confiscated from a bad situation by law enforcement and had been dropped off at a rural animal control. We drove quickly to pick up Mackie, and this dog was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met in my life, a little black toy poodle. Poor Mackie was covered in feces and had terribly matted fur when I picked him up. Luckily my fiance drove the car so that I could hold the little pup in my lap for his ride to PAWS. PAWS took Mackie in right away, cleaned him up, and scheduled Mackie to have some emergency dental work. In the last picture I received of Mackie he had a new hair doo, almost looked like he had a cute little Mohawk and he was wearing a cute little red plaid coat.
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
At work I often present to large groups of people, and I need to stay extremely organized. I am the Facilities Manager for the Global Headquarters here in Chicago for Discover Financial Services (Discover Card). When I teach the new volunteer classes and give tours at the Medical Center I think these qualities are practiced and continue to help me in my everyday life.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?  What do you enjoy the most about your experiences a volunteer?
Growing up as an only child, I always had a dog and a cat and they were like my siblings to me, as silly as it sounds. Whether I was in the backyard or in the basement in the “toy room” playing with my dollhouse, I had a pet by my side. 42,561 animals were euthanized in 1997 in the City of Chicago. PAWS Chicago opened that year and implemented their spay/neuter program, the adoption program, and engaged the community making them aware of the problem. When I learned this information, and learned that not only is PAWS going after making Chicago a No Kill city, they are also working towards a No Kill nation partnering with other cities bringing dogs out of bad situations into the program at PAWS, I had to be a part of that mission. It brings tears to my eyes typing about the amazing work PAWS does every day. In 2015, PAWS has helped reduce the euthanasia rate in Chicago by 80%, it feel incredible to be a part of that history.
Do you have any pets at home?

In May of 2013 I moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Chicago. In St. Louis I was involved with the local humane society as a foster, and helping the shelter with promoting special events. I have a foster failure rescue dog from the Humane Society of Monroe County Illinois, her name is Dixie and she is now 11 years old. I am confident in time I will also have a PAWS alumni pet, I have been waiting until I am a little more settled in Chicago, and of course I will have to ask Miss Dixie for permission.

Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events that supports animals?

Last year I was on TEAM PAWS and ran the full Chicago Marathon, and this year I am on TEAM PAWS again running the full Chicago & New York Marathons. I am very excited to be a part of these events and the team is so much fun. Throughout team connections I have been to multiple fundraising events. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys running! I have yet to attend Fur Ball, I am hoping to volunteer this year!

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?  Anything else you'd like to share regarding your experiences as a PAWS Chicago volunteer? 

PAWS has provided me with the opportunity to travel on local and long distance rescues. I have been a part of bringing several animals back to Chicago; a PAWS dog that was left at a shelter in Denver, a PAWS cat that was left at a shelter in St. Louis, a PAWS cat left at a shelter in New York, and most recently I flew to Dallas in June of 2016 and drove back a PAWS dog whose owner could not physically care for the pet anymore. These experiences have proven to me that PAWS truly sticks behind the No Kill model and Lifetime Commitment. All of these animals were found thanks to their microchips being traced back to PAWS or the owners knowing that they could return these animals to PAWS. None of these rescues could have been possible without a small army behind me. My friends, family, and TEAM PAWS members have helped every step of the way through networking. For the Dallas trip, a TEAM PAWS member reached out to a contact for me and they donated an airline ticket! The support is amazing, and the connections and friends I have met along the way make it all worth it. All of these animals I have found homes for, a few of them with my own extended family and friends!