Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Michael and Kristy Zarley

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?

Kristy: My husband was an active volunteer at PAWS when we met.   I was volunteering at a different shelter here in Chicago, but thought it would be nice to work together.  I have been volunteering at PAWS since 2008.


Michael: I first started volunteering at the PAWS Adoption Center in late 2007, just a few weeks after it opened.  The primary reason that I started volunteering was that I imagined if my dog were in a shelter, I would hope that someone would be there with them to provide love and support before they found their forever home.


Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer? Do you volunteer together?

Kristy: I initially began volunteering in Dog Town, but currently spend the majority of my time doing adoption counseling. We actually met outside of PAWS, yet our shared interest in lessening the plight of homeless animals was certainly a common bond. We used to volunteer together at PAWS frequently, but things have changed now that we have a baby in the Zarley household.  Now we have to split our respective shifts. The baby, of course, is already an animal lover!


Michael: My primary focus is working in Dog Town as a Location Manager and a Level 3 Volunteer.  I also was involved in the Dog Town Holiday Program with the specific aim of placing some of the Adoption Center’s more long term residents into foster homes.  The detailed information on these dogs that we receive from the foster families certainly assists potential adopters with increasing their understanding regarding how well these dogs adapt to a home environment, thereby increasing their likelihood of adoption.


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

Kristy: Red’s story is so profound and is the first animal who comes to  mind.  His resilience is unmatched and we could all learn something from that special dog, not to mention the very special woman who opened her heart and home to him. 


Michael: Red’s story is very compelling and well known, yet on a more personal level, my brother recently adopted a puppy (now named “Maddy”) from PAWS in April of 2012.  It’s great to see a dog from PAWS hit ‘the doggy lottery’ and end up in his home.  Maddy already is an expert swimmer, ball fetcher and hiker.


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

Kristy: I am an Occupational Therapist that specializes in pediatrics.  We assess challenges and design interventions to make meaningful goals for children to help them be more successful in their lives. We educate families, teachers, and other caregivers on how to make sure carry-over occurs outside of therapy sessions.  Thus therapy really is a ‘group effort’ to support change and success in the life of a little one. Some of these parallels are seen in my work at PAWS.  PAWS continually sets goals to improve the lives of animals - they are always raising the bar in the number of adoptions, spay and neuters, and events to raise money to support the cause.  PAWS promotes adoption awareness and education to the public, which is where everything starts.   We all work together as team to facilitate the change we want to see in the way homeless animals are treated.


Michael: I currently marked my 20th year at Verizon as a Manager within the company’s Financial Operations Division. Throughout my time at Verizon and through the multiple roles that I’ve supported, I’ve learned how to effectively prioritize and manage situations where there are multiple items requiring my attention…this type of experience is very useful when working as a Location Manager in Dog Town, as things can sometimes get a bit hectic.


Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? 

Kristy: I volunteer at PAWS for several reasons. Of course I am an enthusiastic animal lover…like most of the volunteers and staff.   But ultimately, I believe in giving back and living a purposeful life.  These animals give their entire lives to us - their sole purpose on earth is to love us. The very least we can do is keep them alive and find homes for them in which their love will be reciprocated.  It is a wonderful feeling to share in the joy when the new adopters walk out of PAWS with their new best friends; my heart is filled with joy each and every time.


Do you have any pets at home?
Kristy & Michael: We have two large, mixed breed dogs at home that we had on our own before we met.  Calvin and Ellie are 10 and eight-years-old respectively, and they both were adopted from animal shelters.

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?

Kristy & Michael: Volunteering at PAWS reminds us that an idea alone does little to make change happen.  It takes genuine passion for change, and dedicated individuals to a cause to make a difference. The PAWS organization and mission is the perfect example of this.