Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Sam Goodman

What I enjoy most is helping to get cats and dogs to the Adoption Centers and to the public where they can meet their new forever families. I sometimes think ‘what if there was no transport on that day we visited PAWS Chicago?’ We never would have our Athan.

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?  How long have you been a volunteer?

I had never heard of PAWS when my wife, Elizabeth, and I started thinking about adopting a pet for our new home in Chicago. We moved from Chicago to Boston in 1995 - pre-PAWS; the only shelter I knew was Anti-Cruelty Society. My wife kept finding these adorable cats and dogs on the PAWS website, and I started looking into the organization and discovered the terrific work they were doing at saving cats and dogs. Then one magical day in May 2012, we were able to visit PAWS in Lincoln Park together and saw and adopted the most adorable Shih Tzu we ever saw. 

We love our little Athan (PAWS name Jersey) so much, I wanted to help others do the same - to help rescue animals find loving forever homes, and families find their “Athan’s.”  I started volunteering as a transport driver at PAWS Chicago in March 2014.

Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer? 

I started out in Dog Town, but now I primarily volunteer as a transport driver taking animals out to the North Shore Adoption Center from the Rescue and Recovery Center, or making the occasional trip driving an animal to a vet appointment, or pick up of a returned PAWS animal.

Is there one favorite experience or fondest memory/animal story that has stood out or touched your heart during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?

Shortly after I started volunteering in Dog Town, a new dog came in, a white, adorable 10-year-old Cairn Terrier called Ruby who was sitting by herself, quiet, very still and alone in her suite. I kept her company and whenever I was at the Adoption Center, I would always visit her, feed her in the morning, and take her on walks. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for Ruby, who was an owner relinquishment after being with her “people” for 10 years, and then suddenly finding herself alone and no longer with her “person.” After a few weeks of watching Ruby go from the AC to foster home to AC, then to the Medical Center for ligament surgery and back to the AC, I was so happy when I saw that Ruby found her forever home. 

That’s what I love about PAWS - from the older Ruby’s, the blind Poodles and Labs, the one-eye'd Shih Tzus and Bully Breeds, the three legged Pointers, the older twin Huskies who need to be adopted together, the Lhapso’s who can get seizures, the Terriers who can’t use their rear legs, the Poodles with bad hearts, to the newborn pups, all get a new life and new homes. And the cats too! 

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

My previous position was a Mutual Fund Accountant and Fund Pricing Specialist - so not too much. But my current status in untimely early retirement provides me the time and flexibility to make the two transports a week even if I have to go to both ACs, and to be available for the occasional off-schedule transport.

Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?  What do you enjoy the most about your experiences a volunteer?

I know and remember the olden days of stray and unwanted animal treatment in Chicago, when it seemed like going to Animal Control or to a ‘shelter’ was almost akin to a death sentence. No matter the animal, there was only a certain time it had to be adopted.  I am amazed at what PAWS Chicago has done for stray and unwanted animals. Thanks to PAWS, thousands of animals are being saved, year after year.

What I enjoy most is helping to get cats and dogs to the Adoption Centers and to the public where they can meet their new forever families. I sometimes think ‘what if there was no transport on that day we visited PAWS?’ We never would have our Athan. I believe one of the main reasons for the much reduced euthanasia rates and creating a No Kill city is creating greater accessibility to these animals, and I feel getting them out to the public is critical to saving them.

Do you have any PAWS Chicago alumni pets - or any other pets - at home?

My wife, Elizabeth and I adopted Athan (PAWS name Jersey) from PAWS in May 2012. He is a 15 pound cream-colored Shih Tzu who is the most perfect dog for our home that we could have ever imagined. 

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

I like to volunteer for the 36 Hour Adopt-a-Thons, doing double duty - one shift in the morning to help get the Adoption Center ready for business and another late night/early morning shift. I also participate in the sponsored Pup-Crawls as a crawler. I make sure to do extra duty on those!

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

Seeing new doggies and kitties with each new shelter visit tells me that the No Kill model is working and PAWS Chicago is a big success at saving thousands of animals that otherwise would not have new life. And it’s not just the animals; it’s the people, too. I have met numerous people out on my daily walks with Athan, and see the positive impact these dogs and cats have had on their new people. My wife and I have started friendships that otherwise may never have occurred by meeting people on our walks. And it has turned out that two other PAWS volunteers live within a couple blocks from me, one practically across the street, the other on our winter walking route. 

And even out on the road on a transport, it is not uncommon for me to get a honk, a thumbs up and a shout out. And no, it’s not an angry honk, a finger up and a shout AT, it’s a shout OUT and THUMBS up.  And it’s a big thumbs up to PAWS for saving all these great animals from the old way they would have been treated and letting them live out their natural lives as family members with their new people.