Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Susie Russell

People will describe fostering and volunteer work for PAWS Chicago as saving the lives of animals, but I truly believe that they save me every single day. It gives me purpose and drive, and it feeds my soul.

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?  How long have you been a volunteer/When did you begin volunteering? 
About a year and a half ago I went through a local TNR organization to trap some feral cats and kittens who were living in the residential garage I was renting.  The kittens (Lola and Captain Nibbles) were young enough to be rehabilitated, so I agreed to foster.  I had them for about 5 months and bawled my eyes out when I had to give them up to their forever home...which happened to be on Christmas Eve.  That emotion fueled my need to continue to help the animal community, so I filled out my foster application and completed the PAWS orientation and training ASAP.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

My primary focus of volunteering is through fostering.  I am a rotating door of kitten fosters and would gladly foster pups if my building allowed it.  I am trained for both Kitty City and Dog Town, and will sign up for shifts in Dog Town if I need that puppy fix.

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? 

I am currently fostering a kitten named Squeakers (pictured above), who is such a special furry soul.  I started fostering Squeakers and her sister, Shoes, at the beginning of April.  A couple days before their scheduled spay surgeries, Squeakers had a seizure.  It is very rare for a kitten so young to have epilepsy, so there was a lot of testing and research done to figure out what was going on.  Squeakers holds a special place in my heart because of her condition, and the PAWS medical staff have been wonderful to partner with to find a solution and medication that will ease her seizures.  We are hoping that both Squeakers and Shoes will go up for adoption in a few weeks, I am crossing my fingers that a loving family will come through soon thereafter and be willing to take on such a sweetheart who happens to have some special needs.

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

My entire career has been in Human Resources, which is a profession where you're likely find people who enjoy helping others.  I also find that my role and profession requires me to have compassion and empathy.  All of these qualities fuel my passion for fostering and volunteering with PAWS Chicago. 

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

People will describe fostering and volunteer work for PAWS as saving the lives of animals, but I truly believe that they save me every single day.  It gives me purpose and drive, and it feeds my soul.  With my fosters, I can't wait to get home at the end of the day and see how they're doing, play with them and love on them.  With volunteering, I feel such a sense of excitement when I see families taking pictures with their new pets before taking them home.

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

I do not have any resident pets, and that is by design.  When fostering, you are encouraged to keep your fosters separate from your residential cats.  Due to my apartment layout and # of enclosed rooms, this would make it very difficult for me to be a pet owner and foster at the same time.  I choose not to adopt so I can continue my passion for fostering.

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

I am currently training with TEAM PAWS for the Chicago Marathon. It is my first marathon, and I can't imagine running on behalf of any other organization.  I am so excited to fundraise for PAWS Chicago...and being able to eat more food during the training process isn't so bad either.