Tom Hay Bauer
In many ways the four-footed “people” in my life have been just as significant as those with two feet, so volunteering at PAWS Chicago is a way to honor them.
What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago? How long have you been a volunteer?
I started volunteering at PAWS Chicago shortly after moving to town in December of 2008. At that time, I had been living in a rural county in northern-lower Michigan and volunteering at a "traditional" shelter, so when I arrived here I made finding a No Kill organization my top priority. I literally Googled "No Kill" and came up with PAWS Chicago as the first result.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
Over the last 6+ years I’ve done just about everything. Recently I’ve been helping regularly with data entry at the Development office and doing public outreach work, such as group hosting and presentations/tabling at Combined Federal Campaign events. I love spreading the No Kill message and raising awareness about the many ways PAWS Chicago is saving lives. I also enjoy adoption counseling—particularly at off-site events.
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?
A few years ago I was very active with the TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) program being run from the 26th Street Rescue and Recovery Center. We had just returned from trapping in Woodlawn when a neighbor on Drake Street mentioned hearing a cat meowing in a boarded-up building. We contacted the Realtor and obtained permission to break in and rescue the kitty. Eventually the cat came to the Lincoln Park Adoption Center (LPAC) and found a home! As for my outreach work, I greatly enjoy presenting at schools and summer kids programs as well as hosting youth groups at the LPAC. Love of animals is something that crosses all boundaries, and you really see this when working with young folks.
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
I find my experience from the education field to be very helpful with my outreach work. Similarly I find my background in business/office computing to be supportive of my data work. In fact I used to drill the importance of data accuracy into my students, so I consider good data entry to be a worthy goal rather than a tedious chore. I have also had occasion to develop a few small database applications for some of the PAWS Chicago outreach programs.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? What do you enjoy the most about your experiences a volunteer?
In many ways the four-footed “people” in my life have been just as significant as those with two feet, so volunteering at PAWS Chicago is a way to honor them. I do not consider this view to be an anthropomorphism. In fact, I think that the essence of what distinguishes humans as people also distinguishes many beings with paws, wings, and fins. In other words our most essential character does not have to do with intellect, language, or opposable thumbs. As for what I enjoy most, it’s the purrs and wagging tales as well as the smiles of those who walk on both two and four feet. There is nothing better than seeing a family grow larger with the addition of a furry one or to help keep a family together by providing options to relinquishment of a family pet.
Do you have any PAWS Chicago alumni pets - or any other pets - at home?
I have had two foster “failures” since starting at PAWS Chicago—both from Miss Kitty’s Senior Cat Home. Hollywood was 11 when I fostered/adopted him and 14 when I lost him to cancer. Annie is now ruler of the roost—she was 7 when she came home with me about a year and half ago. Both of them were trying very hard to be invisible among the other cats in the suite but have been as sweet as can be when in their own domains.
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events that supports animals?
I think I have volunteered for every single event at one time or another, and some of them I have done multiple times including the Marathon, Run for Their Lives, and Fur Ball. Events are great because each one has an energy of its own, and they all contribute to the PAWS Chicago mission in very important ways.
What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you? Anything else you'd like to share regarding your experiences as a PAWS Chicago volunteer?
I love volunteering because you can choose what you want to do, when you want to do it. At home I am a part-time family caregiver, so it is nice to have a mission outside the home where I get to work with a great group of "people" and experience many smiles in addition to those purrs and wagging tails.