Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Tom Pazol

When I first took up this volunteer work, it was to help cats in need. But I’ve also come to realize the great value that the work holds for people as well. The whole process of being a foster parent is synergistic for both the cats and us humans. It’s an extremely rewarding experience.


What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?

My cat Oscar passed about two years ago.  He was an exceptional cat, and his loss was really, really hard on me.  It didn’t seem right to go out and “replace” him right away, but at the same time the house was too quiet without a cat—this was making me feel even bluer.  I’ve always admired PAWS, and I was reminded of the organization when a friend made a donation to commemorate Oscar. When I noticed that there was a great need for foster parents, this seemed like a perfect fit for my situation, and I plunged right in.

Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?

My main focus is fostering cats out of the Medical Center on 26th street.  I actually live quite close to the Adoption Center, but helping out cats that have just been saved from very traumatic circumstances just feels like the right thing to do.  And having the Adoption Center in the neighborhood makes it easy for me to visit my foster cats while they’re on the lookout for a forever family!

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?

It’s a challenge to pick one story.  There have been so many great cats I’ve had the privilege to get to know!  But I’ll take a shot.  I had a kitten named Tickle.  When I first met him it was hard for me to think about him as a kitten he was so large.  And he has this gorgeous coat of orange fur, especially thick on his belly.  Anyway, he is really enthusiastic for life and wanted to be part of household activities always.  So when I wasn’t giving him my full attention he’d stand up on his hind quarters.  When he did this I swear he looked just like a miniature grizzly bear!

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

My work for my clients is very consultative and variable in nature, so it’s hard for me to commit to a specific time to volunteer.  The foster program works well for me.  I’m volunteering right in my home!

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

This is a hard one, because there are so many aspects of the work that are incredibly special and rewarding.  Notable is the great job that the foster team/staff at PAWS does.  Despite the stressful nature of their work, they’re always on top of everything.  Any support I need is always right at hand.

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

As time went on and I fostered more and more cats I found that fostering was really meaningful to me, and not just a transitional way of working with my grief after the passing of Oscar.  I wanted to continue to be a foster parent, and focus my energies on the fostering exclusively!

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

Not yet, but maybe in the future.  All these events seem very worthwhile and fun!

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

One of the great aspects of fostering cats is that PAWS posts a picture of pets that are adopted along with all the members of their new household.  So I get to see a picture of my foster cats together with their new family.  This always reminds me of the great value we humans receive out of our relationships with pets.  When I first took up this volunteer work, it was to help cats in need.  But I’ve also come to realize the great value that the work holds for people as well.  The whole process of being a foster parent is synergistic for both the cats and us humans.  It’s an extremely rewarding experience.