Bonnie began as an AHS Foster Volunteer in November 2008. Since then she has provided foster care to dogs for 653 days of the last 2 years! She is up for any medical foster challenge and will take any type of dog, large or small, adult or puppy. Bonnie understands the huge impact her time and care has on these dog’s lives and loves to see the progress they make. When asked what her most memorable foster case was, Bonnie said, “I can’t choose just one and I don’t let myself get attached because it’s easier on the animal and me…but I do remember Speedy.”
Speedy is a 10 year old Chihuahua rescued from a cruelty/neglect situation who needed foster care while he was recovering from several teeth extractions and an injured jaw. Bonnie cared for him for a month and brought him back to AHS ready to take the next foster case. It was determined that Speedy needed a little more recovery time and he went to another foster home with AHS Foster Volunteer Maggie. Maggie has been a Foster Volunteer since 2007 and has fostered many dogs, but once she met Speedy she knew she had to keep him. Thanks to the compassion and time of Foster Volunteers like Bonnie and Maggie, dogs like Speedy go from being ill-cared for to an irreplaceable part of someone’s life. A once mistreated and shy dog, now Speedy is described as, “not at all afraid to ask for his tummy to be rubbed.” Hats off to Bonnie and Maggie!
This week we would like to introduce you to Cheryl who has been volunteering with AHS since 2002! Cheryl is currently an Adoption Preparation Volunteer (a program for dogs who are shy or fearful and receive help from Volunteers to gain confidence) and also focuses a lot of time on training new Dog Adoption Support Volunteers. She has had other roles throughout her time with AHS including assisting with events and fostering.When the Adoption Preparation program started up at the St. Paul location, Cheryl was excited to help out and is glad she did, stating, "Every time I see a dog on the adoption floor that would not have been given that opportunity were it not for me and the rest of the Ad Prep Volunteers, I feel so proud." When she is not volunteering and making a huge impact in the lives of dogs, Cheryl is taking harp lessons or learning how to track with her dog Bebe! Bebe is a dog she fostered and then adopted from AHS. Here she is pictured with “Mandy,” a dog going through the Adoption Preparation program.
Meet Jarin. Jarin is a Woodbury AHS Volunteer who loves dogs, fresh air and walking, so you can only imagine how much she loves her role as a Morning Dog Walker! Jarin comes in before the shelter opens and gives dogs their first walk of the day. She says, “Every time I open a kennel I get the same greeting I would get from a long lost dearly anticipated friend! It’s the best!” Jarin has been volunteering for just under two years and during that time has been active in volunteering at the Walk for Animals and attending Volunteer Town Hall meetings to learn more about organizational changes at AHS.
Outside of volunteering, Jarin loves to run (and will be doing a half marathon this spring!) and read. Her two St. Bernards, Solomon and Bubba keep her company and keep her on her toes! She describes Bubba, who is just one and a half years old, as “½ St. Bernard, ¼ gorilla and ¼ bear sprinkled all over with monster.” Thanks to Jarin for her dedication to the mission of AHS and for getting up early to be the first one to walk the dogs. She describes volunteering as a “mutually beneficial relationship” and something tells me “Lady,” pictured here, would agree!
Barb thinks every cat is a masterpiece...
Barb is an author, traveler, gardener, and still makes time to volunteer at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and AHS! Barb has been volunteering at our Buffalo location as a Cat Adoption Support Volunteer since 2010. A true lover of cats, Barb has two 17 year old cats at home, Asti and Miha, adopted from the Buffalo location. Barb says a big highlight of her time volunteering has been seeing the length of stay for cats drop dramatically. She states, “When I started at Buffalo, I often saw the same cats several weeks in a row. Now I rarely see a cat there for more than just one week!” Barb also loves to see all of the different cat personalities and how they react to a laser light she carries in her pocket. She says, “Some couldn’t care less about it but then you get the ones who can’t stop chasing it and flying all over the room and it’s better than an afternoon at the movies!”
Be on the lookout for Barb’s book to be published this summer. It’s called “Niser’s Nine” (pronounced knee-sir) and is about a cat she shared 20 years of her life with, from 1974 to 1994. The book recounts all of Niser’s adventures and how she truly had nine lives due to the perilous situations she got herself into.
Thanks to Barb for her dedication to the cats at the Animal Humane Society!
Wanda is a cut above...
A dedicated Volunteer at our Coon Rapids location, Wanda plays a big role in keeping the animals at AHS healthy and ready for new homes. Since 2007 Wanda has accumulated over 1700 hours, but her positive impact on the animals is unquantifiable.
She volunteers as a Surgery Assistant, which involves cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments, wrapping surgical packs and caring for animals before and after spay/neuter surgery. She also assists in administering medication to animals undergoing medical treatments. Wanda is pictured here in front of the new “Kindest Cut” mobile surgery unit (http://kindestcutmn.com). She first met her Beagle “Deogee” when he was a patient on the “Big Fix” Mobile Surgery Unit back in 2009 and her two cats were also adopted from AHS.
Wanda is a devoted grandmother of two grandsons who live out of state and three granddaughters who live in MN. They keep her busy with their various activities such as dance line, soccer tournaments and learning to drive. Coon Rapids staff describe her as, “cheerful, great to work with and super helpful. She is simply amazing". And we think it is simply amazing to have Wanda as an AHS Volunteer!
Nancy retired from full-time employment about six years ago. After some time had passed, she found herself having full blown conversations with her dog and figured it was time to get out of the house! AHS is lucky she did because for the past six years Nancy has been helping animals through many different Volunteer roles.
She started out volunteering as a Dog Adoption Support Volunteer. Nancy's eldest dog Alpha, a German Shepherd, suffered from barrier frustration early in her training and working through this issue with Alpha led to her interest in also helping dogs in the Adoption Preparation Program overcome their issues. Nancy also trains in new Volunteers as a Volunteer Mentor. Volunteering in so many areas at AHS has led Nancy to meet many different people in the organization. She says, "Without fail, every time I work a shift someone is sure to tell me how much my help is appreciated. It makes my shifts fly by."
Last January, one of the dogs going through the Ad Prep program, "Chase", tugged hard at her heartstrings and she now has three dogs at home. Nancy also spends time gardening, reading and making lap quilts and prayer shawls for Hospice of the Twin Cities. She has four grown children, three of which also share their lives with dogs. Nancy says, "Volunteering at AHS gives me my social contact, my animal contact and makes me feel good about what I'm doing - what's not to like?"
Karen says interacting with the cats is her favorite part of volunteering, although watching people actually pick their perfect match is a close second. Karen has been volunteering at our St. Paul location as a Cat Adoption Support Volunteer since 2006 and has over 2,100 hours of service. What surprises her is “the number of adopters who return to tell you how their new cat is doing. They are always so pleased at having found an addition to their family and love to tell you how they and the cat have adapted to each other.”
Karen adopted her own cat, Kiki, from AHS because Kiki was the oldest cat she had ever seen on the adoption floor. Kiki was then 17 years old and was “looking bewildered.” Karen said to her: “Oh, my goodness – you can’t stay!” She says she thought Kiki “deserved a better life.” Karen’s other cat Oliver, who is 9, was “just smitten with her” when she brought Kiki home.
Karen also trains in new volunteers. The best feeling about training is when you see the new volunteers assist in a new cat adoption. The volunteers “are concentrating really hard and are almost glowing” as much as the cat adopters are themselves. Karen says, “It is a real feeling of satisfaction!”
A volunteering highlight that stands out in her memory is of a young couple considering a cat that was very outgoing. The companion to that cat was in the next cage and was quite shy. They hung out with the livelier of the two but said about the shy one: “It’s his first day on the floor.” They ended up adopting the companion cat, too!
When Karen is not volunteering, reading mysteries is becoming her favorite hobby. She is also “starting to rebuild her enthusiasm” for wood carving. This will allow her to add to her little collection which includes one carved cat.
Thank you Karen for your dedication to the cats at the Animal Humane Society!
Bob says the highlight of volunteering at our Woodbury location as a Dog Adoption Support Volunteer is “seeing a dog go out the door with his new family. It’s a life changing moment for both the dog and the people, although they might not recognize it at the time.”
He “gets a kick out of it when a fearsome-looking dog, usually a pit bull, turns out to be the sweetest, most affectionate dog of the day. They’re often the ones who want to cuddle and be petted the first chance they get.” Such a dog might seem to be a difficult candidate for adoption, because of age or appearance, but Bob says, “I’ve learned that there’s always someone out there who’s looking for exactly that kind of dog. It’s a great feeling to see they have been adopted when I come to my next volunteer shift.”
A day that stands out in Bob’s memory is when a woman came in with her two kids “just looking” because they were in the neighborhood. Suddenly, the kids stopped in front of the kennels screaming that they had found their dog. Bob thought they meant they had found the right dog for them, but it actually was their dog that had been missing for about a month! They never thought to file a missing dog report at AHS. Bob says, “That would have saved them a lot of trouble, but it was a happy ending. The excitement on the kids’ faces, and on the dog’s face, was great.”
When Bob is not at AHS, he is an avid carp fisherman and volunteers with another organization that takes senior citizens out fishing on the river. Bob says, “I am lucky to have found two volunteer opportunities that are both so rewarding.”
Thank you Bob for your time and commitment to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society! - by volunteer Cindy Parsons
Jody recently celebrated her one year anniversary as an Adoption Counselor Volunteer at the AHS Buffalo location. “People and animals are my passions so combining them in the adoption area fits me to a tee,” she says. “I volunteer with a wonderful staff that makes me feel like a part of their family.”
A highlight for Jody this year was volunteering for “Check In” at the annual Walk for Animals because even though it was raining, she “was able to see all the dogs in their unique rain gear.”
Once while volunteering on the adoption floor, Jody says there was a gray cat named Duchess who didn’t care for other cats and “was the most vocal feline I had ever met.” Duchess had been waiting to be adopted for a very long time when a woman, who had seen her picture on the AHS website, came in and “fell in love immediately” with her. The woman liked the cat’s gray coloring, amber eyes, and when she held her, the cat “settled right in and her motor started running.” Jody believes that Duchess will not be so vocal anymore as the woman looked like all of her attention would be on “The Duchess.” This woman did not have any other cats which Jody knew Duchess would prefer. Jody says, “The entire AHS staff was so happy and many tears were shed by all of us seeing Duchess go to such a perfect home.”
Another memorable day was when a woman come in with her son, took one look at a little terrier mix with great big ears and fell in love. The woman told Jody she had been looking for a “totally different type of dog; however, this was just meant to be.” The woman had thought she wanted a purebred of some kind when, as we all know, mixed breeds generally have a much better personality!
In her free time, Jody rides her 30 year old horse named Buddy “who thinks he is four most of the time” and is still in great health.
Thank you Jody for volunteering at the Animal Humane Society!
by volunteer Cindy Parsons
Jo has been fostering kittens through our Coon Rapids location since 2006. As a foster mom, she “attempts to mold each kitty into a good household pet.” Jo teaches her foster kittens house etiquette such as no scratching on furniture and litter box training and prepares them for tolerating nail trimming, teeth, and ear cleaning in their future homes.
One fostering experience that is imprinted in Jo’s memory is of a young orange tiger kitten that her husband named Tiny. Tiny was the runt of the litter and did not seem to grow past one pound while in her care. Jo says, “While all the other siblings were playing kitty games, Tiny spent his time snuggled up with my husband either in his shirt pocket or in the curve of his arm.” To this day, her husband keeps a picture of Tiny with their household dog Tika on his phone. Jo says about Tiny, “This precious gift was short-lived but made a big impression in our hearts and minds.”
When not volunteering, Jo can be found gardening or creating jewelry, ceramics, and stained glass. Her four male cats “all get along like brothers now.” She adopted each one separately “but now they groom each other and sleep together.” One of the cats is named Mauer, after Minnesota Twins player Joe Mauer, because he plays fetch with her husband every day. “Mauer also follows my husband from room to room,” says Jo.
Thank you Jo for your dedication to the foster kittens at the Animal Humane Society!
Dawn says, “Ever since childhood, I have always seemed to find animals that need help and have used AHS as a resource to help care for these animals.” Dawn has been a surgical assistant and foster volunteer out of our Coon Rapids location since 2009.
When she first heard of the surgery assistant position, Dawn said she wasn’t sure how she would feel about being exposed to surgeries, but she finds it to be very interesting. Some of her surgical assistant duties are to gather animals that are having surgery that day, clean the instruments after surgery, re-pack and sterilize the instruments for future surgeries, and help comfort animals recovering as they come out of anesthesia. Dawn says, “The people I work with have been so nice to explain procedures and educate me on what they do. I feel privileged to be a part of the surgery team.” The most interesting procedures she has seen are leg amputations and eye extractions. “I am very impressed with the lengths AHS goes to in order to help the animals,” she says.
Being involved behind the scenes also made Dawn aware of the number of animals needing foster care. She decided to get involved there as well. She has fostered 18 litters of kittens to date and currently is fostering a cat. “My most memorable foster kittens have been the two with leg amputations (we call them tripods). I was working in surgery the day each of them had their surgeries and offered to foster them during their recovery. They both have done great and could do anything any four-legged kitten could do,” says Dawn.
Something not everyone knows about Dawn is that she and her husband lived in Cameroon, West Africa for a year to help a mission with language translation and to create health care manuals. Before flying home, they went on a safari in Kenya. Dawn says, “I had malaria three times while we were there. It certainly made a lasting impression on how lucky we are to live in the U.S.A.”
Thank you Dawn for all the great volunteer work you do!
by volunteer Cindy Parsons
Craig says a highlight of volunteering at our Golden Valley location as an Adoption Preparation Volunteer is “seeing Ad Prep dogs on the adoption floor doing well – especially those that I was able to work with. It is great when customers appreciate all our effort and are willing to carry on with the work when they adopt an Ad Prep dog.” Craig has been a volunteer at AHS since 2002 and now also serves as a Mentor for new Dog Adoption Support Volunteers.
He loves having the opportunity to talk with customers about pet ownership, the importance of spaying/neutering, dog behavior and training, how to fit and use a Gentle Leader, and all the good work that AHS does. “When you’re able to make a connection with a customer – even if they don’t adopt an animal – you know you’ve done some good that day,” says Craig. At every shift something new and interesting comes up. “It’s amazing how much you can learn – things like breeds, training, and health – just by showing up, paying attention and being engaged in your work,” he says.
Craig and his partner are also a foster family. A couple of years ago, they cared for a dog named Misty, who spent the better part of a summer with them recovering from a variety of ailments. They returned Misty to AHS when her health improved, but could not sleep that night without her. “Every foster return is a heartbreaker for us,” says Craig. He and his partner were back at the shelter the next morning to adopt Misty and bring her home.
In his free time, Craig enjoys camping and gardening. Misty loves camping as well (especially the hiking, but not so much being in the canoe). Craig follows drum and bugle corps and looks forward to attending the Drum Corps International World Championships each year.
Like all of our volunteers at AHS, we feel lucky to have Craig!
Mike and his wife, Deb, are “Organizational” Volunteers out of St. Paul. Mike says, “We are Animal Ally volunteers – we represent AHS at events such as Kindest Cut and Bound for Home initiatives. We like volunteering. We do this to help animals. The things we do help others do their job by raising funds and spreading the mission of AHS work.” Mike has been volunteering since 1995! Deb has been a volunteer since 2004.
Mike does photography for events such as the Walk for Animals, Whisker Whirl and the Wine Dinner. He has done the Walk for the past 17 years! You may remember seeing a 7 ft x 12 ft dog bone that he built out of milk cartons for the Walk.
Volunteering is truly a family affair, Mike and Deb’s two dogs (Westies), Molly and McDuff, are animal ambassadors at a nursing home and a memory care unit. Mike says, “Watch for our dogs’ pictures in this year’s Annual Report.”
One of the best memories for Mike was when he, Deb, Molly and McDuff were at the Metro Dog Party for an AHS fundraiser. They were raising money for AHS, it was Mike and Deb’s 30th wedding anniversary and their dogs were there. “What a perfect evening,” says Mike.
When the family isn’t volunteering, Deb is baking a lot. Mike says, “Ask around at the shelter about Deb’s Christmas goodies. She has even sent some overseas to the troops.”
The community has recognized their volunteering efforts with Deb receiving the State Farm Volunteer of the Year Award in 2008. WCCO gave Mike the Hometown Hero Award in 2001 and he received the 3M Community Volunteer Award in 2004 for volunteering at AHS.
Thank you Mike and Deb for your time and commitment to the Animal Humane Society!
Mary says her favorite part of volunteering is seeing adopters go home with the animals they’ve fallen in love with. Mary has been volunteering at our Woodbury location since 2006. She has over 1,700 hours logged volunteering in cat adoption support, dog walking, facilities, events, and fostering kittens and their mothers.
One particularly memorable foster group was a mother cat and her three kittens. After they went back to the shelter, the kittens were adopted right away. After another week, though, the mom came down with URI (upper respiratory infection). Mary took her back into foster while she was treated. By then, Mary says, “she’d spent so much time with us, we felt she had become one of the family, so my husband and I adopted her and named her for her disposition – Serene.”
The highlight of volunteering on the Cat Adoption floor was the two different occasions when customers (it was a couple each time) came in and said "show us the cat that has been here the longest. We want to give it a good home." Mary notes that this happened before Bound for Home, when cats might stay in the shelters for months. So seeing these long-termers go home was incredibly satisfying.
Mary also notes how great it is to be a volunteer at the Woodbury site: “The customer support staff, animal care staff and vet services staff are so friendly, helpful and patient with the volunteers. And most importantly, I can tell that every one of them really cares about the animals!”
Mary has sewn and donated to AHS more than 300 cat beds! Her other hobbies include gardening and making stained glass. Her family includes cats Serene and Leo and Labrador retriever Cozmo.
Thank you Mary for taking the time to volunteer at the Animal Humane Society
Laurie says it means a lot to her to be associated with AHS in her role as a Cat Adoption Support Volunteer. She has been a volunteer at our St. Paul location for over five years.
A highlight of her Cat Adoption volunteer experience is when she had the privilege of introducing one of her all-time favorite cats to the family who adopted him. Several years later, it happened that two members of the family were at the shelter and she talked with them, not knowing who they were. They happened to point to the cage where their cat had been on the day they were introduced to him. Laurie immediately knew which cat they had adopted! Laurie says, “It was so much fun to hear about his wonderful new life and the new name he had been given. It turns out his charm was extended to everyone who visited their home. He met people at the door and made them his friend.”
Laurie enjoys interacting with prospective adopters who are looking for a cat and the many regulars who stop by to check on the cats and offer them kind and loving words of encouragement. What Laurie finds interesting in Cat Adoption is “just the way some people experience an unexplainable chemistry when they meet, this happens between cats and people, too.” She appreciates working with and getting to know the other volunteers in the cat adoption area, as well as the staff members she interacts with during her shift. “It’s all very interesting to me because I love the ongoing learning,” says Laurie.
Her favorite part about volunteering is seeing how a fearful cat comes into its confidence. This can happen in the span of several hours, or when cats had longer stays, it might happen over the course of a week or more. Laurie notes, “Regardless, it’s a wonderful thing to witness a withdrawn cat becoming open to and seeking affection and attention. Talking to a cat, petting and brushing it, scratching behind its ears, simply being with it while it eats – these are the things I love to do that sometimes reassures and encourages a fearful cat.”
When not volunteering, Laurie loves experiencing and learning about nature. “The more I discover, the more I see the connectedness of all things. This increases my desire to be a protector of our planet,” she says. And, as a career counselor in private practice, Laurie helps people find work they love.
Thank you Laurie for your dedication to the cats at the Animal Humane Society!
Rachael has been a Dog Walker and a Dog Walker Trainer at our Buffalo location since 2010, with over 200 hours of service. “Anything I can do to get these animals some human interaction and maybe make their day a little better makes me so happy!” She calls it her “weekly four-legged therapy.”
A few of the dogs at the shelter have touched her heart more than others, such as a female black lab mix named Falon. The first time Rachael walked into Falon’s kennel and sat on the floor, Falon crawled in her lap and gave her a kiss. Falon kept getting passed over and Rachael couldn't understand why. The next time Rachael came in, she was happy to discover that Falon had been adopted. A month later, Rachael was walking around saying "Hello" to the dogs when she noticed that Falon was back. She had been returned! “This was the first time I had seen this happen since I had been at the shelter and it completely broke my heart. Rachael gave Falon extra love that day and was able to keep her company until she went home (again) on a shift when Rachael happened to be at the shelter and was able to say her farewells. “I felt that this time she had really found her forever home,” says Rachael.
After 17 years of working in the retail industry, Rachael finally left and decided to volunteer. She has met many wonderful people and has made some terrific friends while at the shelter. It has also helped her realize that her true passion in life is animals. “I know people tell me my face lights up and I can't stop smiling when I talk about my dog walking. I read any book I can get my hands on about animals, watch TV programs about them, etc. I think if something makes me this happy, it is my true passion in life,” says Rachael. In her spare time, Rachael loves to read, listen to music, visit with friends and family, and hang out with her rescue dog, Hannah, who she adopted 7 years ago.
Thank you Rachael for your time and commitment to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
John finds that his time as a volunteer at AHS provides some of the most fulfilling and moving experiences he has ever had. He considers himself lucky to be a part of such a wonderful organization. “I wouldn't change that part of my life for anything,” he says. John has been a Dog Adoption Support and Dog Adoption Preparation volunteer at our Golden Valley location since June 2010.
Recently, John was at an office doing business, when he looked down and saw a “happy, calm, content mutt” sleeping on a dog bed near the desk of the woman he was visiting. John immediately recognized the dog, and asked the woman if it was an AHS Ad Prep dog. John even remembered the name AHS had been using. The new owner was amazed and confirmed it was the dog. She’d been bringing her to work for a few weeks. She said the dog was wonderful, calm, friendly, and a joy to her and her husband. What John was remembering was a scraggly dog that wouldn't walk down the hall at AHS, was frozen and shut down. Now this dog was transformed into what “we had all hoped she could be and more - a companion who is loved and who loves back. Living a life we all dreamed for her.”
A highlight of his volunteering occurred on one of the hottest days of the summer when he and others were throwing blocks of ice into the runs to keep the dogs cool. He had been working with a female dog that had had pups before she arrived at AHS. She looked like she had lived outside her whole life, was beat up and covered in tufts and tufts of dirty hair. She was a big dog, a wary dog, and not used to love. John says, “I had worked with her in all the ways we are supposed to. But on this day, I just stopped everything I was doing, and brushed her for the better part of an hour, taking off handfuls of hair. She didn't move a muscle, and seemed to love every minute of it. By the end, she looked transformed, was ten times cooler, and seemed to get that I was trying to help her. It was an experience that taught me a lot. I will never forget her.” He was happy to hear the next time he came into the shelter that this once “mangy, dirty dog” had been adopted.
You might also recognize John from another part of his life – acting. John is currently playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater until December 30. John has been a professional actor for almost 30 years. His many other interests include collecting and growing orchids, cooking, biking, and spending time with his family.
Thank you John for your dedication to the dogs at Animal Humane Society!
Volunteering at our Coon Rapids location since 2008, Cynthie is a Training school support volunteer, new volunteer mentor, dog adoption support volunteer and a member of the Volunteer Advisory Committee.
What Cynthie loves about volunteering is that she is always learning and finding new opportunities to stretch past her “comfort zone.” She says, “Mentoring new volunteers is fun. The level of care the new volunteers demonstrate warms my heart.” Even when she mentors someone, it is rare that she does not learn something new. She finds that volunteering at AHS helps reduce her stress level from her day job – the animals simply “brighten my day.”
What never ceases to amaze Cynthie is how well the Training Department’s techniques work for the dogs attending classes. Cynthie sees that people are embarrassed by their dog’s behavior when they first attend, but by the time graduation rolls around, there is nothing but applause for their amazing progress.
A day that stands out in Cynthie’s memory is when an elderly couple came in to adopt an adult cat that needed a home. They had visited with three cats, and now other visitors were interested in at least one of the cats. Cynthie did not want to advise them of the Double-the-Love program for many reasons, but mainly because the couple said they wanted only one cat. When Cynthie saw that they were visiting with a few different cats, she decided to tell them about the Double-the-Love promotion. The couple laughed at first. Cynthie thought it was because they would not consider it. She did not push the promotion, but checked on the couple from time to time with their visitations. She was very surprised when they decided to adopt two cats! Cynthie says, “I learned I should never make presumptions!”
In her spare time, Cynthie enjoys outdoor activities such as swimming in the summer, downhill skiing in the winter, and hiking. She especially loves hiking on the MN side of the North Shore and if her dogs can accompany her, it’s “the frosting on my cupcake.”
What Bill enjoys about volunteering is he gets his “dog fix” and he gets to interact with potential adopters, AHS staff, and the other volunteers who give their time. He has been a Dog Adoption Support Volunteer at our Woodbury location since 2008 and has also taken on the role of Morning Dog Walker.
Bill walks the dogs twice a week. The dogs are happy to get outside and it enables both he and the dogs to get their walking done. He is also able to see the dedicated people who come in early to clean kennels and who make sure all the animals are fed and have fresh water.
A particularly memorable day for Bill was when one of the dogs escaped. The dog was found by a couple outside their house. The dog was rather shy but the couple finally coaxed the escapee into their house. The couple called AHS who confirmed the dog was one of ours. Over the course of a couple of days, while interacting with the dog, the couple decided to adopt him. As they were in the process of adopting him, Bill walked by and said, "Hey, Houdini is back." The couple thought that would make a perfect name for this dog!
When he is not at AHS, Bill likes to spend his time reading, golfing, motorcycling, or spoiling his granddaughter. He and his wife, Mary, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a “fantastic” river cruise down the Rhine River. Next year, he and Mary are looking forward to spending a week at Disney World for as Bill says, “You're never too old to have fun!”
Thank you Bill for your time and commitment to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
Vicki enjoys spending time with visitors who have recently lost a pet and are looking for a new pet family member. She walks these potential adopters through the cat adoption floor and shares information about the traits and personalities of each of the cats. She then asks if they would like to spend some time visiting with a cat in the “Get to Know You Room.” Vicki says, “They may not be ready to make a selection, but as I observe them quietly sitting and stroking the cat or watch a smile cross their face as they are entertained by the playfulness of the animal, I believe it helps them move through the healing process.”
Some potential adopters come into the shelter looking for a specific cat such as an orange tabby or a fluffy gray cat. Vicki likes to introduce these people to the personalities of the many cats available. Usually, the visitor is flexible and will visit with other cats where an opportunity for a “match” can be made. Vicki notes, “The comment cards completed by the volunteers are very helpful to the visitors.”
After seeing a presentation about AHS at her workplace, Vicki became a Cat Adoption Support Volunteer in 2006. She says, “I was impressed with the work that was being done by the staff and volunteers and the amount of animals that were being helped. It was then I decided to apply to be a volunteer.” Now, she is also a Cat Adoption Support Trainer and is able to share her experience and enthusiasm by training new volunteers.
For the past five years, Vicki has organized a popular event at her employer’s workplace called Clean Sweep. Employees are invited to donate items to AHS Woodbury from the published AHS Wish List. Currently, she is finishing the sewing on her 600th cat cage blanket! Most of the material she uses to make the blankets is donated through the Clean Sweep Drive.
This Spring, Vicki is planning to retire and move to Washington state to be closer to family. She is looking forward to the extended gardening season in Washington, but will miss everyone at AHS. She says, “I am sure I will be looking for a comparable humane society in need of volunteers after I move, but it might be difficult to find one with the high standards and outstanding reputation of AHS.”
Thank you Vicki for all your years of dedication to the cats at the Animal Humane Society!
Nina says “I look forward to my volunteer shifts and frequently check the AHS website to see if help is needed. I enjoy interacting with the customers and animals so much that my two shifts a month increased to 200-300 hours per year!” Nina has been volunteering at our Golden Valley location for over 9 years.
People wonder how she can refrain from taking all the animals home herself. But she knows that she can help more by helping them find homes than by providing one herself. Like the time a couple came in looking for three-legged cats because they wanted to give a home to a disabled cat. On that day, AHS did not have any "tripod" cats on the adoption floor, but there was a younger cat with only one eye. Nina introduced them and this previously ignored cat immediately found a new home!
Another time, there was a long-term, medium-haired, gray cat named Jasper that was very disheveled and shy on the adoption floor. He spent his time crouching in the back of his cage, refused to interact with people and did not groom himself. During Nina’s shifts, she spent time combing him and getting him more accustomed to contact. She was excited when she saw a man really interested in Jasper. Turns out, it was Jasper’s owner, who found him after a very long search. Jasper was “the happiest cat ever” when the man took him out of his cage. That was the first time Nina was with an owner reunited with a lost pet and loved that she played a role in keeping Jasper healthy and happy during his time in the shelter.
In addition to working in the cat adoption area, Nina works with ad prep dogs and is thrilled when one of the dogs she has worked with is adopted. Knowing that she has helped in giving these animals a second chance is very special to her.
In her spare time, she loves reading. She also volunteers to take grocery orders from clients for Store to Door, an organization that helps the elderly with grocery shopping. Nina is comfortable assisting the special needs customers that come to visit the animals at AHS because her own identical twin adult sons are developmentally disabled.
Thank you Nina for your time and commitment to the cats and dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
Carla says she has “loved every minute” of her 2 ½ years as a volunteer at our Coon Rapids location. Her main role has been as a dog walker. However, in her quest to learn more about the animals at AHS, she has also volunteered in other capacities including exam, treatments, surgery and as a new volunteer mentor. As a lifelong dog lover and owner, she enjoys learning about dogs and learning to recognize the messages in their body language. She especially likes the few minutes she spends with the dogs in their kennels after a walk where she can give them extra hugs, belly rubs and neck scratches. Volunteering has also given her the opportunity to learn about cats and other animals that come into the shelter. She has had an office job for 26 years and volunteering in a completely different environment has been extremely gratifying.
Carla says the ultimate highlight of volunteering was adopting her Dalmatian named Rocky in 2010. Rocky came into AHS on a day Carla was not volunteering. She often browses the AHS website on her days off to see who was adopted since her last visit and to see who is new to the adoption floor. Dalmatians are not that common anymore, so she was quite surprised to see Rocky. The next day, Carla and her husband visited Rocky and learned his story. Rocky was 10 years old and given up by the only family he ever had, who could no longer afford a dog. She and her husband had a senior Dalmatian at the time, so adding Rocky to her family was a no-brainer. Rocky has been their treasure ever since!
In her spare time, Carla enjoys reading and outdoor activities including walking, fishing and, of course, going to the dog park.
Thank you Carla for all the great volunteer work you do!
Katie has volunteered as a dog walker and advanced dog walker at our St. Paul location since 2003. She loves the reception she receives from the dogs. Katie says, “You are never in doubt that you are loved when you walk into the kennel area in the morning.” She was active on the Committee for the Morning Walk Program at AHS which promotes walking dogs outside twice a day to reinforce a dog’s habits if they’re housebroken. It keeps the cages cleaner and keeps the dogs happier.
Katie also previously fostered dogs. Her first foster was a miniature pincher named Ruby. Ruby ended up being adopted by a fellow nurse that Katie used to work with before retiring. Katie loves it because she can still visit with Ruby at her friend’s house! Another dog that Katie fostered from the St. Paul location was a nice, beautiful chocolate brown cocker spaniel with white flecks sprinkled on his chest. His name was Brewster and he had a severe eye problem. It took four or five surgeries to fix it. As you might have guessed, after all that, Katie was so smitten with him that she adopted him after the second surgery. Brewster loves Katie’s other dog, Mikey, a poodle. Katie finally decided it was probably better to keep walking the dogs and to stop the fostering as she wanted to keep adopting her fosters!
When she is not volunteering, Katie enjoys traveling, knitting, and eating out with the dog-walking friends she has made at AHS. Katie is also an avid reader of novels and loves to read Janet Evanovich’s books about Stephanie Plum and her sidekick Lula.
Thank you Katie for your dedication to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
By volunteer Cindy Parsons
Lisa enjoys watching the shy cats “break out of their shells” and warm up to her. “Best of all,” she says, “getting to know a cat and knowing that nine out of ten times when I return to AHS, that cat has found a home really warms my heart.” Lisa volunteers at our Buffalo location.
As a volunteer, she feels fortunate to be able to spend time with all types of animals. Sometimes, when she has given each cat attention, she still has time left to visit with a ferret or other small animal. Lisa says, “I use to have ferrets so it is especially fun when I can visit with one.” She also enjoys “some dog time.” When she takes smaller dogs into the visiting room, “that’s when I really remember that the dog and cat are defiantly different species,” Lisa notes. “Even the largest cat is still most times smaller than the dog. Plus the cats just want to sit on your lap or skittishly walk around you. But the dog, they jump all over you and lick your face. However, both animal types are fun to visit with.”When she plays with the kittens, she remembers “just how sweet they are.”
One of her favorite parts of volunteering is learning about “the business side of things,” I have enjoyed getting to know the staff and learning a bit about the whole adoption process. Speaking of business, Lisa owns The Hair Gallery in Rockford and spends a lot of time in the salon with customers either performing a hair service or taking care of the tanning clients.
Outside of working and volunteering, Lisa loves scrapbooking, reading, and spending time with her kids. She is also part of her church choir. Lisa says, “I am a very busy lady but LOVE it ALL.” In addition to her three two-legged kids at home, she has two cats named Tabitha and Bugsby. Lisa says, “They are really a highlight and sometimes I love them more than the kids. I could never imagine my life without a fur ball purring and nesting on me daily. Following me around and lying by me or on top of me is my greatest joy.”
Thank you Lisa for your dedication to the animals at the Animal Humane Society!
Scott started at AHS as a Special Events volunteer in 1995. Currently, Scott spends his volunteer time in the Exam area of the Veterinary Services Department at Golden Valley and at the Walk for Animals.
His favorite part of volunteering is helping to make a difference in the lives of the animals he interacts with. For Scott, there have been many highlights of his volunteer experience: the kids whose eyes lit up as they had their picture taken with Santa and their pet at Pose Your Pet, the joy people have in telling the story of the animal “who adopted them,” the child who proudly turns their pledges in at the Walk for Animals, but mostly from “the thousands of animals who spend time with us on the way to their forever home.”
Away from AHS, Scott enjoys travel with his wife, photography, and spending time with his cat and dog. Scott says, “Each day, I continue to be amazed at the dedication of the staff who pours their hearts into their work.” Thank you Scott for your 17 years of dedication to the animals at the Animal Humane Society!
Tracy, a Dog Adoption Support Volunteer at our Woodbury location, says the AHS volunteers and staff are amazing. She can’t believe how passionate everyone is and how many big hearts can be found there. A great example of how passionate the staff is is the story of the dog that was reunited with his long lost owner last fall because one of the employees searched and searched for a clue to his history on the Internet. She went above and beyond to reconnect a dog with its owner. This place is really full of love!
When asked what the highlights of volunteering as a dog adoption support volunteer have been, Tracy says: “Where do I begin? There have been so many! Walking into that kennel instantly makes me smile. I love when the dogs blow their cage card history away.” For example, following commands on and off the leash when their previous owner might have indicated otherwise. She also loves to see the Forget-Me-Not's or the more challenging dogs go to their forever homes.
Her favorite part of volunteering is bringing a little joy into the life of a dog that is probably lost and scared and who needs extra love and comfort during a tough transition in its life. She says, “Change is so hard for humans and these poor guys can't communicate or be told they are going to be okay. How can your heart not ache for them?”
In her spare time, Tracy has started a little art shop in her garage called Love & Rust where she re-purposes junk she finds at garage sales. She also writes and has a small but growing collection of greeting/inspirational cards. Beyond that, she enjoys running and spending time at her parent’s cabin on the lake in Spooner, WI.
Thank you Tracy for your dedication to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
Anne first got involved with AHS in 1996 when a friend invited her to walk in the Walk for Animals. This year marked her seventeenth year doing the Walk. She is proud that she has been in one of the top 20 fundraisers in the Twin Cities for over 10 years! In addition to supporting AHS with her time and personal donations, fundraising in the neighborhood every spring has connected her with her local community. After doing this for so many years people greet her at the door with: “It’s that time again, isn’t it? I’ll get my checkbook!” Her friends and family from all over the country support AHS when she is raising pledges for the Walk in the spring. Anne says, “The love of animals really is a bond that connects so many of us.” When she retired a couple of years ago, she decided to give her time to AHS to both help the organization and to have more contact with animals. She started working in Adoption Support in St Paul and then added volunteering one evening a week with the training school in Golden Valley. A few months ago, she started working with the AdPrep dogs in St. Paul. Anne notes, “It’s been beautiful how all of this experience has built on itself.” The experience she had working with different dog breeds and temperaments in Adoption Support was helpful when she started with obedience training. What she learned in obedience training got her off to a good start in Ad-Prep working with the shy and fearful dogs. One incident that energized Anne is related to her work in Ad-Prep. One little female puppy was so shy when Anne first started to work with her, but then showed rapid improvement. Anne became especially fond of her. After this puppy was promoted to the adoption floor, Anne watched the AHS website and saw that the puppy was adopted almost immediately. The puppy’s new owners wrote to AHS and sent a picture of her in her new home with them. You may remember that Trixie, aka “Ellie” was featured in “Volunteer Connections.” Anne says, “It feels great to know our work in Ad-Prep makes such a difference in the lives of these once shy and fearful dogs.” When she is not volunteering at AHS, Anne loves to garden, cook, go birding, hike, canoe, and make the best peanut brittle anyone has ever tasted! She volunteers at her church on the Visual Arts Committee and at Project Homeless Connect. Occasionally, she reads stories aloud at a senior apartment. This year, she took up knitting. She has made it a goal to knit 20 hats to donate to homeless shelters before the end of the year. Thank you Anne for all the great volunteer work you do!
Mo has volunteered at our Coon Rapids location for over 4 years and is currently pictured on the cover of the AHS volunteer brochure! He loves helping potential adopters visit with and learn about the many animals in our shelter. A few years ago, Mo tried to get a pit bull named Spooks adopted. Spooks was deaf and had a “rear leg condition.” It took several weeks but eventually Spooks was adopted. Mo says, “It reminded me of the reason why I decided to volunteer and help animals find loving homes who otherwise might be overlooked because of some physical disability.” In his spare time Mo’s hobbies are exercising regularly and reading. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife Elissa and his daughter Vanessa. They have two pets: a 4 year old Shih Tzu named Molly and an eight year old cat named Minnie. He got Minnie through a shelter organization that has worked with AHS in the past called Underdog Rescue. Molly was part of an unwanted Shih Tzu litter he got through one of his wife's aunts. Thank you Mo for your dedication and commitment to the Animal Humane Society!
One of Mona’s favorite things about volunteering as an adoption counselor and events volunteer has been working with children. Mona says, “I love to show kids new animals that they have never met before and to see how excited they are to learn about what these animals eat, how to hold them, etc.” When a family is adopting a pet, Mona encourages involvement with the children in holding their new pet, fitting collars, choosing new names, and reading microchips. Mona has been volunteering at our Buffalo location since 2009. One of her most memorable experiences as a volunteer was when she first started and she spoke with a woman who was looking at the adoptable dogs. Mona could tell that the woman had been crying and after talking with her, Mona learned that the woman recently had to put her elderly dog to sleep. The woman had always had yellow labs and was looking at adopting a new lab, but something was just not right. The woman said that she felt guilty about "replacing" her dog. She and Mona talked about the possibility that maybe it was just not the right time yet, and that she would know when the right time and dog came along. They talked about what she liked in a dog and that there were many breeds out there with similar personalities. A few weeks later, Mona was at AHS when the woman returned and fell in love with a middle-aged dog that was not a lab. She said that "she knew" this was the right dog and adopted her. Mona remembers how happy the woman was and how sure she was about her decision to open her heart to a different breed of dog. Outside of work and volunteering Mona enjoys anything that involves being outside such as hiking, camping, yard work, and bonfires. Currently Mona has a one year old Australian Shepherd mix which was a rescue from a southern state. Thank you Mona for your volunteer service at the Animal Humane Society!
Karen Skews has been volunteering at our Golden Valley location since 2003. She has had many roles, but is currently a small mammal volunteer. Karen notes, “There have been many new volunteers interested in working with small mammals in the past year and that is awesome! When I began volunteering nine years ago there were only a few of us in that area.” Karen is a rabbit expert! She created the program “Pawsonality” profiles for rabbits. The Pawsonality (Rabbit Personality Profiler) Program came about largely because she saw a great need for an efficient, accurate method of assessing rabbit personalities by ‘non-experts’. Karen says, “I wanted a program that someone with little to no experience with rabbits could learn and participate in. And it's working beautifully!” One of her favorite stories is of a rabbit named Linnea who had been assessed using Pawsonality while in her foster home. At AHS, Linnea’s cage and cage card were all prepped and waiting for her arrival. While Linnea was downstairs getting spayed an adopter read her Pawsonality profile and, sight unseen, placed her on adoption hold because of the profile. The adopter told an AHS staff member that this was the exact personality she was looking for and personality was more important than appearance. That is exactly the kind of response Karen was hoping for! So, lucky little Linnea hardly stayed in the shelter at all before going to her new home. One of Karen’s fondest memories while volunteering is of a black rabbit named Sally. Sally was aloof, not very social, and always hiding in the back of her cage. Karen worried about her ever finding a home. Karen wrote descriptive personality profiles for her, gave her lots of exercise and socialization time and dubbed her "Sweetheart Rabbit of the Week" in an effort to find her a home. After five long months of waiting in the shelter, Sally was adopted on Valentine's Day 2004! And, even better, this independent, intelligent rabbit was adopted by a family who understood her unique personality and prepared a bunny-proofed home environment which allowed Sally to live cage-free. This experience helped Karen understand the importance of personality profiles, especially for the "forget-me-nots" at the shelter. Outside of volunteering at AHS, Karen loves anything creative and artistic. She studied belly dancing for a number of years and currently participates in a Hawaiian hula dance troupe. She has been a seamstress since she was a little girl. Her favorite “model” is her French Bulldog, Jack. She has sewn jackets, booties and even a down parka for him. She also lives with a bonded pair of rabbits, Figgy and Sydney. Figgy is a white Jersey Woolly rabbit that is almost 12 years old. Sydney is a beautiful white, pink-eyed rabbit adopted from AHS in 2009. Sydney’s loving attention keeps Figgy happy and youthful. Karen loves all species, although she has always been drawn to rabbits. Thank you Karen for your dedication and commitment to the rabbits at the Animal Humane Society!
Greg Hance has been a dog walker at our Buffalo location since the fall of 2009. He especially enjoys the retrievers, as they each have their own fun personalities and are always happy to see him. His experience at AHS has only been positive.
“I definitely enjoy the staff,” Greg says. “They are friendly and helpful. When I leave there, I feel like I have done something worthwhile.”
“The feeling is mutual!” says Barb Kastens, Buffalo Volunteer Coordinator. “Greg is by far one of our most dedicated volunteers. His regular schedule has him at the shelter several times a week, and he adds even more shifts when his time allows.”
A volunteering highlight that stands out in Greg’s memory is playing Frisbee with a dog called a Whippet. Greg would take this dog to a fenced-in area and throw the Frisbee. The Whippet would catch it in the air, bring it back to Greg, and then sit in front of him and stare at the Frisbee. The dog would not move until Greg threw the Frisbee again.
On another day, Greg attempted to take a Great Dane out for a walk, but as it turned out, Greg was the one being taken for a walk instead! At one point, the powerful Great Dane pulled him off his feet. Greg lost the leash but the dog ran right over to him and licked his face until he got up. Then, they continued on their walk.
Living on a property in the country with acreage provides Greg the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, which he loves. His main hobbies are fishing, hunting and gardening. The Buffalo staff frequently are the recipients of extras from his veggie garden, and upon occasion even his delicious homemade zucchini bread!
Thank you Greg for your dedication to the dogs at the Animal Humane Society!
Lois has been a dog walker at our Woodbury location for four years. She especially enjoys the large "tough" dogs that turn into marshmallows after she spends time with them. In the summer, she loves to find a shady spot to sit and pet a dog—many times resulting in tummy rubs or the dog trying to sit on her lap.
Recently, there was a larger dog—a lab mix—which jumped non-stop in her kennel and was quite uncontrollable. Lois gave her extra time and went on several long walks with her, jogging part of the way. This exercise helped the dog become much happier and more manageable.
“When we sat outside on a hill overlooking cars coming and going, the dog was so interested in the cars, Lois notes. “Then, as I continued to pet her, she put her head on my lap and just stretched and relaxed. I hated to bring her in as she was so content—she was a different dog. The kennel environment makes some dogs more nervous than others and it can be hard to assess their true personalities.” When potential adopters come in and are looking at a dog, if Lois is familiar with that dog, she tries to give them as much information as she can.
“It is so special to watch a dog go home with his/her new family,” Lois says. “They just seem to understand they are going to their ‘forever home’.”
After her shift, Lois usually visits with the older cats that have been at AHS the longest. She finds it so gratifying how quickly most of the animals get new homes.
Lois is semi-retired but is busier than ever. She works four mornings a week at an insurance company. She also volunteers at the Vision Loss Resource Center and is on the Citizens Review Panel which works with the Department of Human Services helping to prevent child abuse.
She is the proud owner of a quarterhorse named Charlie who has been trained to be a Reiner. (Reining is a Western riding competition for horses.) Lois has shown Charlie in many classes in the Midwest circuit.
“He is quite a character, always trying to outsmart me, which he does regularly,” she notes.
At home, she has a 14-year-old white cat with blue eyes named Tilly.
“Tilly and I have long conversations,” Lois says. “We understand each other.”
Thank you Lois for all the wonderful volunteer work you do!