As a part of our commitment to giving back to rescue groups, we select two organizations every month to be the recipient of our Buy One Give One (BOGO) program. Our BOGO program is based on online sales from two of our leash and collar collections (I Am A Rescue or Support The Underdog). For every collar/leash purchased from these collections, one is donated to a rescue group.
We are thrilled to announce that Save the Animals Foundation (STAF) is our BOGO recipient from November 16th – 30th. STAF is the no kill shelter for dogs and cats where PBC co-founder Kristin Waters has been volunteering for the past 10 years and where the seeds of her passion for rescue dogs grew. We asked shelter manager for the dogs, Diane Parsons, a few questions about STAF to get our supporters familiar with the impact that STAF is making on the animals and people in the Cincinnati community.
PBC: What is involved in keeping a 100% volunteer run no-kill facility going?
Diane: Teamwork! Plain and simple. As we are all volunteers it is imperative that we all share the workload and continue to enjoy what we do, rather than feel resentful that others aren’t pulling their weight. The first level of management is the Board of Directors who obviously have to keep the budget in check for the entire shelter, both cats and dogs, but after that the actual running of the dog side depends on our Shelter Management Team, that, in separate groups, oversee Incoming dogs, Shelter Management, Health Care and Adoptions and each group creates working teams that handle the work load. Each team then becomes proficient in their particular area, and if communication is good between these teams, the shelter is able to run smoothly. Probably the number one requirement is that we all really care about our work…we all view it as a lifesaving responsibility, and never a chore.
PBC: What are some of the things STAF is known for?
Diane: STAF is well known for the time and effort that is taken to match each dog to the right home. Reviews of our process consistently state that the volunteers truly care about the dogs, that we go way beyond a simple “dog in, dog out” adoption. Our adoption team meets everyone in the family; may suggest better choices of dogs, based on the family lifestyle; thoroughly interviews and listens to the needs of each would-be adopter. We ask that an adopter takes a dog on a home visit, prior to adoption, to make sure that the dog will truly fit the family’s lifestyle. The Health Care team provides complete medical records, ensuring that every dog has been fully vetted and microchipped, even to the extent of seeing specialists if needed, and we are always available after adoptions, to guide and answer questions the new owners may have. STAF volunteers are also well known for the time and effort spent in keeping the dogs happy. Not just fed, but happy. The volunteers take the dogs for walks, to daycare, to swim sessions, to training, on home visits, or trips to the park. They spend time grooming and playing with the dogs several times a day. All of this attention and love creates healthy and well balanced dogs to show to potential adopters.
PBC: Describe some of the more challenging moments in rescuing STAF dogs and how you/the other volunteers got through it.
Diane: The hardest days are when an owner surrenders an old, neglected dog to us. The sadness that we see in the “owner surrenders” can be brutal. They have been thrown away, tossed from a home where they thought they would be loved for ever, and now they cry, they don’t eat, and they sleep to pretend they are still at home. The kindness the volunteers show to these dogs brings tears. We get through the sadness by showering the dogs with love and attention, we pair them up with doggie friends, teach them to be strong again, and watch as they come out of their sad shells. The other dogs that brings out the very best in every STAF volunteers are the “shelter pulls.” These are the dogs we rescue from county shelters in Kentucky and Ohio, where their life expectancy would be maybe no more than a week. Too many of these dogs are injured, emaciated, and neglected besides being abandoned. They are the “throw aways.” For these dogs, we have to let them know that we are kind humans, caring humans, and that they are now safe and loved. It is the change that we see in all of these cases, that gets us through. It is when we see the dogs begin to play, to heal from their wounds and forget whatever cruelties they have suffered so far, that we know what a difference we are making.
PBC: What is the most rewarding part about volunteering at STAF? What would you say to others who are considering volunteering at an animal shelter?
Diane: The theme “making a difference” is at the heart of this answer. We may not be able to rescue the thousands of animals that national organizations are able to do, but we make a huge change in the lives of more than 150 dogs a year, who would have died without us. Volunteering brings out the best in people; we are all there because we want to be, not because we have to. We are there to help, to care, to love, to give and to keep on giving. Watching a volunteer sit and hug a frightened puppy, or stroke the head of an old dog who just wants company, is a joy. Yes, we have chores to do, runs to clean and food bins to fill up, but the reward is just being given the chance to make a difference. Whether you admit it or not, everyone needs that chance.
PBC: Let us know anything else you’d like to share with us about STAF?
Diane: With 180 dog volunteers, divided between 14 weekly shifts, one may think that we are just a machine, going through the motions. But I believe that each team becomes its own “family” unit. Each shift works in a different way; some have been together for years, others tend to receive more new volunteers, some are large teams, some quite small, but regardless, when a call is sent out that a shift needs help, there will always be volunteers willing to work an extra shift, or do an extra vet run, or attend another event. We are a big dog-loving family, and so very supportive of each other. That’s what makes us so good at what we do 🙂