This Month’s Volunteer of the Month is Daniella Muir.
Daniella has been a huge asset for RAL since
she started volunteering with us back in September
of 2012. A dedicated Friday night adoption counselor,
Daniella also lends us her time and assistance on
Tuesdays and Thursdays, coming in before we open
to help us administratively. She’s become a master at
preparing packets for animals scheduled to go home,
getting medication ready, making sure we have
enough supplies and materials for the day, answering
phones and returning voicemail messages, calling
applicants to follow up, and generally keeping things
organized and running smoothly.
This month’s volunteer of the month is Angie Barlow. Angie has been volunteering at RAL with her family since 2004! She comes in twice per month and leads the Sunday night crews with a positive and welcoming attitude. Angie is always willing to work with and train new volunteers. Her all-time favorite RAL dog is Petunia, who was here in her beginning days of volunteering. We appreciate everything you do, Angie!
RAL loves all the volunteers that help everyday to provide for the animals who come through our doors. This month’s volunteer of the month is Lisa Gits.
Lisa Gits has been a RAL volunteer since January 2013, and during her first year here at RAL she clocked over 350 hours of service! Lisa is on Monday and Friday AM dog crew, counsels adopters on Thursdays, and attends just about every offsite adoption event she can swing. Lisa is also the proud Mom of Charlie and Wallace; two RAL Alumni that were long time residents here at the shelter. While they are her all-time favorite dogs, her current favorite is Johnny Cash.
Lisa is such a great volunteer and supporter. We love her
It is 1:45 on a very chilly afternoon. The temperature is below freezing and will remain that way all day. It snowed last night and the roads still have snow, slush and chemicals. Kids are out of school (again) and the roads are fairly quiet.
And then I hear the sound. That sound, although it has become ever more frequent, always catches my attention and prompts me to get up from my desk and run outside.
It is the sound of the RAL van pulling in from a run. It is the sound of animals being rescued, of lives being saved. It is the most glorious sound.
On this particular day the large crates that normally transport dogs are filled with smaller carriers, all containing cats–12 cats!
I have been lucky enough to witness this act many times. Sometimes it is a van full of animals, sometimes just one. Every time it is emotional. Opening those van doors and seeing tiny eyes looking back at you, filled with fear and confusion, is moving. I often wonder what these souls are thinking. Do they have any idea that this van is a life-saving vehicle, that it is the get-a-way car? Do they realize they are safe?
As the welcoming committee of staff and volunteers swiftly unloads the van, I feel pretty confident these animals are going to figure it out quickly. It won’t take long to understand the loud van and small shelter have provided a second chance at life. The gravel crunching under the tires was the sound of hope. Inside the shelter they will find help, and hopefully sooner than later, they will all find a forever home.
RAL loves all of the amazing volunteers. This month’s volunteer of the month is Lauren Brown.
Lauren Brown has been a Friday night dog crew volunteer since September 2012. Lauren loves working with the dogs, and can be found walking, snuggling and bathing them weekly. Lauren also cultivated a partnership between RAL and The Towers Retirement Community. Every-other Monday, she takes a dog to the facility’s dementia ward to socialize and give the residents their “puppy fix”. She also takes photos of the dogs interacting with the seniors to help promote them for adoption. Lauren’s current favorite dog is Henry, while her favorite dog of all time is Abe. Lauren is truly an asset to RAL and we are lucky to have her!
RAL Volunteers are the greatest! November’s Volunteers of the Month:
Chris and Shannon Sheehy
The Sheehys have been volunteering and fostering for RAL since the beginning of 2013. As our volunteer IT department, Chris (of Blue Dog Computer Services) cleans up after our cats step (etc) on our machines, replaces the broken computers, and sets our minds at ease when we call him frantically with various technical difficulties.
With their kids, Corrina and Cullen, Chris and Shannon drive our vans for RAL pet transport. Additionally, they are currently fostering and treating pups with Ringworm for us. What more could we ask of them?! THANK YOU!
We heard someone say once that hounds are not exactly beautiful. We couldn’t believe our ears! To politely protest, we named the next fifty hounds to come into our shelter after beauty queens—starting with Miss Alabama and going all the way to Miss Wyoming. ”Being a hound” was their talent and, thankfully, there was no swimsuit completion.
One by one, these lovely animals, some former hunting dogs that had been abandoned, found homes where they could live as pampered pets. One little beagle had a harder time being chosen. Her name was Miss Wisconsin and at one point in her life had been stuck under a chain link fence for some time. The fence had left bloody, sore, criss-crossed marks on her back that were tough to look at. Potential adopters, especially those with young children, walked quickly away from Miss Wisconsin.
Each year at Richmond Animal League, we embark on Operation Silent Night-an initiative that ensures every animal is home for the holidays. Adoption fees are reduced to $10, the public is invited in to get to know the animals, and those who are not adopted go in to loving foster homes. By 8:00 p.m. on December 23, every animal is home and the echo in the shelter is the sweetest carol we could imagine.
Miss Wisconsin was up for adoption at the beginning of Operation Silent Night in 2011. Days went by and the wounds on her back were preventing anyone from getting to know her. We knew what we had to do. We bought Miss Wisconsin a trench coat and covered up her injuries so that her beautiful face would be the first thing anyone saw.
On December 21, a little girl and her family came in to look for a new dog. By that time, there were only a few dogs left to choose from. It didn’t matter, though-it was love at first sight for the little girl and Miss Wisconsin.
Everyone at the shelter lined the hallway leading from the kennel so that Miss Wisconsin and her new girl could be their own parade with adoring spectators. We clapped and cheered and reached down to pet the little dog in the trench coat.
Outside on the sidewalk, we captured the moment of Miss Wisconsin going home. I’m kissing Miss Wisconsin’s head, and her new girl is holding her leash and ready to walk this one beauty hound into a whole new life.
RAL volunteers are the best!
Robin has been an RAL volunteer since March of 2013. She is currently a Wednesday Night Adoption Counselor, but often steps up for adoption counselors who need to have their shifts covered. Robin always makes a point to ask staff and volunteers if she can help them in any way. Additionally, she has taken on the task of ensuring all of our cat carriers are labeled and zip tied together so there is no risk of losing any of our kitties in transport due to equipment failure. Robin loves adult, geriatric, special needs, or any kitty that might have a harder time getting adopted. She is pictured with Ruby, but her favorite kitties are currently Odd Thomas and Sunshine.
A litter of puppies was relinquished to a rural municipal shelter. That’s not a unique start to what ended up being a very special story. It was obvious from the beginning that the smallest puppy in the litter had the biggest head. He was Frank, and we would soon learn that he has hydrocephalus, a condition known commonly as “water on the brain.” We knew that Frank’s condition would put him at risk of being euthanized, and we wanted him to have the same chance his healthy litter mates had. RAL pulled the entire litter and placed them in a loving foster home.
One by one, Frank’s brothers and sisters were adopted. As Frank remained, his foster family got more and more attached. They researched hydrocephalus and wrote a beautiful and truthful bio about Frank’s potential-and his limitations. He had one mild seizure when he was 8 weeks old, but there has been no evidence of more seizures. His skull may never fully close, so being gentle with his head is important. After Frank is fully developed he may need surgery to place a shunt to help fluid drain from his brain into his abdomen.
While in foster, Frank tagged along with his foster family everywhere they went. He went to work, shopping, on long walks, and even got to go on a beach vacation. Photos of Frank chasing the waves were very popular on our Facebook page, and many people posted that they wanted Frank. But no one put an application in to adopt him. Perhaps not knowing a lot about hydrocephalus made potential adopters leery of adopting Frank.
The longer Frank was in foster, the more we all loved him. His foster mom and dad could not have taken better care of him, and we thought they might keep Frank forever-we could not imagine a better life for Frank. And then something we never expected happened. A nurse who works with children and adults with hydrocephalus learned about Frank. A hospital can be a stressful place for anyone, especially children, and she thought that Frank would be perfect at putting kids at ease and offering an empathic shake to others with the same condition as his. Frank’s imperfectly shaped head and his sunsetting eyes make him so beautiful. No one could look at Frank and not feel a little happier. As their hearts were breaking, his foster family knew that this was the life for Frank-that he was destined to be a little dog with a big impact.
Seeing Frank with his two families the night of his adoption broke all of our hearts wide-open. Frank is the only one dried-eyed in the pictures-as if he knew he was on to big adventures where he could repay his foster family for giving him the chance to be found-and loved-by the perfect family.
Frank’s dad works as a firefighter so when Frank is not letting children know that everything is going to be okay, he is hanging out at the fire station.
Most of the RAL regular visitors already know about Callie—unofficial RAL mascot and least feral feral cat in existence—but did you know that she’s just one kitty in RAL’s outdoor cat colony? There’s also solid white Snowflake, solid black Effie, a few different occasional long-haired feline visitors, and then there’s the guy pictured above, who we’ve very creatively named Old Man. Callie’s claim to fame is that she’s called RAL her home for the past ten years, but guess what? Old Man’s been here even longer! He was originally relocated to the RAL property with his brother over ten years ago. His brother has since passed away, but Old Man’s been perfectly content to call the grounds around RAL his home since then. We like to think that long-timers like he and Callie have enjoyed each other’s company for all these years, even if they never really became “best friends”!
One reason why Old Man remains so much less well-known than Callie even after all these years is that while Callie has “mellowed” towards people in her old age, until very recently, Old Man did not. He kept his wild nature throughout his life, preferring to hang out in the safety of the drain pipes in front of the building during the day and only coming close to the building for dinner after everyone was gone. Lately, though, it seems like maybe he’s finally mellowing a bit as well. Maybe after all these years of watching the humans bring out his dinner, he’s finally starting to come to the conclusion that people aren’t quite so bad after all.
But even if he doesn’t ever come around completely like Callie did, we still wanted to give Old Man his day in the sun and the recognition he deserves, too! We love our longtime kitty residents, and we know they appreciate us in their own way, too. So the next time you see a big, lanky tuxedo kitty wandering the grounds, don’t worry—he belongs here more than anyone!