We asked Tarra Balcom, RAL Volunteer and Board Member, some questions about Woofstock and Strut Your Mutt. If you have been thinking about getting involved in Strut Your Mutt but don’t know quite where to start, read about Tarra’s experience and advice.
Register for Strut Your Mutt 2014 here: http://www.firstgiving.com/RAL/strut-your-mutt-2014
Q: When did you first participate in Woofstock and Strut Your Mutt?
I first participated in Woofstock by volunteering at the event in 2012. At the time I did not have a dog of my own but I helped run the adoption stand. It was rainy but there is a bright side to this story. This is the day I fell in love with a pit bull mix named Terra Mae. Soon after I learned her foster was moving away and she needed somewhere to go. I never thought I would own a pit bull but those moments (and fate) led me to adopt Terra (now Zoey) and advocate for not just all homeless animals but animals that are discriminated against because of their breed. Woofstock led me to my best friend!
Q: Was there any specific motivation that led you to get involved in raising funds for the RAL?
I started volunteering at RAL when I was brand new to town (2009). I moved to Richmond from Michigan and knew no one. I always loved animals and I heard about RAL at a fundraiser in the fan. I became a volunteer and RAL became my family away from home. There is an amazing group of people involved in RAL from staff, to volunteers, to everyone who wants to help homeless animals in our community. I know that RAL would not be what it is without the donations from the community. Unfortunately, we can not save animals and provide expensive surgeries and keep the lights in the shelter on without donations from the public. I know the money I raise will go directly to saving some of the best animal I have ever met.
Q: What have been the most effective tools for asking your friends, family, and coworkers to donate?
Annoy them…just kidding. Kind of. When you show your passion about something to your friends, family and co-workers they tend to want to support your cause. RAL is a great cause and most people that know me know how much I love it because I talk about it ALL THE TIME. Also, I am fortunate that the company I work for matches donations over $50. You bet I started my fundraising plea by asking my co-workers! Check to see if you company offers a match.
Q: What’s your best tip for someone who might be hesitant to get involved as a Strut Your Mutt fundraiser?
The biggest fundraising secret is to never be afraid to ask! It’s not like you are asking someone to give you $20 so you can spend it on a new shirt. You are asking them to save lives of some of the best animals that exist. Whether you are a volunteer, supporter, or you want to get more involved, Woofstock and Strut Your Mutt are a great way to help and RAL really depends on revenue from fundraisers like these to continue all of the good work.
Written by volunteer Lauren Brown:
"Am I krazy about Klaus? The answer is “you bet!” At The Towers Retirement & Assisted Living facility on Monday, he was amazing! Although he is a big boy, he is very gentle, waiting patiently for treats until he gets the “ok”. His tail was a blur for most of the time, and he impressed everyone with the height he could get when jumping to fetch a ball!
After we played in the activity room, we headed to the Memory Unit, where one resident eagerly took Klaus’ lead (as you can see in the last picture) down the hall. He invited us into his room, where he and his wife live together. As Klaus sat by his wife’s side, the gentleman was excited to show me pictures in his photo album of the dog he once owned, enthusiastically noting the similarities between his dog and Klaus.
I’m sure Klaus’ family photo album is waiting somewhere for his pictures to fill it. Whoever it may be, his forever person will want to capture every moment with him!
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.