April 14, 2015
A Heart for Helping Animals
Q&A with superstar volunteer Jennifer Rose!
Q: How did you hear about HSI/Canada and the work we do?
A: Through a friend, in the newspaper… My first introduction to HSI was in September 2011, when I was deployed with a rescue group called Red Rover. We were there to assist with the largest puppy mill seizure in Canada. It was a life-changing experience to see over 570 dogs arrive, truckload after truckload at all hours of the night. The dogs were at the shelter for three months and I continued to volunteer with HSI even after Red Rover left. Some of my best friends today, I met during that time.
Q: What made you want to work with, and help, animals?
A: I have loved animals all my life and have always wanted to help. I foster dogs for LOYAL Rescue, and one of my first fosters was a puppy mill dog. She was terrified of everything when she arrived at my house and it broke my heart. When I read about the volunteers who had come in and helped to get her out of the horrible place she’d been, I knew I needed to find out how I could do that too and it’s been my mission ever since.
Q: What kind of impact have you seen through the work that you do?
A: I have seen animals come in who are terrified, anxious, thin, ill... and I get to see their personalities slowly emerge over time. You’ll see a dog cower in the back of his crate when you are feeding him, and then one day he finds the courage to make eye contact. Then maybe a few weeks later, he lets you softly pet him for just a moment. These huge milestones for these little survivors make my heart swell and I could not love them more.
Q: What’s the toughest thing about volunteering at the shelter?
A: To see the animals in bad condition like they are when they arrive after a rescue, but I am a bit of an optimist and see it as a new beginning. It’s hard when you know that they will be there for weeks, sometimes months, while the courts decide their future. I would like to see them in homes sooner rather than later, but am glad I am able to help make their stay enjoyable. The other staff and volunteers are all amazing as well so I know they are in very good hands, even on days when I am not there.
Q: Is it upsetting to see animals who were abused or neglected?
A: For sure it’s upsetting to know that they have been treated badly. I find it upsetting when I hear of someone purchasing a puppy from a store or an ad because I know it means that somewhere out there are dogs who are still being abused and neglected for profit. I am thankful for the ones under the care of HSI staff and volunteers because I know they will never have to face that again.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about working at the shelter?
A: To see the animals start to look healthier; to see them slowly begin to see people as a source of comfort rather than something to be feared. I love when we get to take some of the dogs out to the fenced area… Many of them have never seen grass, or even been outside. It’s sad when they are scared to be in the open, but when they start to relax just enough to enjoy the feel of the sun and the smell of the warm grass—it’s truly amazing! Also, the people at the shelter! I look forward to seeing them each time I go. It’s like a big, compassionate family.
Q: What’s it like seeing the shelter animals recover from their trauma?
A: There is often a huge difference from the time they arrive at the shelter to the time they leave. At first, they’re still so full of anxiety—either cowering in the back of crates or spinning in circles or lunging at everyone who walks by. After a few weeks, they begin to know the routine of the shelter, they know when feeding time is, they know that someone walking by may just give them a treat, so they may be watching for that. I can’t describe the feeling when an animal is so terrified that she can’t even look at you and then maybe one day, while you are cleaning her crate, you see her very tentatively look up and lock eyes for just a moment. Then a day or two later maybe a small little lick on your hand as if to say thank you. It just melts your heart that these little ones can still learn to trust and to love even after all they have been through.
Q: Did you ever foster an animal from one of our seizures?
A: Yes, from the first seizure I worked on. She was with me for seven months before being adopted into an amazing forever home. I hadn’t intended to take any of them home as I had a houseful—in fact, I was quite impressed with my willpower in not taking them all home—but on the very last day, when the shelter was almost empty and everyone was packing up I went to say goodbye to Connie, the shelter manager. She was in another building where I hadn’t worked, so I didn’t know the dogs. There were only a few left—they were in crates waiting for the SPCA to pick them up.
I noticed one crate off by itself with a Kurunda bed in it, covered with a blanket. The whole bed was quivering. I asked Connie what was going on. She said there was a little Rat Terrier in there whom they referred to as "The Box Dog" because she was so terrified they had to keep a box in her crate for her to hide in. The box had been removed, so she hid under the bed. This was after being at the shelter receiving tender and loving care for three months; she’d been so traumatized from her previous life. I knew she wouldn’t do well at a shelter, so I contacted Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue and asked if they would commit to her if I agreed to foster. The rest is history. I also have a some friends who have adopted from the seizures, so I do get to stay in touch with a few of the dogs.
Q: Oftentimes dogs or cats arrive at the shelter pregnant—have you ever participated or assisted in a birth or helped nurture babies?
A: After the last seizure, we noticed one of the expecting moms was very quiet and not eating, so we knew she was getting close. Sometime after lunch I looked in on her and sure enough, there was a little baby just being born. Sandy (the HSI Team Lead) and I stayed until we knew all had been born safe and sound. It was such a special night and I will always remember being able to share in that incredible experience.
As for the babies, we often give supplemental bottle feedings to some of the litters to help out the moms if they have large litters or if they need to use energy for their own healing. It’s so sweet to see the little tiny mouths trying to drink from the eye dropper or bottle. The babies are weighed every day to ensure they are gaining weight and are thriving. That’s a fun job as well because you get a good look at all of them. They are just so tiny and wriggly with little round bellies and you can’t help but fall in love with them all!
Q: In your experience, what can people do to help stop puppy mills?
A: The best way is to educate people about where puppies come from and to make sure they make an informed choice when getting a dog (or cat, or bird...). If we can stop people from buying from pet stores or classified ads or other places where dogs could potentially be supplied by puppy mills, then there wouldn’t be any demand for them. It’s all about supply and demand.