Monday mornings can be “ruff” for some people, but the WSHS dogs are happy to see the kennel cleaning crew each Monday morning, and the volunteers are happy to see them.
Cathy Better says that she most enjoys “the time helping animals who desperately need the love and attention”. Tina Janopoulos agrees, saying, “I love caring for the dogs, they are so grateful”. Mark Furlong, who has been volunteering at WSHS for more than 8 years, says he’s gotten to meet a lot of great dogs but also has enjoyed making some lasting friendships with other volunteers.
These volunteers work so well together that they all say they all know every job and take turns with cleaning responsibilities to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to walk dogs, since that is the fun part. Cathy says, “We take great pride in claiming we are the best cleaning shift!”
The shift has also been a learning experience for many. Colleen Murphy has learned a lot about dog behavior and anxiety. Tina has become much better at handling dogs, and Cathy has enjoyed learning that all dog breeds have their own tendencies. Mark says, “I have also learned that there’s a lot of good that can be done with very limited resources.”
It’s no surprise that these kennel volunteers also have dogs at home. Tina shares her home with a “24 lb. schnoodle named Libby, who I love more than I love my teenagers some days.” Mark and his wife adopted “Fritz, a blind schnauzer who had come to WSHS from south Chicago with heartworm after a winter of surviving on the streets.” When Fritz passed, they adopted Frida, from Blind Dog Rescue. Frida’s vision returned and Mark admits, “We have learned that a sighted dog is able to generate FAR more mischief than a blind dog.” Cathy lost her beloved 14-year-old lab/border collie mix shortly before starting at West Suburban, but says she has 2 “grand-puppies that we watch for my son and his wife. A pug and a pit are always good for an entertaining visit!” Colleen has a 5-year-old “special needs” Australian shepherd.
There are always problems to be solved when working in the kennel. Cathy says, “It’s always a treat in the winter when the doggie doors freeze shut!” Mark remembers back when he first started he banged his head pretty hard on a length of pipe that protrudes down into run number ten. On his second day he “found an old tennis ball, cut an X in it with my pocket knife, and stuck it over the end of that pipe. Eight-plus years later, that tennis ball is still protecting my, and many others’ skulls. I consider that to be my most significant contribution to WSHS.”