Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, Denise? I am a retired RN and, although I enjoy working with people, I LOVE working with animals. Now I am focusing on working with animals and their connection with people. My dog, Annie, and I volunteer at three facilities for the elderly and people with memory care issues.
It’s so great to see people who don’t know their own names respond to the dogs. Sometimes it’s just a spark of recognition, or a hand that reaches out making a motion to pet a visiting dog. Other times the person is able to engage for a few minutes, giving his or her caregivers a special moment as well. Having a dog there gives people an opportunity to reminisce and reflect back on their lives.
I really enjoy talking to people and listening to them as they tell their life stories, the lessons they’ve learned and what they want to share with others. I look forward to the visits as much as the residents do. Both the dogs and the people have a powerful impact on all who meet them.
I am also a volunteer driver for Badger Rescue Transport Services (BRATS). BRATS is an organization that drives adoptable animals from “the pound,” or a shelter, to another shelter or rescue where they have a chance for a new life. I am also a member of Trails Home Labrador Retriever Rescue. The group has existed for a little over 3 years and has already adopted out over 250 labs and lab mixes into new and loving homes.
There is so much goodness in people. And in this business we see both extremes of the spectrum. So my volunteer work helps balance me.
What is it that you like about being a volunteer with Lost Dogs of Wisconsin? Volunteering with Lost Dogs of Wisconsin gives me the opportunity to help others when they need assistance the most. When their dog goes missing, they’re frantically missing a family member. By helping reunite them, I am meeting my need to help people as well as theirs and their dog’s.
Lost Dogs of Wisconsin also enables me to do other things I thoroughly enjoy – teaching and sharing what I’ve learned about dogs, advocating for the animals, and helping improve the animal-human bond.
Do you have any funny or wild stories you would like to share? I don’t really have many stories to tell, but I do have a collection of special moments.
I shared one of my favorite LDW moments with another volunteer, Karie. I will never forget the look that was on the face of a dog named, Lily, when we caught her in a live trap after she’d been missing for 14 days. The happiness, the fulfillment I felt at that moment is priceless.
Lily was later reunited with her owners who had left their Tennessee home to visit friends in Wisconsin when she went missing.
Do you think the animal welfare world is changing? If so, how? There is so much pain and suffering in the world, it’s overwhelming. But I have to focus on the part of it I can change.
The world of animal welfare is indeed changing. There is more awareness of animals and animal issues, for instance. But there is much more work yet to be done.
We need to stop treating companion animals like disposable property and more like the family members they have become over time. Crimes against animals need to be recognized as serious criminal offenses under the law and courts need to mandate appropriate punishments for those who commit them. A society is judged by the way it treats its animals, after all, and it is my hope that we will be able to live up to very high standards in this context.