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Missing our volunteers during National Volunteer Week

Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2020

Under normal operations, volunteers help out in every area of the Richmond SPCA. We asked our staff to share some of the meaningful ways volunteers have contributed. At a time when COVID-19 has greatly reduced the number of volunteers we can permit to come to the humane center, they were eager, and at times emotional, recounting the ways volunteers care for the animals, make our programs better and ease their workloads.

These are a few memorable experiences collected from all areas of our organization.

A hospice cat’s best friend

Janene with Gabby

“The shelter medical team rely heavily on our volunteers to help our shelter pets thrive,” said Brielle Carter, Internal Veterinary Services (IVS) assistant. “Janene Charbeneau is one of our wonderful volunteers who consistently fosters and adopts senior cats who need extensive medical care due to kidney failure, hypothyroidism, upper respiratory infection, diabetes, stomatitis, etc. She is always willing and able to aid with our cats’ medical care and offer her home to them whenever needed. We are tremendously lucky to have Janene by our side offering her endless support of tender loving care.”

No job too small or too whiny

“Joy Leebrick is amazing,” said Carol Anne Baker Lejoie, director of development. “She adores all our pets, there is no task too complicated or mundane. Her name suits her so well because we are literally filled with joy and the days we know she is coming. We really miss her!!”

Carol Anne’s most notable story of Joy’s contributions was unrelated to the usual filing and office assistance:

Two of the puppies who benefited from Joy’s calming and rocking.

“She rocked my foster puppies post-surgery (just spay/neuter but they were being SO DRAMATIC) while I finished up a grant application because I had my hands way too full. I literally was on a deadline, fighting the clock and these guys would NOT let me get anything done. So she stood there with as many as four of Beze’s puppies in her arms and rocked them and soothed them as they came out of anesthesia crying and whining so I could finish inputting data in some online portal (can’t remember which). It was pretty funny/amazing. Talk about “other duties as assigned!”

Big-time big-dog trail savvy

Hannah Fuqua, behavior and training associate, organizes regular “pack hikes” that rely on assistance from experienced dog-handling volunteers to take shelter dogs to explore local parks and trails. She said, “Laura Nelson comes to the hikes all the time, taking off work to do so. She is at all the Running Buddies sessions and comes in for Green Team activities. She gives a lot of time to the pups and is a great asset on the hikes. She takes her own extra-large dogs to the river all the time, so I love having her there because she knows the trails too and what to look for.”

Dream team of clean

Bruce and Jill Mercier

Notes about Jill and Bruce Mercier came in from various departments, for good reason. This married couple volunteers together. Both have Green Team certification after completing Canine University and regularly complete shifts in our often over-flowing laundry room. Michelle Russell, manager of volunteers and programs, was effusive about the number of ways the Merciers help out, and as a lover of organization, she lit up describing how the couple took on the disarray of our grooming room, entirely of their own volition, even buying storage containers to keep things tidy. She also noted that even when Bruce is at the center as a student taking classes with his own dog, Kizzy, he arrives early to help the instructor set up the course.

Devotion to a challenging dog

Bill Riester rests with foster Marshall Lee.

“I was deeply grateful to Shawn and Bill Riester for their commitment to fostering Mashall Lee—regardless of how long a period of time that might be—in order to find Marshall Lee just the right home. They welcomed Marshall Lee into their family and provided him with the most extraordinary care. They were devoted to his wellbeing and future placement, just as they have been for every Adoption Ambassador dog they’ve taken home to foster for the Richmond SPCA. They kept Marshall Lee for months, and I’m convinced they would have kept him for many more had the right match for Marshall Lee not turned up when he did. They are amazing partners in lifesaving, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

Tamsen Kingry
Chief Executive Officer

Saturday relief

“Olivia Bonner comes in some Saturdays to help the IVS team with cleaning and feeding the pets in the medical treatment room of the shelter,” said Brittany Pierri, who manages IVS. “Saturdays tend to be a very busy day for the entire shelter, so we are always so relieved and excited when she stops on in!”

Hands-on learning

“Emma Dunforth is one of our high school volunteers interested in pursuing veterinary medicine as a career. She comes in ready to learn and is excited to assist in daily tasks ranging from helping hand out medications to assisting in holding animals for lab work. It is a joy to work with someone who is interested in veterinary medicine, and I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.”

Katie Goodell
IVS Student LVT

Healing all kinds

Ellen Midyette received commendations from both Admissions Counselor Nicole Harrig and Veterinary Assistant Brielle Carter.

Ellen Midyette holds Chowder, who she fostered following orthopedic surgery performed by Dr. David Molinas (right).

“Ellen not only saves human lives as a registered nurse,” Brielle wrote, “she also volunteers with us providing a helping hand with the animals at The Richmond SPCA. She helps the shelter medical team pass out and administer medicine daily. She spends quality time with our shelter animals who are not feeling well and the ones that may be scared in their new shelter environment. Ellen is also a wonderful foster who offers her loving home to cats that are recovering from an extensive surgery and/or fostering felines that need more socialization skills. We are thrilled to have Ellen use her special healing powers to help our shelter animals!”

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