May 16, 2022

See Gadget

See My Shiny New Pets?

They Do It All in Alexandria

Volunteers ferry pets from cars and trucks to the AWLA shelter at a push-in vaccine clinic.

Photo courtesy AWLA




How does the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA) manage to show dozens of canine and cats to likely adopters, create unique treats for the animals, respond to the cellphone, hold up with mountains of laundry and so lots of other responsibilities just about every week?

The mystery: Volunteers! A modern calculation established that the shelter’s volunteers supply so considerably of their time that they contribute the equivalent of up to 12 personnel customers just about every year.

With more than 100 volunteers still working from home considering the fact that the pandemic as nicely as all those donating their time in man or woman at the shelter, the volunteer corps is additional vital than ever, explained AWLA Supervisor of Volunteers and Community Gatherings Echo Keif. Those people volunteering from household continue to publish bios about the animals, write-up facts about them on the shelter web-site, build colorful flyers about animals in foster care, do information entry, sew kennel curtains, knit synthetic nests to property dislodged birds, and more.

New ways of volunteering that blossomed in the course of the pandemic keep on to reshape their obligations, Keif said. Some volunteers do pet detective work from house as aspect of the AWLA’s new Stray Support Squad. Volunteers post any stray animals who have occur to the shelter on exterior web-sites this kind of as Craigslist and Facebook they also look for individuals internet sites for any “missing” animals who match the description of strays at the moment in the shelter, and seem for animals who could possibly match misplaced animals noted to the AWLA. “We’ve discovered that so several volunteer obligations can be carried out from dwelling,” Keif stated. “That really has authorized us to continue to be connected with our volunteers.”

Volunteers carry on to be the coronary heart of shelter operations on internet site too, several spending important one particular-on-a person time with the animals. Adoption of pets wouldn’t be attainable with no the everyday assistance of volunteer Adoption Assistants. They work along with the Adoptions team to support present animals to likely adopters, in human being and also more than Zoom. “They do most of the showings and meet and greets,” said AWLA Volunteer Coordinator Alli Holte. “They deal with it like a whole-time work and choose it incredibly seriously.”

New AWLA volunteers are educated to perform with animals by a mentoring process with seasoned volunteers. In the previous yr, the AWLA also has enormously expanded courses and workshops that are integral to the coaching course of action. A new Zoom session highlighted Animal Products and services Chief Tony Rankin describing how to keep risk-free when functioning with canine who may be additional energetic or jumpy. Another course, demanded for all volunteers performing with the shelter’s small animals this sort of as rabbits and guinea pigs, revealed how these species connect and how the shelter takes advantage of their alerts to superior interact with them.

Irene Toporovskaya, a marketing and advertising supervisor for a professional medical company, began volunteering in late 2019, placing in many times of performing laundry, washing dishes and making ready snacks for the animals. Following the necessary teaching, she then began performing with canines and composing bios of animals for the web site. Toporovskaya was not deterred when the shelter closed for the pandemic she ongoing a range of volunteering routines from home.

Now Toporovskaya does it all, both equally from dwelling and at the shelter: taking canines on outings, highlighting adoptable animals in movies and pictures, publishing about recently adopted animals and transporting animals to exterior rescues and wildlife rehabilitators. She considers her volunteer function a mastering expertise. “The coaching we’ve gained as volunteers has been so important,” Toporovskaya stated. “I hadn’t actually interacted with afraid or hyper canine right before, and now I’m geared up to support them channel their strength and tranquil down.” Toporovskaya even fell in appreciate on a single of her shifts — with a pitbull combine she decided to undertake.

Volunteer Terye Dame’s preferred activity was interacting with the public at the front desk, but when the pandemic manufactured that difficult, she transitioned to functioning with the shelter’s compact animals. She has petted bearded dragons and worked on focus on schooling with guinea pigs — and rapidly has come to be the resident turtle whisperer. Watching turtles Beethoven and Mozart in their tank a person day, she seen that Mozart was sleeping with her front legs extended, which she mentioned to the AWLA’s Animal Care staff. This further degree of information and facts assisted team know that Mozart had restricted vision, and they adjusted the tank she shared with Beethoven to make it additional cozy for her. Dame was appreciative that the more notice she paid out to the turtles resulted in modifying the enclosure to improved accommodate Mozart’s demands.

But it was a younger black rabbit named Jojo who stole Dame’s coronary heart. “He’s the one I examine all other bunnies to,” she said. “Most bunnies never like to be held like babies, but Jojo would purr with his enamel and snuggle less than my chin.” Dame’s cuddling was infectious, and she shortly was attracting other volunteers to rabbit duty as well as adopters who experienced under no circumstances considered a rabbit just before.

Dame, a logistical analyst for a governing administration contracting firm, says her weekly volunteer shift at the shelter is important to her possess pleasure. “You can normally obtain me on a Friday night keeping a bunny,” she said.


Celebrating its 75th calendar year, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is a regional 501(c)(3) business that operates the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, Alexandria’s only open-access animal shelter. In response to the international pandemic, the AWLA has set up a virtual adoption process and is operating a Pet Pantry that gives pet foodstuff and provides to group users in require. The AWLA also features guidance to Alexandrians with concerns about wildlife and animals in the community. Far more data can be located at