Friday, June 24, 2011

A Letter to Animal Friends

We're going to miss our devoted volunteer, Lauren Foster, as she follows the next step in her life to Philadelphia, PA! Lauren has written a letter to our staff and volunteers, and we wanted to share it with you. Good luck Lauren!

Dear staff and volunteers at Animal Friends:

I’ve been contemplating the best way to say goodbye to all of you as I make my new journey to the other side of the state this month. I thought I could make cookies and leave a goodbye note – but to be honest, I’m not a great cook. And I’ve had an unfortunate amount of run-ins with stinkbugs in my kitchen lately--something the shelter can relate to, I think. But I do want to make sure that I’ve reached out to everyone I can before I go, in order to relate how grateful I am to have known you all during my time with Animal Friends. I’ll be moving to Philadelphia this month in anticipation for my graduate program at Bryn Mawr College, which I am beginning next Fall in the school of social work.

I began volunteering with Animal Friends in August of 2008 as I was also entering my freshman year of college at Pitt. I remember this time as my honeymoon period with the shelter (which never really did fade, by the way). There was a magnetic field that pulled me to the shelter every day and made it impossible to resist the temptation of the four potty break times each day. I found myself driving to the shelter from campus in between classes just so I could say hello to my favorite animals, or just to mop up some business in the kennels.

Soon I was addicted. In November I had moved home to Sewickley to commute to campus, making it an easy decision to start work as an animal caregiver. For almost a year I worked the 7-3 pm shift, savoring those early mornings when I would walk into the shelter, place my coffee in the prep kitchen, and head off to walk the dogs. I would usually start with the big dogs, but if there was a beagle on the floor… I always made a point to reserve her for myself. There’s just something irresistible about a beagle. That first walk of the day was my favorite thing about working in animal care. I didn’t even mind that my coffee sometimes tasted like dog food when I would retrieve it from the prep kitchen.

When I became a full-time volunteer again I started helping out in the adoption center. This was when I learned about the trials and tribulations of working with the public in a shelter setting. Ups and downs abounded – but mostly ups. There was a certain high I felt whenever I helped facilitate an adoption. Remember Sandy the lab mix that jumped fences? That was the happiest adoption I partook in.

Soon, I was beckoned forth by the behavior department in relationship to an internship I would complete at Pitt. I found my way into the behavior helpline world of the shelter – corresponding with local Pittsburghers about issues they were having with their animals. Occasionally I would receive an email from someone over in Philadelphia or even in Texas. I was proud to be able to help with this wonderful service that Animal Friends provides.

I can safely say the most invaluable thing I’ve taken from Animal Friends is the act of fostering. It first started with Barberry, my foster failure, in which a book is necessary to describe how much I loved that feline. It continued with four litters of kittens I helped traverse through two kitten seasons. Each had their own personality and each took a little piece of my heart with them to their forever homes.

There are certain experiences I never would have had if Animal Friends hadn’t moved from the Strip District to a mere five minutes away from my parents’ home: I wouldn’t have written a twenty-page paper on the O’Pits for a journalism class; I wouldn’t have travelled to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with a great group of volunteers last summer; I wouldn’t have walked over fifty dogs in a two-hour period during the great snowstorm of 2010... for three days in a row; And I wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people that make up this spectacular place. The list goes on.

I hope you all keep in perspective how much what you do here makes a difference. It can be easy to forget when equally good and bad things accompany a shelter environment.

But now I must bid you all adieu. Before I go, I’ll leave you with the following line from Annie: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard!”

Remember me!
Lauren Foster

Watch Lauren at work with Cleo the Beagle (who has since found her forever home!

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