Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Diary of an Adoptions Counselor

Capone and Gotti


By Kaitlin Hilinski, Community Adoptions Counselor
No two days are quite alike when you work with people and pets. Here are some gems from my career at Animal Friends:

I came in to work the day after I had to put down my Golden Retriever, Sadie.  She’d been a dear friend and foot-warmer for over 12 years. That morning I was depressed, as you can imagine, until someone brought Tito the Bulldog mix behind the adoption desk.  Tito threw all 80+ pounds of himself in to my lap and licked my face with wild abandon.  I was laughing and crying all at once.  Tito found his forever home shortly after that, but I will never forget his role as unofficial therapy dog for me on one of my worst days. I still have a picture of him – smiling a sleepy smile – above my computer, where I can see it everyday.

One day an announcement summoned the entire staff to the lobby for an important meeting. My coworkers and I rushed down the hall to see what the commotion was, but not before grabbing a puppy to take with us… Because we could, that’s why!

Once, I was walking dogs with a co-worker for a long while on a cold day. When we finished, we decided to spend a moment cuddling with Gotti and Capone, the two largest dogs in the shelter.  We went in to their room and were immediately covered in wet kisses and lots of hair.  We were laughing like fools when I looked up through window of the dogs’ room. I saw our Director of Communications standing there with two major donors, one of whom is a local celebrity… My co-worker and I finished our play session and politely excused ourselves from the Gotti and Capone’s room, despite their protests.  We passed the important people in the hallway with an embarrassed smile, dusting dog hair from our winter coats, but they were thrilled to see us enjoying the dogs!

One day, I was working with the cats at our satellite adoption location in the Bethel Park Petco. Simba, a beautiful and vocal long haired orange male was enjoying the attention of the public, so I thought we’d try something new. I slipped a bright blue harness around his little legs and we went for a walk!  He kept trying to explore the dog food and fish gravel. Next time I’ll be sure to take him through the cat section!

Another day, I was just starting a presentation to a group of technical school student who had been kind enough to gather supplies for the shelter and our Chow Wagon pet food bank. No sooner did I start talking than Sophie, my visiting dog, had to pee.  She proceeded to do so… in a circle… directly around my feet.  Old Sophie felt a lot better, and it was the perfect segue to a conversation about housebreaking tips!

Sometimes, I head over to our Resource Library when I need a bigger space than my crowded desk allows. I’ve often taken cats in to the Library to give them a break from their cages while I do paperwork.  Multiple times they’ve ended up on the table, on top of my binders, despite having a whole room to explore! I should know better than to try to get work done with cats...

I found a home for a long-term resident, Phil. Phil is claustrophobic (yes, animals can be claustrophobic) so he can not be crated like most dogs. He went home with a woman who works from home, so he’ll never have to be alone.  As she was leaving, she said, “I’m never getting married again, so Phil will be the only man in my life!”

I’ve also met not one but 2 couples who’ve purchased a larger bed so their animals can sleep with them at night. That’s my kind of crazy!

I’ve even seen miracles happen for elderly, blind, and deaf animals when they got adopted!  Like Bogart, my favorite ancient arthritic Lab.  Or Jewel, the little girl whose hair was so thin we sent her home in a pink and silver sweater.  Or Dawn, the Shih Tzu with two teeth who probably came from a puppy mill.  She’s now called Cinderella – what a perfect rags to riches story!

I’ve heard of adopters running in to folks who knew their pets from their lives before Animal Friends.  My favorite dog, Bogart, is now called “Chance” ‘cause that’s the name he knew for 12 years before coming to Animal Friends!

I’ve seen a dog get returned to the shelter, only to be adopted less than 3 hours later.  He’s the perfect “Grandma’s dog” and the whole family loves him.  Thank goodness he got back to us in time to find his *real* forever family!

These are just some of the great memories I have from my time as an adoption counselor.  I can’t wait to see what wonderful things are in store for us and our animals!

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