Letter from the Chairman of the Board, Gary Sturm
Each Spring many people celebrate the promise of warmer weather, the arrival of cherry blossoms, and the days of longer sunshine. Each Spring the Animal Welfare League of Arlington celebrates its volunteer foundation at an annual volunteer appreciation event. Volunteers, in fact, own AWLA. A volunteer Board of Directors sets policies and direction of the League and appoints a President/CEO. The President/CEO then manages the staff and programs, which in turn, rely on hundreds of volunteers to provide critical support of operations. Volunteers thereby literally set an ethical “tone at the top” and then participate in a principled commitment to animal welfare, all the way to the front desk reception of public visitors.
The recognized character of the League is the result of an interdependent matrix of responsibilities. Each of these pieces recruit volunteers who elevate the sum through exceptional contributions to its individual parts: hands-on time with the animals, office support, visitor reception, animal transport, adoptions, fostering, photography, graphic design, special events, and community outreach and education. There are a lot of moving parts. Some volunteers rise to the challenge of welcoming foster animals into their homes, a 24/7 commitment to enriching, and in the case of neonatal kittens, literally saving lives. In addition to the usual routine shelter protocols, foster volunteers have helped thousands of at-risk animals thrive and flourish.
There are countless kittens, cats, puppies, dogs, and small companion animals each year who need our help. Founded in 1944 by a small group of 12 volunteers, the League has grown to a professional staff of more than 35 skilled specialists, over 250 volunteers, and an annual budget in excess of three million dollars. Together, we are patently dedicated to the League’s mission of improving the lives of animals. The AWLA volunteer-staff partnership is surely a model for unconditional success!
Gary Sturm, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Open Paw Program Lets Dogs Be Dogs
One of our most important missions here at AWLA is to follow the Five Freedoms, which are internationally-accepted standards of care to which every animal is entitled.
We pride ourselves on doing our utmost every day to follow these standards, but there is always room for improvement! That is why we are currently focusing more on the Fourth Freedom: freedom to express normal behavior.
Shelter enrichment, which is the act of improving the quality of life for our resident animals, is essential to fulfilling the Fourth Freedom. We’ve had a very good enrichment program here at AWLA for many years, but we knew that there was more that we could be doing. Which is why we are introducing a wonderful program here at the shelter - the Open Paw Program!
The Open Paw program was founded in 2000 by Kelly Dunbar. The program helps shelters focus on their animals' learning and retaining important social skills, such as basic manners, while they are at the shelter. This, in turn, helps pets find new families and transition successfully into their new homes.
We have already instituted many of the recommended projects from the Open Paw program, and are working on more. Our dog adoption kennels now have treat dispensers paired with buckets that contain each dog's afternoon meal. Bright signs encourage anyone who passes by to reward the dogs for calm behavior, like sitting or standing quietly on the floor (as opposed to jumping up and barking). Our visitors are now an important part of our dogs’ daily enrichment and training, which in turn makes our visitors more likely to connect with an animal and consider adoption. Our staff and volunteers work with the dogs to teach them basic cues like ‘sit’, ‘down’, letting go of toys, and more. This is another great way to help our dogs find new homes, and keep their minds and bodies busy during their stay!
Our dogs' olfactory senses are a part of this enrichment, too; we use all-natural calming products to help our more nervous and scared dogs to feel calmer in their kennels, and help all the dogs relax during the more busy and stressful times of the day.
We know that these comforts do not replace a home. We hope that with this new program, and a continued love and passion for our work, we can make our animals’ time with us less stressful, more fulfilling and we hope, happier.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about our smaller furry friends! We are in the beginning stages of more cat and small animal enrichment programs and will keep you up to date with their progress! We will also be setting up more programs that are open to the public, like a DIY enrichment area, and an expanded Paws and Read program!
by Amy Schindler, Director of Behavior and Adoptions, & Chelsea Lindsey, Communications Specialist
April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month
"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." --Andrew Carnegie
AWLA would like to thank all of the wonderful, compassionate, generous, and talented volunteers who give their time to the League every day and all year round.
In FY 2017, approximately 260 volunteers gave more than 24,590 hours in more than 33 different assignments including: laundry, dog playgroups, graphic design, fostering, and adoptions counselors in addition to so many others!
Without our volunteers, we’d need to increase our staff by 12 additional members to maintain the level of service and amazing accomplishments over the past year. We couldn’t do it without our volunteer team - thank you for sharing your passion, time and talents with us!
by Jennifer Katac, Director of Community Programs
Pi’s is a story of heartbreak and happiness. She first came to the shelter when she was four years old because her family was moving. After six months she was adopted and lived with her second family for five years until they returned her, saying they no longer had the time to care for her. Then nine years old, Pi was obviously not happy to be back at the shelter and, while still as affectionate as ever, she was less tolerant of attention and did not seek out new friends the way she had before. Weeks became months and as Pi’s one year “anniversary” of being at the shelter approached, we pulled out all the stops to find her a new home. On March 14th, in celebration of Pi Day, we celebrated our Pi...and it worked! After reading Pi’s story on social media, a young woman came to meet her and Pi found her new family.
When you read the following update from Pi’s adopter, you’ll see that all Pi needed was a chance.
“Pi and I have been together for about a month now, so I wanted to give you all an update. I think she is very happy to have a forever home with me, and I am completely obsessed with her. She is so sweet and full of surprises. The first surprise when I brought her home was discovering that she might be a bit of a narcissist. She stares at herself in the mirror all the time (literally for hours and I don't know why!). She still likes to crawl under blankets when she naps. Her favorite place to sit is on a lap, and she likes to have her belly rubbed.
I think after being in the shelter for a year, she missed being outdoors. She enjoys watching birds and staring out the window. Since she loves looking out the window, I decided to try taking her for walks. Sometimes I take her out in a travel carrier, but sometimes she gets to go for walks in her harness. She doesn’t like the harness very much but she loves being outside so she tolerates it. Right now I think she is a bit upset that I'm feeding her diet food, but I think she'll get over it!