Congratulations to Jason H., nominated and chosen as the March 2019 Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) Volunteer of the Month. A volunteer at Multnomah County Animal Services since March 2017, Jason H. is a mover and shaker, making a difference for shelter animals, fellow volunteers, and staff.
Jason and Lia, Dynamic Duo
Jason attributes his interest in volunteer service to his partner, Lia G. Jason says “Lia signed up for the Volunteer Info Session, and told me I was coming with her to volunteer! Lia is a strong motivation to keep on improving. She’s what made me want to volunteer to begin with, and to grow, learn more, and work with some of the more challenging dogs at the shelter.” The two are a dynamic duo on the Sunday dog-walking team, and have enjoyed numerous opportunities, including participating in the Pitties in Pink float in the 2017 Starlight Parade, supporting playgroups for canine enrichment, the 2018 Kitten Shower event, and many more. The two volunteer together with the exception of when Jason teaches training classes for other volunteers. Their relationship with their four year old pitbull, Zev, is what initially fueled their passion to support shelter animals, and advocate for pitbulls.
Mentors Make a Difference
One of the people who made their volunteer experience successful and enjoyable is their mentor on the Sunday dog-walking shift, Jenni H. Jason says “when we were starting out, Jenni was never too busy to stop and answer questions. She worked really hard to establish relationships with staff and volunteers. We always knew we were never alone. I think the reason people volunteer is to feel that they’re part of something, and to make a difference. Jenni created that positive, supportive, meaningful community experience for our Sunday volunteer team. She inspired us to do the same for others, and building that spirit of camaraderie has proven to be a very significant life goal.”
The Buddy-System is Best
Jason is a big proponent of the buddy-system of volunteering he enjoys with Lia. Whether you volunteer with your partner, sibling, child, friend, coworker, or neighbor, it’s helpful to have someone you already know on the team with you as an ally, and to keep you company while you break the ice with other volunteers. You can problem-solve together, support each other in difficult tasks, offer different perspectives, or divide and conquer to achieve more during your shift.
Meet Foster Pets At Their Level
Jason and Lia have fostered dogs with special needs. One of these dogs, Zeus, had seemingly never been indoors, and was initially fearful of people. The kennel environment wasn’t an option for Zeus given the circumstances, so Jason and Lia took him on as a foster. At Jason and Lia’s house, Zeus spent three days in the backyard, but would stop at the door when being led inside. Jason slept outside with Zeus to help build trust and bond. Eventually, he acclimated to his new environment, and came indoors. Later, Zeus was transferred to a rescue partner, Family Dogs New Life Shelter, and was adopted into a new home. Jason and Lia are grateful that they are still in touch with his adopters to see updates on his new life.
Mentor and Trainer
Jason and Lia are both mentors for other volunteers at MCAS, and Jason has taken on the role of teaching trainings for new volunteers, and for volunteers learning skills to work with more challenging dogs. MCAS sees thousands of dogs each year, and the variety of cases has really taught Jason to approach each dog and their needs as individuals, something that he strives to impress on each new volunteer. He says “there’s a lot of science behind why dogs behave the way they do, but our society at large doesn’t have a great understanding of their behavior and what they think.” Safety is paramount for volunteers, and the first thing new volunteers are really interested in doing is interacting closely with the animals, so Jason appreciates the opportunity to teach handling skills to keep volunteers and animals safe. Paying close attention to body language and subtle cues is important. The more we observe and listen, the better we can help them, and work more closely and effectively.
Improving Quality of Life for Dogs
Jason’s passion is working with dogs with more behavior and training needs than others, especially new arrivals in the intake kennels who may be stressed and adjusting, in need of some attention and love. Daily interaction with volunteers like Jason can have a tremendous impact on their quality of life through enrichment activities, training, human interaction, and time to play with other dogs.
Advice to Interested Volunteers
Asked about what he’d like to share with interested volunteers, Jason stresses that you should “Do it. Absolutely do it. It has single-handedly changed my life for the better. It’s one of the best things we can do as a community, and as a society, to give of ourselves to help animals or people in need. If you’re on the verge, do it, do it, do it. If you don’t find a place that you like, look for another place. When you find something you really like, and you’re really happy and passionate about it, it’s easier to find time for it. I highly recommend it.”
Thank you, Jason, for your dedicated, positive service for the people and pets of Multnomah County!
March 2019 Nominees
Thank you to our stellar volunteers nominated for the March 2019 Volunteer of the Month!