Congratulations to Quimby L., nominated and chosen as the May 2020 Volunteer of the Month. Quimby has a vital niche volunteering her skills as a Certified Small Animal Massage Therapist, providing therapeutic benefits, comfort, stress relief, and- most importantly- her undivided attention to dogs at Multnomah County Animal Services.
Centered on Animals
As an animal lover in a household of allergic family members, Quimby was unable to have a dog or cat, thus grew up fulfilling her need to be around animals any which way she could. She would seek out the pets of neighbors, family friends and strays, and she would pet sit whenever possible. Some of her favorite childhood memories were those of summers spent at her sister and brother-in-law’s small ranch in Montana, with a menagerie of dogs, horses, ducks, geese and the occasional goat and rabbit.
A Love of Theatre
For her education and career, Quimby pursued her love of the arts, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and working in theatre for over twenty-years. She starred in long-running productions of the popular immersive play, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, first in Minneapolis, and later in Portland. Quimby’s recurring role in this show brought her to Portland, where she found herself very happy with the environment and size of the community, and decided to put down roots.
A talented writer, Quimby was recruited to work in development as a grant writer for Broadway Rose Theatre Company, a professional musical theatre company where she had previously performed in multiple productions, including Singin’ in the Rain and Grease. Thanks to the flexibility through the years that grant writing afforded her, Quimby was able to continue working as she returned to school and began to spend time helping animals in the community.
Service After Loss
In 2011, Quimby lost both of her dogs in the short time frame of a year. It was a difficult time, which she faced through service as a means to cope and heal. Quimby began volunteering for Oregon Humane Society (OHS). She co-coordinated a team of volunteers transporting dogs for off-site therapeutic services including hydrotherapy, laser therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. She saw the impact those services had on the dogs, watching clinicians work, and started to explore the possibility of a career in therapy for animals- something to do with helping, and healing.
Inspired by an introductory animal massage workshop Quimby had taken years earlier, and her growing interest in shelter work, she made the decision to pursue a path in animal wellness and enrolled in the Northwest School of Animal Massage to become a Certified Small Animal Massage Therapist (CSAMT). She eventually began her own practice while concurrently working for Broadway Rose Theatre. Over time, Quimby shifted her focus entirely to animal massage.
“I’m really grateful to Northwest School of Animal Massage and to Rubi Sullivan (a mentor, colleague and friend), Quimby says. “I’ve carved my own niche, but when you learn from skilled people, and they’re generous with their own knowledge, it helps you become so much better. That’s what they did for me, and that’s what I try to do for others.”
Following Her Heart
A noticeable theme about Quimby is that she always follows her heart, even while meeting the unyielding demands of life- rent, bills, and the necessity of gainful employment. She is living out the bohemian ideal of doing what she loves, and centering all her endeavors on what she values most. She says “I adore my clients and love having a private practice, but if I didn’t have to earn a living I think I’d devote my working hours mainly to special needs shelter animals.” Notwithstanding, Quimby’s career was inspired by shelter animals, and her private animal massage practice, ResQ Animal Massage, offers a discount to adopted pets and active shelter staff and volunteers. She not only provides services for clients, but also continues to volunteer her services at OHS and MCAS.
Massage for Shelter Dogs
Quimby provides massage for many reasons. Massage can help dogs rehabilitate from surgery and injuries as well as help with muscular and orthopedic conditions. For young, active dogs, it helps maintain body conditioning and prevents muscle strain. Massage also relieves stress, helping with anxiety, depression or other issues.
“I’ve really gotten to know the animal care and training staff at the shelter,” Quimby says. “I will either ask them for recommendations, or sometimes they come to me and ask me to work with a specific dog. Sometimes it’s a request due to a medical issue, stress-related behavior, or for long-term residents.”
“Quimby is always caring and compassionate to the animals in our care and to staff that work with them,” says Andrew Mathias, Shelter Operations Manager. “She is a delight to work with as she practices active listening and uses the information we have shared with her to better help the animals during her shift. She brings tremendous skill and calmness to our kennels. One of Quimby's videos tells the whole story and truly captures the meaning of a picture is worth a thousand words.”
“I have the benefit of spending long periods of time with one dog at a time, just the two of us. That’s what I really like about it,” Quimby says. “It gives a dog the time they need to get to know me, and for me to get to know them. The more time we have, the more progress we can make. It really suits me, and that’s where my strengths are best utilized- one on one.”
Calm Energy and an Open Heart
“A lot of time when you first see a dog at the shelter, you’re seeing a dog on sensory overload in the kennels,” Quimby says. “I would encourage visitors to step back, give them some space, and circle back. Sometimes what you see isn’t who they are. They’re nervous, or overjoyed to interact with people, and may jump up or bark.
If you talk with the volunteers or staff, they can tell you what these dogs are really like.
That’s part of why I like massaging these dogs and taking videos- I love watching the transformation. They soften up, calm down, and often start to snore. I just want people to see that there’s more to these animals than a barking dog, or a dog that looks lonely. Dogs have so many emotions, and you may not know what they think, but they tell you a lot about the way they feel with their body, and you can watch them respond to stimuli.”
Quimby clears her own emotional energy before entering the kennel. “I don’t want to burden them with whatever I’m feeling- I need to be there for their needs. Sometimes all they want to do is play ball or lay in my lap. It’s their time, and I let them lead the session. I’m there to massage them, but I want them to choose how we spend our time. Usually they do want massage, but it’s important to come in with a calm energy and an open heart. That alone can do a lot. The massage is a bonus.”
A Lid for Every Pot
“I’m happy for any dog that has a loving home, no matter where they came from, but I would encourage people to at least start their search for a companion animal at a shelter.
I hear many people say they would love to adopt, but they don’t want to go to the shelter because it makes them sad. But there are great animals here, and if people aren’t coming to meet them, they’re not going to find their match. You may not be walking into a luxury hotel, and it may be loud, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a wonderful pet here.
There’s really nothing as great as watching a long-term resident dog getting adopted into a new home. They’re the dogs I sometimes worry about, the ones who get anxious and start developing behavioral challenges because they’re frustrated. Then that special person comes along for them- every pot has a lid.”
Thanks to Volunteers and Staff
“When I volunteer, I’m focusing on a single, specialized task. Thank the universe for all the other volunteers- If it weren’t for their amazing work taking care of the dogs with walks, kennel tidying, showing dogs to adopters and helping with adoption applications, I couldn’t do what I do when I am at the shelter. I’m so grateful to them. Enrichment is a group effort.”
“I also want to say thank you to the animal care staff. Their work is hard and they sometimes see animals who have suffered some really rough stuff. I don’t think the general public understands how much they care for these animals. There’s so much behind the scenes you don’t see. It’s a huge responsibility, and not an easy one. I’m grateful I found a way I could support them.”
Thank you, Quimby, for your specialized volunteer service to the pets and people of Multnomah County.