Congratulations to Robynne R., nominated and chosen as the June 2019 Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) Volunteer of the Month.
For Robynne, volunteering has always been a family affair, from walking dogs on Sundays to fostering neonatal kittens and puppies with her daughter, son, and spouse.
Fostering a Passion for Animals in Her Children
Robynne’s daughter, Jackie, has always loved animals, and living close to Multnomah County Animal Services had its benefits growing up. They would visit the shelter and walk through the kennels to see each animal. In 2011, at 12 years old, Jackie was old enough to volunteer with a parent, and so she and Robynne became a dog-walking team on Sundays.
At the volunteer information session, Robynne and Jackie learned about the different roles for volunteers. They wanted to foster kittens and puppies, but it felt intimidating at first, so they didn’t sign up right away.
While their initial expectation was that they could dive right in and play with all the sweet animals at the shelter, they were surprised by required trainings to safely handle animals, which pleased them. They took every training available to volunteers. Robynne speaks to how the trainings are really important, and has been grateful to see improvements over the years.
Caring for Bottle Babies
As a new volunteer, Jodi the Foster Coordinator asked Robynne if her family would foster bottle baby kittens. They took a crash course on feeding, cleaning, and things to look for, and they have fostered kittens and puppies ever since.
Fostering is a family affair. Robynne is supported by daughter, Jackie; son, Ben; and spouse, Steve. After eight years, their family has a lot of experience to offer other foster volunteers, but Robynne still remembers that it can be scary as a new bottle baby foster, not knowing exactly what to do or expect. Every new fostered animal comes with a new surprise, challenge, or problem to solve. For this, Robynne is very grateful to the staff and volunteers offering round-the-clock support as needed.
Foster volunteers maintain a Facebook page, Multcopets-Active Fosters, to troubleshoot and offer support. This page was created by Jenni H. who manages it with Brandy T., and it is a valuable resource for volunteers. Shelter medical staff are available during the day for questions or emergency vet exams, and experienced volunteers are available after hours to field requests and triage emergencies. Robynne is now one of the volunteers offering after-hours support to other fosters.
Fostering Daniel the Kitten
While caring for bottle-babies can be adorable and rewarding, fostering requires constant care and monitoring, and it comes with the risk of heartache. Robynne’s recent bottle babies have been a challenge. One neonatal kitten, Daniel, had a staph infection that required intensive veterinary intervention- including staples, cleanings, and antibiotics- to save him after the infection caused open wounds and patches of skin falling off. Thankfully, Daniel is now recovering thanks to the care of Robynne, shelter veterinarians, and supporters of the Kitten Triage Program.
Fostering Bluebird the Kitten
Bluebird was only a day-old kitten when she arrived. Robynne was up at night with Bluebird every two hours for feeding and monitoring. She warmed her on her chest at night, and even brought her to work with her to hold her close during the day. Kittens who are separated from their mother at such a young age are more at risk of failure-to-thrive, and even small changes in their diet, temperature, or hydration can cause a life-threatening domino effect. Even after all provided interventions by Robynne and veterinary staff, Bluebird slipped away. Despite challenging odds, Robynne poured her heart and soul into Bluebird’s care, a testament of dedication for animals in her charge.
Fostering Huey the Dog
In addition to kittens and puppies, Robynne and family also care for animals recovering from surgery. Huey was a young chihuahua that came to the shelter with a shattered jaw. MCAS veterinarians committed to save Huey, and he was referred to an outside oral surgeon, receiving multiple reconstructive surgeries. He was petrified of being left in a kennel so the vet took him home at night where he would sleep with her. When he was recovered enough to come home to Robynne for foster care, he wouldn’t leave her side at night or during the day. “After all the surgeries, pain, and fear he went through, Huey always had a positive happy outlook, which is a great lesson to all of us,” Robynne says. Huey was adopted by an amazing family where he’s healthy and loved. Robynne is reminded why she fosters every time she sees an update about Huey.
Trainer and Mentor
Robynne continues to walk dogs on Sundays, and is trained to support in the Kitten Trailer and cattery as well. Robynne is also a trainer for dog handlers, and a mentor for new volunteers.
“The Mentor Program has been an amazing thing to watch develop,” Robynne says. “I believe new volunteers really need another volunteer to talk to, ask questions, and throw ideas off of, and that the Mentor Program is key to volunteer retention. I would love to see this program continue to grow!”
Advice to New Volunteers
Robynne’s advice to new volunteers is to get involved, take advantage of all available trainings to learn new skills, and to foster animals when able. She says “fostering has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. The animals will shower you with unconditional love and thank you endlessly for being there for them.”
How Staff Describe Robynne
“Robynne has one of the softest hearts I have seen in my time in the animal rescue world. I know that every animal that goes into her care, will be looked after and loved wholeheartedly. Over the years I have watched her confidence grow and her abilities soar. I know that I often push her out of her comfort zone with kittens, but she is always up for the challenge. I remember one year, she had a neonate kitten that was not doing well, she was having a hard time getting him to eat. I asked her if she wanted me to take him home and she responded with a fierceness of a mama bear protecting her cub, ‘No, just tell me what I need to do.’ She is a huge asset to the Kitten Program (and the shelter in general) and a pleasure getting to know over the years.”
- Jackie V., Kitten Triage Program Animal Care Technician
Thank you, Robynne and family, for your ongoing service and dedication to the animals at Multnomah County Animal Services.
June 2019 Nominees
Thank you to our stellar volunteers nominated for the June 2019 Volunteer of the Month!
- Mary Ellen A.
- Catherine F.
- Ray K.
- Carissa M.
- Mapsy P.
- Mary R.
- Kelley S.
- Debbi S.
- Janice T.