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volunteers jamie and jessica smiling with a shelter dog

Seasonal Volunteer Spotlight

Here is this summer’s LifeLine volunteer and foster spotlight! These individuals have dedicated countless hours helping our shelter pets during one of our busiest summer seasons ever. We want to take a moment to show our love to these volunteer superheroes!

Jamie Serratelli
Community Animal Center
lifeline volunteer bathing a shelter dog while giving kisses

What made you want to get involved with LifeLine?

It started with the search for my own dog. I couldn’t believe how many homeless dogs were in shelters just waiting for a home. Once I adopted my own dog, I wanted to do more for others.

Once I started volunteering, I was hooked immediately. These rescue dogs are so amazing. Some of them have been through hell and back and, despite all that, they’re still so loving, forgiving, and appreciative of every little thing. That’s something I wanted to surround myself with. Not to mention how much personality they have, which keeps you laughing.

What is your favorite volunteer activity?

Getting to know the dogs who are having a tough time in the shelter, are misunderstood, have been there a long time and are overlooked, or are hesitant to trust new people. It’s our job as volunteers to get to know the dogs outside of the kennel, outside of the shelter, and then advocate for them to help find a home. Some dogs don’t need help – they can sell themselves. But many of them do need help, and that’s who I’m there for. Having someone speak up for them and say how great they are – despite how they act in their kennel – is life changing for them.

There is nothing better than helping a long-term shelter resident find a great home. I still get texts from adopters I’ve helped saying how thankful they are because their dog means the world to them and was the perfect fit for their family.

How were you able to use your unique set of skills to help LifeLine?

I think the biggest impact I made was pushing for playgroups. We didn’t have them at my particular shelter when I started volunteering, and it definitely requires a certain skill set. I was able to recruit volunteers from another location to help get them up and running. Immediately, it made the biggest difference. Not only were dogs having fun and burning energy, but we were learning about their personalities with other dogs which really helps with adoptability. Dogs who were timid or shut down came out of their shells. It was like a domino effect and dogs who had been at the shelter for a while suddenly started “flying off the shelf.”

volunteer, jamie, hugging a smiling dog

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about volunteering?

I think it’s important for everyone to be part of a cause they care about and give back in some way. There are so many different ways to help – there is truly something for everyone. As they say, it takes a village, and that could not be more true in animal rescue. We always need more help, and every little bit counts. 

 Also, I’ve met the most selfless, generous people through volunteering, and it’s nothing short of inspiring. Not only does everyone work together to help the animals but we help each other outside of volunteering too.

Ellie Nishimoto
DeKalb County Animal Services
volunteer ellie with a tan shelter dog

What made you get involved with LifeLine?

We adopted our first dog Kibo from the old DeKalb County Animal Services location during their “Clear the Shelter” free adoption event in June of 2017. Kibo came to us a little skinny and sick but was such an absolutely wonderful companion that I signed up to volunteer after he became healthier. It was my way of saying “thank you” to the organization that saved Kibo and to help the other sweet dogs who had yet to find homes.

What is your favorite volunteer activity?

It’s a four-way tie between dog walking, Dog for the Day, fostering and enrichment! Shelter life is very hard on homeless animals. So working with other volunteers and staff in finding ways to make their day a little better is what I love doing.

How were you able to use your unique set of skills to help LifeLine?

The best part about volunteering is that you don’t need a unique set of skills to contribute, just being available and present means so much. It does help to have a sense of humor. The first volunteer shift I did was helping clean cages in the puppy room. Within 10 minutes, a puppy in an upper kennel had knocked over a full pail of water onto my head while I was cleaning a lower kennel. And there has never been a boring day at the shelter since!

volunteer ellie walking a shelter dog

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about volunteering?

If you are considering volunteering, stop considering and just dive in! Doing something new as an adult can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, but there is a big compassionate community of animal lovers at LifeLine to support and encourage you. We are all on the same team, striving to make shelter life better for the animals, and anything you can do is so appreciated.

Jessica Gray
Fulton County Animal Services
two volunteers smiling while a dog kisses their face

What made you get involved with LifeLine?

I became involved with LifeLine because they hold the contract to manage Fulton County Animal Services (FCAS). It is extremely important to me to find ways to get involved in my community. Volunteering at FCAS just happened to be one of those ways. I became even more invested once I learned that my zip code had a high utilization rate of Animal Services calls/animal pick ups. In addition, it provided me with the opportunity to spend time with animals while I was not in a position to have my own due to work travel.

What is your favorite volunteer activity?

It is hard to pick a favorite as there are so many things I like to do depending on how I am feeling (also what I like the most about volunteering at FCAS, flexibility). But if I had to pick one, I choose to work with behavior dogs in the shelter. I also really enjoy fostering them. My second favorite thing is Doggy Jog.

How were you able to use your unique set of skills to help LifeLine?

I am more logical than emotional, and I think that helps me keep a realistic perspective when volunteering at an open-intake shelter. I am able to accept that we do what we can, and strive to partner with staff to think of better ways to handle the future. As far as behavior dogs, I enjoy a very structured lifestyle with clear expectations and I feel those dogs also do best with structure and consistency.

volunteer jessica posing with a smiling brown dog

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about volunteering?

This is a marathon and not a sprint. We can’t change everything in one day or one year, but we can pick one animal at a time and make a change for them. Focus on the positives. Every time you volunteer, you have a positive impact on animals in that shelter whether it’s in person or remote. Everything, no matter how small, makes an impact.

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