Who Rescued Who?
Who else used to go door to door and ask to play with their neighbors dogs, growing up? Just me? It can’t be! For many of my childhood years we didn’t have a dog, but that didn’t damper my obsession. I found neighbors with dogs - and they allowed me to walk them, play with them in the backyard or just come over to snuggle them. I can’t even imagine a child in my neighborhood doing that these days. But things were a little different 30 years ago. My obsession is long standing and deep rooted.
As an adult, I adopted my first dog in 2010 - Chipper. My heart. He came from a small, overrun rescue in North Carolina. This was one of my first glimpses into the rescue/animal welfare world. Chipper moved across the country with me, to Arizona. I didn’t know anyone in Arizona. So what did I do?
I began volunteering at animal rescue - Friends for Life. Rather quickly, I became very invested. I volunteered as an animal caregiver (taking on a shift 1x/week to clean/exercise/feed and care for each dog on site for a 2 hour time period). I then volunteered to join the education team, to help lead tours at the rescue.
Next, I became the Caregiving Coordinator, so not only caregiving 1x/week, but also hosting orientations and scheduling others to do their own shifts. Another opportunity to learn popped up - the chance to take a 10 week course on animal behavior and a certification to be able to perform intake evaluations determining the best placement options for the dogs going up for adoption.
This course changed my life - I learned so much, and made remarkable friends in the animal welfare community. We began doing thorough evaluations at our little animal rescue and introduced playgroups - to help socialize dogs, and to give us more information on how to make them adoptable. This all happened over the course of 3 years (2011-2014).
Then one evening, I was giving a new volunteer a tour of the rescue. When a friend and fellow volunteer texted me asking “Did you see the new terrier in the office yet?” I’ll give you about 2 seconds to guess who that little terrier was - Quinci, my infamous raptor.
Friends for Life had just pulled her from the Yuma Humane Society, where she had been turned in with multiple other dogs - from a hoarding situation. She was severely undersocialized at 10 months old, and hadn’t let anyone at the rescue interact much with her yet, out of fear. I of course went directly to the office, peaked in the back room and sure enough - there was the cutest 9lbs I had ever seen. I went into her room and sat on the other side of the room, facing sideways, as to not be intimidating. She slowly meandered over and crawled right into my lap - I was done for, I was in love.
She joined Chipper and I for a life of adventure! But it wasn’t always easy. Because she hadn’t experienced any of the outside world, until now, it was very scary. If she heard a leaf rustling on a walk, she’d pancake to the ground in fear. It took months and month to potty train her - she much preferred the safety of the bedroom. She was (and still is) incredible weary of strangers. I quickly realized the time I would need to dedicate to make her life successful.
During this time, I stepped back from volunteering - my dogs were young and required a lot of my time, they needed frequent exercise, activity and stimulation. And as mentioned - Quinci needed training, socialization and TLC.
I found that my little raptor was most confident in nature, away from the noises, the people and the overstimulation that comes with daily life. The 3 of us went on countless adventures together. We’ve spent hundreds of days hiking, paddleboarding, learning dog agility, napping in hammocks and backpacking into remote areas. Quinci has been my best sidekick through countless adventures and significant life moments. I’ve needed her as much as she needed me. We have grown so much together over the past 9 years.
Since Chipper passed away nearly 2 years ago and with Quinci at almost 10 years old now, I find myself with the time to dedicate to volunteering again. My heart was pulled heavily back into animal welfare, it feels good to be back. My volunteering looks a bit different now - less time at one organization, more thoughtful hours spent where I feel I am making the most impact. At this time in my life, I have now been a Volunteer Coordinator as my profession for 4 years, as well - I work for a non-profit that offers mentoring to youth who face adversity - so I understand just how meaningful a volunteer is.
Currently, I spend most of my time at 2 organizations: The NAGI Foundation and Almost There Rescue. The NAGI Foundation offers free wellness and spay/neuter clinics for members of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Reservation. Almost There Rescue specializes in rescuing momma dogs and her puppies - adopting all out when they’re healthy and ready to find their forever homes.
It is important to me to find a balance between meeting the needs of Quinci and the community. The needs of my dogs come first - but whenever possible, I try to give back what, when and where I can. Quinci has inspired me - the life we lead together inspires me - to help other animals and their owners or future adopters find their happiness. It takes a village to make good things happen. And, volunteering has a way of leaving one feeling inspired, motivated, confident, accomplished and honestly - good, it just leaves you feeling good!
Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about doesn’t mean spending countless hours getting your hands dirty - it can mean engaging with their social media, spreading the word about a cause, helping with paperwork, transportation, cleaning, direct care, website building, photography, etc.
My love of dogs has never wavered, it just evolves. From playing with neighbors dogs, adopting my own, creating a life around our mutual needs and favorite activities, finding ways to give back to others so they can hopefully find the same love. In short, my life revolves around dogs - and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Katie and Quinci are desert dwelling, trash collecting, community loving hippies. We choose the outdoors and community above all else. Whether that's hiking, paddleboarding or backpacking - we love it all. We live in Arizona, and explore on the weekends and weeknights. I work a 9-5ish job, but that doesn't slow us down. We're just happy sticking to our local favorites as we are exploring new and exciting areas. Follow their adventure at @TRUSTYOURTRAIL.