Friday, August 28, 2015

Volunteer Appreciation: Tami and Tom

If you've visited the Berkeley Humane Society in the last two years, there's a strong chance you've met a cat or dog who's been cared for by Tami or Tom (respectively). The Berkeley couple's living situation prohibits them from having pets at home, but after passing by the shelter on the way to nearby Ironworks so many times, they turned to volunteering. For them, it's a natural way to help animals while, in Tami's words, "also getting our puppy/kitty 'fix'."

Tami and Tom have been donating their time and energy
to Berkeley Humane since 2013
With so much love and attention spread generously across all the animals they've come in contact with, there have been a few standout personalities over the years.

In Tami's case, one of them very nearly was a rock star: "Pat Benatar," as she was known at the shelter, "Was an amazing polydactyl kitty who loved to play by chasing my hand under the towel in her cage. She would pounce on it with both of her enormous front cute! Her personality was much larger than her small frame." Tami was lucky to be on site the day that Pat Benatar was adopted – by a runner for the studio where Metallica records! Talk about namesake pairing.

Recently, Tom got to work with Oktoberfest, "just a big lovable beast with a great spirit." Hopefully you can learn more about Oktoberfest's new family in a future Going Home post, because he was adopted out! His happy energy is forever captured through this video (and not just through his commitment to tennis balls):

But a good dog is a good dog, and size doesn't matter for which canines make volunteering so uplifting. "I also volunteer Monday nights at Puppy Kindergarten training," Tom says. "Puppies are of course another super fun part of our volunteer work." (Author's Note: I dare you to imagine "Puppy Kindergarten" without smiling.)

Unsurprisingly, the regular act of letting go can be tough. "If I am lucky, I only see each animal once," Tami said. Yet, envisioning the cats' and dogs' futures helps. "When I see a kitty week over week I do get attached, but once I find out from Staff who has adopted them, I can imagine what their new home may be like and it helps to let them go."

The other reality to preparing Berkeley Humane's animals is filling in their incomplete pasts enough to properly serve the animal. "The ones that are skittish or difficult to approach can be challenging," Tom admitted. "Especially since we never really know their history. Overcoming bad experiences is probably one of the biggest challenges we face."

Often, it's by the sheer wills of volunteers like Tami and Tom that these dogs and cats get a new starting point to launch from. It's why they do what they do. "I love seeing the adoption board full of familiar names," Tami says. "It's particularly gratifying when I see a name of an animal I know has been harder to adopt out."

"Volunteering has increased my joy and empathy and helps remind me every week to slow down," Tami says.

Tom holding the Puppy Kindergarten Valedictorian
"Completely agree," adds Tom. "So much of life gets away from us with stress being a constant drain. Spending time with the animals is a great way to reset the week and enjoy moments with some four-legged friends."

The two feel so rejuvenated by volunteering that it's truly integrated into their own well-being as humans, and they don't view it as time consuming. "Tami and I volunteer during the same shift, and it fits nicely in with our usual routine for that day. With the dogs, it honestly goes by so fast – sometimes I don't even have enough time to spend with each animal."

"It's been easy to commit to because it's baked into my schedule and I know I can rely on it. On the weeks I have to cancel, I really miss being there." Tami says.

In between all those weekly visits to Berkeley Humane, Tami and Tom also recommend working at least one event a year. "[It] really inspires us because we get to see how the organization has a positive effect on the community."

It's win-win-win with these two, the cats and dogs they care for, and Berkeley Humane! Many thanks to Tami and Tom for all of their hard work and dedication.

Tami and Tom are just part of the excellent volunteer team that keeps Berkeley Humane running. From animal volunteers to videographers to truck drivers – if you've got the time, there's probably a talent you can lend, too. For more information, visit our Volunteer page!

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