New Year’s resolutions worth keeping

11 January 2015

New Year’s resolutions worth keeping

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

Every New Year’s Eve since I turned 40, I have resolved to launch a rigorous exercise program in the upcoming year. Now that I am 60, it doesn’t seem like such a lofty goal as much as a practical necessity, but somehow the commitment wanes as January turns into February turns into March turns into . . . well, you get the picture.

I am not alone –“ exercising more” is a common New Year’s resolution, so why is it also the one so quickly abandoned with such minimal guilt? I’m no psychologist, but I’m going to hazard a guess here: resolutions that involve tending only to the physical body are perhaps too shallow to be taken seriously.

What if, then, we were to resolve to exercise in a way that satisfies both body and soul, makes homeless animals happy and saves lives at the same time?  Based on the experience of our FOTAS volunteers, those resolutions might just be winners.

Susan Hilderbrand began volunteering at the old Aiken County Animal Shelter in 2008, the year before FOTAS was founded. At first she played and walked with the animals. Now, twice a week, Susan takes pictures of the shelter residents, talks to volunteers and staff about their personalities, gathers some data such as age, weight, gender, and uploads this information to PetFinder, a national database for animal adoptions, and to the County shelter’s website.

“I love taking those photos,” says Susan. “I can help find these animals a forever home by expanding the potential pool of adopters, which is so satisfying. Some of my friends say, ‘How can you go there two times a week, every week, and see all those poor animals?’ And I say, ‘How can I not?

She continues. “Plus, the new shelter is such a bright and welcoming place, it’s a pleasure to spend time there with the animals, the other volunteers and the County staff, who are just plain wonderful.”

Kathy Jacobs and her 9-year-old son Noah have been walking and playing with the shelter dogs since last May.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” says Kathy, “but I wasn’t sure I could. I was afraid I’d be too upset seeing all those homeless dogs. I was wrong. It’s so easy to make them happy and so rewarding when they finally go home with that special someone.

I spend a lot of time hugging the dogs. These animals have been abandoned or abused or alone for so long, I feel like it’s my and Noah’s job to teach them how to be loved.”

In addition, this year Noah performed odd jobs around the house between Thanksgiving and Christmas and donated the money to FOTAS. Talk about dedication.

Karen Peck began volunteering for FOTAS at the County shelter 4 years ago as part of a Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound Program. Since then, in addition to walking the dogs, she baths, grooms, takes photos of the animals for FOTAS social media and assists with transfers. Karen injured her leg last year, so now she works the front desk, greets visitors, helps with adoption counseling, and performs the thankless job of filling out paperwork for adoptions and transfers.

Karen and her family have also fostered over 50 dogs in the last 18 months. “I love fostering,” she says, “We get to care for and love them for a short time knowing they’re already spoken for. It’s magic.”

So there you have it. These FOTAS volunteers and their colleagues in the FOTAS volunteer army, exercise their bodies, exercise their hearts, exercise their humanity, and exercise their civic duty, and in the process, saved the lives of hundreds of the County’s most vulnerable animals.

Proof positive that resolutions involving a commitment of body and soul are the most enduring.

Make your resolutions count this year; join us in this important work. Their lives are in our hands.


162 dogs and cats adopted during the “No Place Like Home” adoption special Nov. 29, 2014 – Jan. 3, 2015


DARYL     Male, Shepherd mix, 9 months old, 44 lbs — $70

PIPPA   Female, Domestic short hair, 1 1/2 years old — $35