Volunteering: Fun, rewarding and a great way to get in shape

by Bob Gordon, FOTAS Director of Communications

It’s 5:30 p.m. and the County Animal Shelter has been closed for a half hour, but FOTAS Volunteer Karen Brady has some unfinished business. She is concerned about one of the dogs, Monica, who is having anxiety issues, so she’s taking her home to foster. As Karen opens the door of the 5-year-old, black beagle’s kennel, Monica bursts out and into Karen’s arms.
“She’s going to be a happy girl, tonight,” Karen says. “She’ll be able to run around with my dogs and sniff all the new smells. It will be a good change for her.”

Karen started volunteering at the shelter last spring and is often the last member of the FOTAS team to leave at the end of the day. She moved to Aiken from Montana about a year ago, when she retired from a successful career as an ecologist and soil scientist for the USDA. Karen grew up around animals in Denver and currently has three adopted dogs of her own.

Since joining FOTAS, Karen has gained a reputation as a model volunteer. She not only comes in to walk and socialize the dogs six days a week, but also fosters puppies at home (with the help of her daughter, Genny) and takes shelter dogs to off-site FOTAS adoption events. She is supportive to her fellow volunteers, great with animals and helpful to those who visit the shelter to adopt a pet.

“I do this work for the animals but I also love the social activity,” she said. “Everyone here is very nice and has it in their hearts to do good where they can. I think that’s why I keep coming here. We have a really good team and have a lot of fun.” Karen noted that sometimes volunteers have get-togethers on the weekend or meet for lunch after the shelter work is done.

Besides the social advantages, Karen listed other benefits of volunteering at the shelter:
Great exercise. Karen has lost 10 pounds since becoming a volunteer and a colleague of hers has lost 40 pounds from walking the dogs. “It’s cheaper and a lot more fun than joining a gym and walking on a treadmill,” Karen said.
Animal education. If you like dogs and/or cats, you get the chance to see a wide variety of breeds and learn how to treat and care for animals with different personalities. “You also get an education about how these animals find homes and how much is done for them while they’re here,” Karen said.
Rewarding adoptions. “It’s so exciting when your fosters get forever homes,” she said. “Sometimes you miss them a bit, but you’ve reached your goal. You’ve given them a second chance!”
The shelter always needs more people to foster and volunteer and the population of unwanted and stray animals increases in the spring. So, if you are interested in becoming a FOTAS volunteer, please email info@FotasAiken.org or call the FOTAS hotline, (803) 514-4313.
“Give it a try,” Karen said. “It’s a blast and never boring or routine. And when we have more people, the teamwork is better and we can give more quality time to the animals.”
Their lives are in our hands.


The photo above is of FOTAS Volunteer Karen Brady spending time with adoptable shelter dogs Iago (left) and Octavia in one of the facility’s play yards.