As many of you know, Michele England is our Director of Volunteers. Read on to learn more about her and what she does, plus hear about Forever Loved’s recent challenges and triumphs.
Michele has been happily helping senior dogs as FLPS Director of Volunteers for over two years. She has always been an animal lover and has two senior dogs at home.
“What really attracted me to Forever Loved is they take in senior dogs,” says Michele, an experienced rescue volunteer. Several years ago, Michele fostered Flash, a seven year-old Plott hound. Over and over and again, potential adopters’ interest waned when they learned he was 7 years old.
Sadly, this was a phenomenon not new to Michele. “You see that quite a bit. You see older dogs being surrendered, and they had a family and they had a life. But sadly people want the puppies or young dogs.”
Ultimately she ended up adopting Flash, knowing that no one else was going to adopt him. He was, no surprise, a wonderful pet. His experience reinforced the idea that senior dogs really need help.
FLPS has about 120 active volunteers! As Director, Michele helps mentor them, while also onboarding new volunteers. Due to COVID-19 this has been put on hold, but ordinarily she would:
Engaging with our volunteers is important to Michele. She organizes quarterly meetings where sanctuary news is discussed and input from volunteers is sought. And if someone has previously volunteered but stopped for some reason — “We will welcome you back with open arms,” she says.
Michele really likes the flexibility FLPS volunteers enjoy.
“We are liberal with our expectations of volunteers. We don’t have a minimum hour requirement per month or set days or times. You come at your convenience — other than feeders,” she explains.
FLPS has about 120 active volunteers!
Particularly during our hotter months, Michele encourages volunteers to consider hanging out with a dog for an hour in the kennel.
“You can bring a book or magazine. It’s not much of a strenuous commitment, and the dog gets socialization and human contact which makes a big difference to them.”
(Just make sure to schedule your visit ahead of time to ensure we keep the number of people in the sanctuary to three or less.)
When asked about her favorite part of the job, Michele doesn’t have to stop and ponder before answering. She knows immediately.
“I really love interacting with the volunteers and being around them. They are so compassionate and dedicated. It just gives you that energy to help move the organization forward to save more lives.”
Michele especially likes Volunteer Appreciation Day. “It’s a day to celebrate our volunteers by holding a cookout for them. It’s always a nice day with food and friends.”
Fosters are volunteers too, Michele points out, and she makes sure to include them at the annual event.
“They may not be at the sanctuary physically, but they have an animal at their home, and that’s a huge part of the volunteer program. They provide the dogs with a home where they can decompress and become a part of a family, even if it’s only temporary. Being in a home helps us to understand each dog, which leads to successful adoptions.”
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 forced FLPS to alter its operations. After reviewing and adapting to the CDC guidelines, we’ve limited the number of people in the sanctuary to three at a time, and we’ve sadly put adding new volunteers on hold.
“Our number one goal is keeping volunteers safe and healthy,” Michele says. “We’ll let everyone on the waiting list know when it’s safe to restart.”
In the meantime, Michele is focusing on trying to get more people to foster. If people can’t volunteer at the shelter, they can still help in this way, she explains.
“We can take in more dogs if we have more homes to put them in.”
Michele says through these extraordinary times that the entire team — FLPS board and volunteers — never ceases to amaze her.
“Whenever a need arises, it’s all hands on deck with everyone asking, what do we need to do to overcome this challenge? And every time we have.”
It’s exceptional, she notes, that when the sanctuary closed for the pandemic, all our dogs found fosters. Even Ruby, the “resident queen” who is “human-selective,” had a place to go.
“People just stepped up and it was amazing. Everyone is working hard to achieve the common goal to get these dogs in homes, and I don’t think we have missed a beat. We’ve continued to do a lot of adoptions.”
Thank you to Michele and all of our amazing volunteers who have stepped up in numerous ways in 2020!