DFL’s Got Talent: Bill Brown and Joan Thielen

Former Fingerprint Technician Bill Brown, cat health care and customer service volunteer

by Robin Russell, volunteer writer

Bill Brown with Cat

From fingerprints to paw prints. The phrase sums up the arc of Bill Brown’s work life. He served a Denver police officer for 30 years, serving part of that time as a certified fingerprint technician. As such, he compared the fingerprints of people being booked for a crime with a database to insure they were who they claimed to be. He was so good at it that he was called as an “expert witness” in 50 trials, mostly involving habitual criminal cases.

When he retired in 2010, he knew he wanted to volunteer, and was asked to put his fingerprinting talents to good use in a youth organization and a legal aid society in Denver for their background checks.

What brought him to Dumb Friends League where we don’t fingerprint (paw print?) animals as they come in? It was his love of cats. Bill shares his home with Kitty Lovey, whom he adopted from the Dumb Friends League. And, Bill notes that the League does identify its pets by taking a photograph and assigning each a unique ID number.

Bill spends the better parts of three days at the Quebec Street Shelter in two areas: Cat Health Care, where he cares for very ill cats; and Customer Service, where he makes follow-up calls to people who have adopted animals that were in a behavior program before their adoptions. He finds both responsibilities very rewarding, but especially enjoys talking with the people who’ve adopted cats he cared for in Cat Health Care. Talk about seeing things full circle!

Bill wants you to know that if you ever need your fingerprint taken, or if you want to know more about this interesting process, he’d be glad to talk with you. An unusual talent indeed.

Former member of the Westernaires, communications specialist Joan Thielen

by Mary Janak, volunteer writer

Joan with puppy

Horses at Harmony Center have a special friend who visits them often—Joan Thielen, communications specialist and a former member of the Westernaires.

“Horses are amazing! I fell in love with horses as a Girl Scout,” Joan says. “My dad, encouraged by my new interest, took me to Jefferson County Fairgrounds to meet their horses, and I was hooked! Every horse I’ve met has a different personality.”

Joan was 9 when she joined Westernaires and 18 when she graduated from the program. Her older sister was also in Westernaires and their mom volunteered. Westernaires training takes place at least once a week for years.

“Westernaires consumed our lives,” Joan says. “We were at Jefferson County Fairgrounds several days a week and performed in shows across the state all year—which was a lot of fun! Not to mention the time and energy caring for and working with the horses.” It wasn’t long before Joan and her sister joined the Bounce Club. “You receive a certificate the first time you’re thrown or fall off your horse!” she says.

Everyone in Westernaires performs on precision drill teams. In addition, Joan did jumping, trick riding, dressage and ground trick roping. “I loved my jumping team, Liberty. We went over 12-inch jumps without a saddle or bridle. It required a lot of training and trust with our horses.”

Members can lease horses from Westernaires or ride their own. Joan’s family did both, a total of six horses over the years—Sunny D, Xena, Jet, Hank, Poco and Kasey. “I primarily rode Hank and considered him my horse throughout my time in Westernaires,” she says.

“My bond with Hank is probably the most powerful I’ve had with any animal. I had to really trust him, and he me, with the type of riding we did. He was a very special horse and I miss him very much. He was a goofy, intelligent guy who wanted to please. He loved being with people and was always the first to trot over and greet us when we went out to pasture to get him.”

At home, Joan and her husband are pet parents to Sydney, 12, and O’Malley, 4, both cattle dog mixes from the League. “They complete our family! They even have their own Instagram account: @Two_Spotted_Dogs.” Sydney, a former ambassadog, was part of a couple of League adoption promotions, and O’Malley’s story was featured as part of the 2016 Have a Heart for Homeless Pets Telethon.

Joan grew up in Denver and always knew she wanted to work with animals. She’s been with the League for almost 10 years.

“I love the people at the League!” Joan says. “The staff and volunteers are so passionate and it inspires me to do my best. Of course, the cat, dog and small mammal breaks are a perk of the job, and I love nothing more than watching animals’ transformation from when they arrive at the shelter to when they find their new families.”