A business partner of the Dumb Friends League recently posted a sign in front of the Leslie A. Malone Center that says “Heroes Work Here.”
Most people who work in animal welfare would not describe themselves as heroes, you’ll hear them use much more humble language when describing what they do, like “I’m fortunate to have to the opportunity to help animals.”
But the truth is, they are heroes.
When we suspended adoptions on March 24, many people assumed the Dumb Friends League was closed entirely, which is not the case. Not even close. While we are known for helping people find their new furry family members, our staff provides services far beyond adoptions, pandemic or not.
The people providing these services have always been an important piece of our organization, but like most heroes, they were often overshadowed by adoptions and, not surprisingly, adorable adoptable pets.
While this situation is one nobody wants to be in, it has helped bring these heroes into the light and made people realize they are capable of so much more than they ever thought possible. And, as we work to provide the best care possible for animals, our teams have had to shift priorities, make adjustments to their schedules and even cover roles they never have before.
We’d like to introduce you to a few of those heroes who work at the Dumb Friends League.
“I am so proud of the Adoptions team! Throughout all of the changes, they have remained optimistic and passionate about our mission to match our animals into loving homes.” – Tayler Gonzalez
Prior to suspending adoptions temporarily, the Dumb Friends League began offering adoptions by appointment to reduce the number of people coming into our shelters. But that change was just the beginning.
“The last day we knew adoptions would be open to the public the Adoptions team was dedicated to getting as many animals out into loving homes as possible, I had never seen anything like it,” says Dumb Friends League Adoption Manager Tayler Gonzalez. “It was truly inspiring.”
When adoptions are suspended, what does the Adoptions team do? They continue to use their experience and knowledge to help pair pets with people. “When our doors for adoptions closed and the shelter came to an eerie halt, we immediately started coming up with a plan to connect our community with our animals.”
At the same time the Adoptions team was working to find permanent homes for adoptable pets, the Foster department was working to move animals out of the shelter and into loving, temporary homes. So, when adoptions ceased, that team’s expertise was put to work to help the Foster department pair appropriate pets with foster families.
Throughout the pandemic and subsequent changes that resulted from it, the League’s Adoptions team was determined to resume adoptions. “We thought, how can we do this while maintaining social distancing? Are patrons going to want to take home an animal they have never met before? Thousands of questions crossed our minds, but the teamwork and collaboration that developed during this time of uncertainty is what the League is all about.”
The first step in resuming adoptions was to begin a Foster to Adopt program. Potential foster families were asked whether they were interested in possibly opening up their homes to pets permanently. “This program utilized our remote adoption associates where our patrons can have a virtual phone consultation about an animal match and then a contactless animal pick up at our shelter.”
The Foster to Adopt program quickly became a success, so the Adoptions team used what they’d learned from it to begin a new adoptions process. Changing and adapting constantly to respond to a demand for people to find new furry family members, they introduced a virtual adoptions program. “Just as quickly as this pandemic moved across the world, we have reacted and adjusted our processes here at the League.”
With virtual adoptions, interested adopters make an appointment to meet with an adoptions associate over the phone. During the virtual appointment, patrons are carefully counseled about what kind of pet they’re looking for and subsequently matched with an appropriate pet. When they’ve decided to adopt, they schedule a time to come to the Buddy Center or the Leslie A. Malone Center for a contactless pick up.
“Since the beginning, our priority has been our animals, staff, and our community.”
With a dynamic team that was ready and willing to embrace change and find creative ways to pair pets with people, the Dumb Friends League Adoptions staff has made animals, staff and the community a priority throughout the pandemic.
And, regardless of if they believe it or not, they are heroes. Thank you, Dumb Friends League Adoptions team, for matching us with our pets who bring us so much comfort and joy when we need it most.
“My husband often tells me he’s proud of me for coming here and doing all of this, and I tell him it’s no big deal, it’s my job.” – Becky Healy
The Dumb Friends League Pet Admissions department welcomes lost and stray pets, reunites people with missing pets, accepts pets that people can no longer care for and provides end of life services. Because this is an incredibly valuable resource for our community, it was important that their doors remained open throughout this crisis.
When stay at home orders were put into place, the League temporarily suspended adoptions, but pet admissions remained open. So, even as we were no longer adopting out animals, we still had homeless pets come through our doors every day.
In order to ensure the safety of our staff and patrons, the Pet Admissions team had to make some major changes to how they operate in order to continue serving pets and people. They have created contactless intake procedures, and the majority of communications with patrons now happen over the phone.
“Even though the constant change can be frustrating, from my perspective, the changes are always moving us forward,” says Transfer Supervisor Becky Healy.
Speaking of change, Healy’s usual role is to manage the Transfer department for the League. She works with partner shelters throughout Colorado and in other states to move animals to the Buddy Center and Leslie A. Malone Center where they have a better chance of finding new homes or can receive necessary medical or behavior care.
Since the pandemic began, she has been working on the Pet Admissions team, evaluating animals that arrive at the shelter and helping in any other way that she can. And she’s not alone in pitching in where help is needed, “this team is working very collaboratively, always stepping in to assist each other and make things go as smoothly as possible.”
Pet Admissions can be one of the most stressful areas to work in the shelter. The team is faced with highly emotional situations every day; people searching for lost pets, those who have to make the difficult decision to surrender their pet, patrons who need end of life services for their beloved pet and reunions of lost pets with their people.
“We are all pretty well-equipped with coping mechanisms that we had in place before this. And, we do our best to laugh, have fun and come up with creative ways to alleviate stress, like activity challenges on the hour where we do sit-ups, push-ups and burpees.” That will get the endorphins going!
Like your husband said, Becky, we are proud of the work you and the entire Pet Admissions team does every day, not just during this pandemic. It IS a big deal. You are all appreciated and you are heroes.
If you’d like to support the work the League’s Pet Admissions team does every day, please click here to donate. If you or someone you know is need of pet surrender, lost and found or end of life services, you can learn more in the pet admissions section of our website.
“Everyone has been working tremendously hard and maintaining great attitudes.” – Avery Spear
When animals arrive at the Dumb Friends League, sometimes they require additional care before they are ready to be adopted. Some dogs may need help building confidence to overcome fear, and some cats may need enrichment to help with frustration and over-stimulation.
That’s where the League’s Behavior department steps in to help thousands of homeless pets, providing vital care that helps set those pets up for success in their new homes.
So, take all of that regular work, add in pets that need extra enrichment due to longer stays at the shelter and take away the help of volunteers (volunteer shifts were cancelled when the stay at home orders were put into effect) and the loss of some high-risk staff who could not come into the shelter and you get a very small, but mighty Behavior team.
“So far I think that the biggest change that the Behavior department has experienced is a significant decrease in the amount of man-hours that we are able to commit to working with animals in the shelter,” says Behavior Supervisor Avery Spear.
“We have also seen a significant increase in behavior helpline calls,” says Spear. (The Pet Behavior Helpline gives people the opportunity to speak with one of our behavior specialists about your pet’s behavior. This service is free to all pet owners, whether or not you adopted from the Dumb Friends League and is part of our commitment to help keep pets and people together. From foster parents looking for support to people who recently adopted, they provide management strategies to help pet-owners work through issues.)
And, while people have been eager to open their homes to foster or adopt a pet during this pandemic, it’s evident that placing pets with behavior concerns is especially challenging.
“While animals with certain behavioral considerations such as high levels of fear may not be compatible with all households, they can and do make terrific family members provided that the needs of all parties are well aligned. If you think that your home may be able to support this type of animal, I would encourage you to contact staff at the Dumb Friends League to discuss possible matches.”
In other words, consider giving those underdogs and undercats a chance the next time you adopt.
Spear notes that while this pandemic has brought challenges to his team, he is encouraged by people from all departments stepping in to help. “Despite the decrease in staffing due to COVID-related absences, everyone in the organization is pitching in to shore up the gaps as best we can.”
Behavior team, thank you for all you do to help homeless pets become great furry family members during this crisis and every day. You are all heroes!
“We are glad and grateful we get to do this.” – Dr. Kimberly Palgrave
Dumb Friends League Solutions – Veterinary Hospital opened in October 2018 to provide access to care for pets whose owners could not otherwise afford that care. Since opening, the hospital’s appointments for everything from wellness visits to dental surgeries have been booked weeks and sometimes months in advance, as the staff has worked tirelessly to provide this vital service and meet our community’s needs.
When the COVID-19 crisis began, everyday life quickly changed—social distancing was introduced and face to face interactions were deemed unsafe—and the question became how can Solutions – Veterinary Hospital continue to provide excellent care for pets and high levels of service to their people?
“The staff has been flexible and amazing,” says Dr. Kimberly Palgrave, Chief Veterinarian for Dumb Friends League Solutions – Veterinary Hospital. “We have had to adjust everything we do, from the types and number of cases we see each day to how we interact with clients, which is now over the phone. Our demand is so high, we’ve even established a pop-up clinic to support our overflow at the Leslie A. Malone Center.”
Prior to the pandemic, the veterinary hospital saw around 15 pets on a walk-in basis per day. Today, the number of walk-ins has nearly doubled and the hospital is focused on providing urgent medical care on a first-come, first-served basis for issues like foreign body removals, lacerations, abscesses, gastrointestinal issues, trauma and injuries like broken bones.
“We’ve added telemedicine, the pop-up clinic, contactless care and so many other things, yet this team is working together cohesively and is dedicated to providing the highest level of care to pets who need us right now.”
A need that is only likely to increase as the state’s unemployment numbers continue to grow and people face financial uncertainty.
But, that is why Solutions – Veterinary Hospital is here, to help people provide vital care to their pets and preserve existing bonds. “We are thankful for how supportive the League and our leadership has been in making these changes so we can remain open, continue to help pets and actually increase our capacity.”
Despite that increase in caseload and constant change, Palgrave reports that the team remains incredibly positive and has even embraced this new version of normal. “This team is dedicated to helping pets and people in our community and are still excited to come into work every single day.”
Thank you to the Dumb Friends League Solutions – Veterinary Hospital staff for being there for pets and people. You are heroes.
If you would like help support these heroes and the incredible work they do to help pets and their people stay together, please click here to donate.
“We’re still here, doing what we do to help horses.” – Garret Leonard
The Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center is a private rehabilitation and adoption facility that primarily cares for abused and neglected horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that have been removed from their owners by law enforcement. Harmony also provides training and rehoming for horses from humane societies and rescue groups in Colorado and nearby states and accepts privately owned horses in need of rehoming.
With 168 acres, social distancing is a lot easier to accomplish at Harmony Equine Center.
“We’ve enacted social distancing measures to help us continue to rehabilitate, train and adopt the 80 horses we have here onsite,” says Harmony Equine Center Director Garret Leonard. “Not much has changed here, we are pretty much business as usual.”
Business as usual for Harmony includes helping horses that have suffered unthinkable abuse and neglect. Animals that are so malnourished, they need to gain hundreds of pounds to become healthy. Helping equines who have no reason to trust people, learn to trust Harmony’s trainers.
And did we mention foals?
In addition to the usual happenings at Harmony, five adorable foals were born this spring. With names like Hope and Faith, something we can all use right now, these babies bring a ray of light when the days can seem long and dark. “We’ve just been focusing on keeping those babies healthy.”
Leonard also reports that horse adoption interest has increased and Harmony is still adopting out animals on a limited basis by appointment only.
At the same time, Harmony’s team helped set up four hay banks across the state to provide a safety net for struggling horse owners. “Most people want to do right by their horses, and right now they need that little bit of extra help to keep them fed and healthy.”
Due to the ease of social distancing on 168 acres, Harmony volunteers have been continuing to show up and help out. “They look forward to their shifts because it’s a chance to get out of the house. And we are so grateful to have them here, supporting us through this time.”
So we offer a horse-sized “THANK YOU” to the heroes at Harmony Equine Center who help horses in need every single day.
If you’d like to support the work these heroes do to rehabilitate, train and adopt horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, please click here to donate.
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