WAGS Volunteer Banquet April 28th
written May 2018
by Anita Kotheimer
For many of the members it is not about the recognition, it is all about the task we get to perform. The teams that are in our organization do their job and expect no recognition except to know that they have warmed the heart of someone. That capacity to “reach out” to another human being takes on many forms in our community. For some it is simply to spread contagious love, joy and affection. Many of our teams have compassion that qualifies as saintly. Many of our pets that have been volunteered for each task cannot even read this article but their hearts are expressed in the work that they do. I am talking about our therapy animals! Not one of these heroic pets was at the banquet, but they were represented by WAGS as the mainstay of our organization. My guess is that they would want to contribute to running the organization; however that vision would be hilariously chaotic, filled with romping, attention getting tricks, forever kisses and tail sniffing!
We gleefully experienced the better vision at The Banquet on April 28th. It was a ‘Thank You’ to the tireless efforts of our volunteers. Thanks also to Cindy Green for organizing the Banquet. This year the volunteers of WAGS are more organized than ever and the future looks bright. Our Officers and Committees are digging into and re-organizing our charitable organization. There are statistics that maybe you are interested in knowing and I will share them after I first tell you about our guest speaker.
Our guest speaker for the Banquet was Stephanie Roby. What a delight to hear how she is making a difference for “furry animals” who were ready to be abandoned. She shared the information about her organization’s work at saving the lives of so many furry creatures big and small. It started with a face book page named Louisville Lost and Found Pet Advocates. Check it out on Facebook for your self!
It has grown to more than 13,000 followers. Their mission has been to rescue, rehome and provide financial medical support to the veterinarians who treat pet’s serious life threatening issues. These donations are funneled directly to the veterinarians who treat these animals.
Nothing short of selflessness is how they work. Phone calls or Facebook posts send them into action. The hurricane rescues in Louisiana were just one of their projects to rehome pets who were lost or abandoned. Check out their Facebook page to see how they intervened and how they involve themselves through a network of pet lovers. These volunteers take serious responsibility for the compassionate care of animals that are facing the unknown “end of the road” scenarios.
As for the Banquet, the day had a program of awards in store. Certificates were given for total hours ranking from the highest amount over twenty years awarded to Linda Laun, to those of the newest members who have jumped in and generated visiting hours without hesitation. Currently we are approaching 500 members. Did you know that there were over 2,077 hours recorded visiting facilities and attending special events in 2017? The behind the scenes hours that contributed to non-visiting hours totaled 3,973. These non- visiting hours represented such jobs as evaluating teams, educating members, communicating, organizing, promoting and keeping WAGS visible as a first class volunteer organization. We are proud to announce that the volunteer of the year award went to Tracy Harvill, our Treasurer for WAGS. Other members who have given unselfishly to WAGS were recognized by their recordable hours. The list of the top contributors for 2017 were noted at the Banquet and applauded. This list included:
Larry & Roslynn Curtis
During the spring of each year as we also ask teams to record their hours for visiting. In keeping tabs did you know that we have over 147 facilities that we either actively visit or have requests to visit? The actual number of team positions that were logged into Neon numbered 418 spots for visiting. At the banquet we were able to rank the top ten teams who have contributed the greatest number of hours. This article is to thank all of the teams who are contributing their hours in therapy work. There is still a lot of work yet to be done.
The top ten teams ranked by number of recorded hours for 2017 are:
We know that our members spend countless hours getting their pets qualified and certified to do this work. As a volunteer organization we are encouraging everyone to record and submit their hours to tell of the impact we have with strength in numbers. As a community we want to share a common appreciation for our members. Let’s get to know one another and thank everyone at our next meeting for being a part of WAGS. We deserve to know each other even better.
Angels in Fur
written by Ann D’Angelo April 2018
Religious texts as well as folklore are filled with tales of visitations to earth by angels on divine missions. They may appear as messengers, protectors, or ministering spirits, and are renowned for their angelic specialty of bringing “tidings of great joy.” With angels appearing in such a variety of shapes and forms, I’ve often wondered whether some of our therapy animals who comfort the sick and dying, and bring smiles to abused and neglected children are not another form of angel – an angel in fur.
I remember attending my first WAGS meeting at the Presbyterian Church in Anchorage. I was amazed at the room full of friendly dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes who greeted my cat Horus like he was an old friend. Perhaps they recognized a kindred spirit. While obedience can be taught, that innate desire to nurture sick and dying humans is a special gift. After Horus had been tested and met his qualifications to be a therapy cat, I especially remember our early days visiting a Hosparus patient in a nursing facility. She loved cats, and while Horus enjoyed being petted, he surprised me and delighted the patient by crawling in bed and curling up at her side without any urging. It was what he instinctively knew would provide comfort. One Saturday afternoon we arrived for a regular visit and our patient was dying. Her family had gathered at the bedside for final farewells. One last time, Horus insisted on curling up beside her while I visited with the family. They had all heard her talk about the visiting cat and how much he meant to her in the final weeks of life on this earth. WAGS members can recall countless similar stories where their dog or cat innately knew what to do at times when words were at a loss.
At a local facility for abused and neglected children there are always happy smiles and calls down the hallway when the animals arrive. The dogs and cats sit patiently while two or three children at a time hug and kiss them. They calmly accept the commotion and chaos that always accompanies these visits. The children have endured hardship and rejection that none of us can even imagine. The pain they have suffered often leaves emotional scars, but they are readily loved and accepted by the therapy animals that visit. Time and again I have witnessed the joy these animals provide to the sick, dying, and disadvantaged. It does not matter whether a patient is rich or poor, or whether the odor of death is heavy in the air. They ignore the unlovely, and simply do their work of bringing joy and comfort with patience and kindness.
Therapy animals serve as an example to all of us, and if you believe in angels, perhaps it’s not so far-fetched to wonder if they are really angels in disguise. I sometimes marvel at the fact that I’ve been blessed with not just one, but two feline angels in fur – Horus and William. Horus suffered a slight stroke several years ago and visiting is no longer an option for him. William left me much too soon. Both cats have left behind memories for many people who remember them. For me, they have been incredible companions, but I always recognized that each of them had a mission. William was an angel in fur, but of course, that has never been an option for Horus the Sphynx cat. I like to think that perhaps he is simply an angel in peach fuzz…
by Paula Weller
In December 2004, I went to the Animal Care Society to make a donation for Christmas. While there one of the ladies asked me to visit the cat room. As I entered the room a brown tabby (Frito) approached and wanted me to pick him up. I put him down, but he kept wanting me to pick him up. The lady said that it looked as though I needed to adopt this cat. I had never had a cat. I went home and brought Cricket my therapy dog back to make certain that they would get along and of course, they did. I kept his name.
He was found with his kitten sister by construction workers eating their lunch. They took them to animal care and named them Frito and Cheeto. Frito was nine months old when I adopted him. He is now 14. Frito has been visiting for four years. He began the year I retired Cricket, my therapy dog. I have been visiting for 12 years.
I feel as though I could write a book about my experiences with both Cricket and Frito. One memorable visit was at Baptist Hospital. Frito and I visited Coronary Care one day and visited a man whose wife was visiting him. He particularly liked Frito. A week later, I received a call from the volunteer office stating that a family had requested Frito in the Palliative Care Unit. As it turned out it was this gentleman. Frito visited and sat in this man’s lap for 2 hours. The gentleman would not let anyone take Frito. His wife said that ever since Frito had visited her husband in CCU, all he talked about was Frito. After our visit we planned to visit him in a couple of days. The man passed away before our next visit.
Frito visited a lady at a nursing home who is bed bound and must remain flat in the bed. She loves Frito. As soon as I lay him in her bed, he crawls up to her and she covers him up with her blankets. She pets him, but you cannot see Frito. She always tells me that I can leave him with her and I can go about my way.
Another story about Frito at Norton’s Hospital was when I was asked to take Frito into a lady’s room that they were having difficulty with. The patient was elderly and hallucinating. I spoke to her and put Frito into bed with her. He crawled right up by her. She became completely calm. While Frito lay beside her, two nurses were able to get IV’s into her and take blood samples.
In his retirement, Frito plans to spend more time on the screened-in porch watching the many animals that visit. We have 9 bird feeders, deer, rabbits and skunks that regularly visit. In fact, as I am writing this, he is outside on the screened porch enjoying himself. Of course he loves following me around. He intends to sleep about 18 hours per day.
One lady that worked at the nursing home stated that she loved Frito because Frito liked everyone. It does not matter what physical or mental problems you might have, he will cuddle with everyone. He has taught me patience and kindness. Frito has opened many doors for me to visit and meet new people. I absolutely love this cat. He can sense needs. He knows when someone needs cuddling. He is referred to as the “hugging cat” at Norton Hospital by the staff.
Although I am sad not to have a visiting animal, I intend to stay a member of WAGS as a trained assistant. I love animals and people and WAGS is the perfect organization for me. I believe in the values of WAGS.