One of the things I love the most about Facebook is reconnecting with old friends, family members, and classmates. I love seeing what they are doing and meeting via cyber space their children, grandchildren, and pets. I love finding out what they think is funny, or sentimental, or maddening. And I really love how we come together as a community to support one another when someone loses a loved one or struggles with illness or other hardships.
One of these reconnects is the subject of my next Hero story:
When one hears the term “animal rescue”, one usually thinks about animals being rescued by humans. We’ve all seen pictures and read stories of people rescuing pets from floods, garbage piles, drain pipes, trees, chains, and neglect. Sometimes though, the “rescue” in “animal rescue” is the human getting rescued by the pet.
A few years ago, Laurie Spah held a high energy, stressful job. It required a lot of her time and focus, not only during office hours but at home as well. It was not unusual for her job related activities to spill into her private life, consuming her physical and mental resources into evenings and weekends. She had little time left to pursue outside interests, much less take time for her home and friends.
As busy and crazy as her life was, Laurie enjoyed her job. She liked the mental stimulation and challenges to keeping everything on track and in balance. And, she was good at it. But even people who are good at their jobs can sometimes find themselves in need of new employment due to circumstances beyond their control, and this was the case with Laurie.
It didn’t take her long to find new employment, but her new job required far less of her, leaving her with feelings of loss and extreme anxiety. Laure did the smart thing, and began to get counseling, as well as medication to control the symptoms. However, she still struggled. As someone who has dealt with anxiety issues related to depression, I can give first hand knowledge to how debilitating it can be, and I can understand the awfulness of wondering if you will ever feel normal again, if you will ever find joy again. Each day can become a challenge to just “get thru”, hoping the next will be better.
Seeing her struggle, her counselor suggested Laurie find a way to occupy her time and stretch herself a little, by reaching out to help others. On that advice, Laurie began scanning the paper and the internet for ideas. By chance, she received a mail flyer about an animal shelter looking for volunteers. It was a newer no-kill shelter called Happily Ever After, and was based in Marion, Wisconsin.
Part of Laurie’s anxiety manifested itself by causing her natural introverted personality to magnify, so the idea of volunteering at a shelter where she would have minimal human interaction appealed to her. She read that they often had information booths at a local pet store, so she went there on the weekend. She talked to the woman there, who happened to be the aunt of Amanda Reitz, the founder of Happily Ever After (you can read her story by clicking here). After hearing about how the shelter was started and the work that needed to be done, Laurie filled out her forms and began her life as a dedicated volunteer.
The following Saturday, Laurie drove out to Marion. It was a blazing hot day, and while the pet rooms were air conditioned, the rest of the facilities and surrounding farm was not. She spent that first day hauling, scooping, lifting, scrubbing, hammering, painting, walking, feeding, and caring. Mostly caring. There were 120 cats and 50 dogs, and each one was treated with the same love and attention as the next. And while Amanda and her father had their doubts as to Laurie’s return, she knew she had found her calling.
Since that first hot, sweaty Saturday, Laurie was an active volunteer with HEA every weekend. Being with the animals helped calm her anxiety like nothing else could. The physical labor tired her body while the wagging tails and purring throats soothed her mind. Besides the healing properties of warm, fuzzy, gratitude, Laurie discovered the reward of working with a great group of people who respected her and understood what she was going thru.
As her time with HEA continued, Laurie took on more duties, helping to establish and open the new Green Bay shelter and eventually becoming the unofficial manager. Laurie now spent her weekends and most week nights helping to save the 4-legged loves that first saved her. However, her volunteer work was overshadowing her full time job, her relationships with her loved ones, and her own pets.
To help minimize her work load, HEA created team lead positions that helped remove some of the stress and time consuming duties from Laurie at the Green Bay shelter. And while letting go was difficult, Laurie now has more time to pursue the aspect of rescue that she loves the most – care taking and nursing pets who are ill. She has also been able to adopt an additional family member- an English Setter named Paige, who for 7 years knew nothing of her world except a kennel, but is now lavished with love and attention.
Laurie will never quit working for humane solutions to alleviate pet over population and to provide pets with safety, health, and loving homes – from being part of spay/neuter clinics to running the HEA adoptions out of PetCo, or to fostering and nursing sick or disabled animals. Laurie believes all pets deserve a 2nd chance, and her goal will always be to try to give them that. After all, they gave her a second chance, first.
And that’s Laurie’s story! Remember – heros come in many forms, and they don’t always wear a cape. Most times, they are people you see every day, quietly going the extra mile to make someone else’s life a little better. People like Laurie. 🙂
Until next week-stay warm my friends!
PS – If you are thinking about growing your family with a four-footed pal, please please consider adopting a rescue, from Happily Ever After or your local shelter. Save a life. Save your own.