Volunteer spotlight: Anne Wood-Alatalo

She's one of the many volunteers we're fortunate to know. Here's why.

In the "luckiest" month of them all, it's appropriate that we celebrate our volunteers who give not just their time-- but their selves, often their home and their money, and always their energy and spirit to help the animals at HSHV. These nearly 1,700 volunteers are better than field of four-leaf clovers, and we at HSHV are so fortunate for each and every one.

One of these very special people is Anne Wood-Alatalo, who has volunteered in nearly every capacity at HSHV over the past 7 years. Anne has been a foster parent, a dog walker, a cat comforter, a tour guide, an adoptions counselor. not to mention an overall-day-brightener at HSHV! And we recently had the pleasure of asking Anne some questions about volunteering, and would love to share her sunshine-filled answers with you.


Anne Alatalo with Garfield catWhat inspired you to start volunteering at HSHV, Anne?

The first dog we adopted from the shelter was in 1958. In the early 1960’s our family surrendered a few litters of kittens (until my mother realized that it would be better to have Friendly spayed since “we’d run out of friends.”) The Humane Society of Huron Valley has been a part of my life for decades. I’ve found dogs at the shelter for my parents, my brother-in-law, and friends. I had planned to start volunteering when I retired and had more time.

When did you start volunteering at HSHV?

My son became a greeter in 2008. During that time he had foot surgery, so I had to drive him to the shelter. That’s when I realized I was spending two hours a week at HSHV, so I might as well become a volunteer myself. I became a volunteer in 2010.

What did you initially do—and what are you doing now?

I started as a dog walker and went through blue dot and Head Start training. As I got older, I found that I didn’t have the strength to walk a lot of the dogs. But by then I’d also been trained as a cat comforter and an adoption counselor. I am also a greeter, a cat/kitten foster, and a Humane Ed volunteer. Where will you find me now? In any given week, I could be working with a Scout troop, being a Love Train conductor, leading a tour during New Volunteer Orientation, and/or greeting and doing adoption counseling.

How has volunteering changed/remained the same since you started?

The trainings have become much more organized. What changed for me are the relationships I’ve built with other volunteers and staff.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer?

I keep thinking about the hours that volunteers put in, those hours that give the staff more time to do their jobs. I think that my time volunteering is directly related to animals finding forever homes. I know that is true with all the kittens I foster. If there weren’t fosters for those babies, they’d never have a chance at life.

What volunteer assignments are your favorites?

I think I most enjoy adoption counseling. Seeing the excitement of new pet parents, helping first timers work out the logistics of bringing a new family member home, listening to folks talk lovingly of pets they have lost and their hope for their new family addition all of those things are so heart-warming. I also like greeting being the first friendly face visitors see when they walk in the door.

Anne Alatalo with Briar Rose catWhat suggestions for new volunteers—and particularly for new foster parentsdo you have?

I think shelter staff does a pretty good job thanking volunteers for their time. And volunteers need to thank the staff for all their hard work because we are a team. Fostering kittens can be such a joy seeing tiny little waifs turn into rambunctious little tigers. But fostering comes with worry. We worry about our fosters from the time we get them through when they get adopted. Some are so hard to let go as any foster failure will tell you. Foster parents have to be willing to give a little piece of our hearts with every animal that leaves our care. But without foster parents, HSHV wouldn’t have our current outstanding save rate.

What barriers do you hear about fostering, and how did you overcome them?

We need more fosters!! I do know that many of us suffer from compassion fatigue. I don’t mind the winter break from kittens. It allows me to become rejuvenated.

What qualities do you think are most important for a volunteer at HSHV to have?

Successful volunteers need to have a passion for what they’re doing. They need to be committed to the mission of HSHV. I don’t mean that they need to spend hours at the shelter. Instead they need to be totally invested during the time they’re there. And if they didn’t find the right fit for their volunteer activity, they should talk to volunteer staff to see if there’s a better place for them. I enjoy and admire the dedication of a large group of volunteers those that come weekly, rain or shine.

Has there been a particular animal who really touched you? Who and why?

The first pit bull I met was Donnie. I had never really believed the bad press about pits but had never met one. He was such a goofy fellow. Every time I went into his kennel, he’d roll over on his back for belly rubs, which made putting on his harness close to impossible. He helped me define what a “pit bull” is. Another was a foster cat, Sunburst. She came to me with a litter of kittens. When they were sent back to be adopted, I asked if I could keep her for a while, since she was so timid. I kept her for another five or six months until she came out of her shell. One day I got a call from Ann [Edwards, HSHV's Foster Manager] to bring her to the shelter to meet a couple who were interested in her. To my delight, she was adopted that day.

What would you like to see happen for animals in the future?  

I think we need to keep educating the public about what HSHV does (especially the Cruelty and Rescue department.) I’m glad that Tanya brings many issues to the public’s attention. I’m also impressed with the continuing education that administration is involved in that they are always learning. It’s terrific that that training is made available to staff and to volunteers. My wish is that all animals have the lives they are supposed to have whether family companions or wildlife. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~Mahatma Gandhi  


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All images and photographs are courtesy of HSHV staff and Jeffrey E. Roush of Two Cat Studios.