Emily is a vet here at BAM Communications. She started as an intern in 2012 and has risen through the ranks to become one of our renowned Account Directors. She absolutely SLAYS client services, but she also has a soft spot for misplaced furry friends. Em spends much of her free time volunteering for the San Diego Humane Society. We did a short interview with her to chat about how she got started, why she is compelled to volunteer and how doing so makes her a total #BAMf.
So where did this volunteering all begin?
It was about four years ago I had been looking for how I could volunteer my time in any capacity, but not necessarily at the Humane Society specifically, but it was just kind of like, “what can I do to give back?”
I think when people have that same thought, life gets in the way and they lose commitment or they pick something seasonal such as giving food over the holidays. It’s a one-time event. So for me, it was really important to pick a cause that really touched me and that I knew I could continue beyond just a month of volunteering.
Why did you decide to work with animals?
I’ve been obsessed with animals since I was a kid. I wanted to be a vet when I grew up, and clearly, that changed courses, but I still love animals dearly and dogs have always just been my favorite. From there I realized how many dogs are in need at the Humane Society and other centers across the county. As a kid, I would do lemonade stands and use the money to buy Kongs for the San Diego Humane Society, so I had a history with their campus already.
I knew that I was very passionate about what they do there, so it just kind of all fell into place and seemed like a great fit.
Was it difficult to get started?
I reached out, and at the time they weren’t accepting volunteers for the position I wanted. I waited and finally, in December, they were! I applied and got in. The process to get started was more intensive than I expected – you certainly aren’t hands-on with dogs day one. I had to take a two-day course on how to handle the dogs from hooking them on a leash to monitoring key behavioral signs.
Many of the dogs in the shelter come from a rough background (which is part of what makes the process so rewarding!), so while the training can seem extensive, it’s crucial when some of the pups are aggressive or overly afraid. Beyond the physical considerations of working with animals that can weigh up to 140 pounds, I think the training process is also there to set expectations of the emotional toll the job can entail. It’s not easy learning about the terrible things some of these dogs have endured.
How often do you volunteer?
I go about once a week and my specific role is called a “canine companion.” I take out all the dogs one-by-one and walk them around the shelter neighborhood. It’s probably the most exciting part of their day because they’re in these habitats 24/7. The ability to go outside, be a dog and smell things is really exciting for them.
It takes about two hours out of my time once a week, and to me, it’s like therapy. I don’t access my phone in that timeframe so I’m not texting, scrolling social media or answering email. I’m present and focused on making each dog’s day a little better. I find myself more mindful there than I do at yoga. Don’t tell my instructor!
What advice would you give someone who wants to volunteer with the Humane Society?
I would recommend they go to the website, see what positions are available and then decide how they want to work. There’s a role for everyone’s interests from working with cats to guinea pigs to clerical work. They always need help and I can attest to the rewarding feeling volunteering can bring.