When I started volunteering at Lost our Home, I was about 11 years old. My father and I were driving home one day when I noticed a PetSmart near us was having a grand opening, so I asked if we could go check it out. After a couple minutes of wandering around, I found the Cat Room and all the cats they had out for adoption. Now, I never had a cat before, so I was so intrigued to learn more about the fluffy, soft little things. I spent a good hour or two there holding, petting, and playing with a tiny little grey kitten that was found and needed love. With my dad's permission, every Saturday and Sunday from then on I volunteered. 10am-4pm, for a few years. About two years ago, I moved 20 minutes away from that PetSmart, so I slowly stopped being able to volunteer. Just recently, my dad and I started going to the shelter together to volunteer for the cats and dogs again. Lost Our Home is an amazing shelter, with amazing people. It has definitely influenced me for the better, and I absolutely love the organization. Thank you for everything you've done for me!
I'm a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite ASU school, and wrote this story about the culture of volunteers at the Lost Our Home, while I'm also a volunteer! It really captures how great the place is.
Even when the sign on the front door says “closed,” a place like the Lost Our Home Pet Foundation is always open with an unlocked door ready for whoever walks in. This shelter, LOH for short, is a no-kill shelter that shines with potential forever love inside and out. When most people first hear the word “shelter,” they think of a dark place filled with small cages, lined up in long rows facing one another with animals packed inside, sad and ready to die in a week. If that same person were to walk in this shelter with that idea, they’d be blown away with the atmosphere. You feel hope for the animals in there, looking for their forever home, knowing that someone will come by one day ready to give that to them. Not only is a shelter like LOH a place where animals can find their evermore dwelling, but it holds the passionate volunteers that make it worth your time.
When I first walk into the shelter, they have a smiling volunteer and worker at the front desk, both ready to help me with whatever I need. There’s a fresh scent of Pine Sol in the air that warms my nose. The FIV positive fat cat Baylor meows at me before the volunteer desk assistance can help me. My eyes are glued to Baylor, and then Renee Fridman, as she asked me what I can do for her. Fridman isn’t usually working the front desk, but she already knows what she’s doing, as if it isn’t her first time up here. It’s my first time seeing her up here.
I don’t expect Fridman to recognize me at first. She’s usually back in the dog’s shaded area outside in the fake grass, spraying down a happy pup who has its tongue out, belly up in the mini pool. Fridman has been volunteering for LOH for over four months now, and while she is usually shuffling around a happy dog waiting for their walk, sometimes I find her in the cat room trying to lure one of the chubbier cats onto the exercise wheel. They catch onto her game quickly, but she always tries it.
“Did Tootsie get adopted yet?” I ask Fridman, and then she remembers who I am. She’s always forgetting that I’m not silver trained, just bronze trained, so I never get to hang with the dogs. I have to be trained to work my way up to the silver status, but until then, my bronze status means I’m socializing with the cats. Her face lights up with joy, and I instantly know that Tootsie finally found her forever home. Fridman is your ultra-animal lover, and doesn’t stop at just cats and dogs. Although she has had over 15 animals in her lifetime, it’s inclusive with cats, dogs, snakes, tarantulas, turtles, and as she states, “God knows how many fish.”
Fridman has always been a fan of giving back to the community – especially animals, as they need the help the most. “I used to work in behavioral health, but with helping at Lost Our Home, I finally feel like I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, even if it’s just volunteering. Most people seem to want pets more than children nowadays, so I want to make sure that all the pets are ready to become a part of someone’s family,” Fridman says.
Some call Fridman a recruiter as well for the organization, as the shelter has been flooded with volunteers who claim to know her. Since she is so involved, she’s volunteering around all parts of the shelter to prepare herself for working at the Petco that the shelter partners with. “The number of volunteers has skyrocketed since I’ve been here; maybe that’s why they like me so much,” says Fridman. “In all reality, though, who wouldn’t want to help with such an organized shelter where it seems like everyone genuinely loves animals and wants the best for them?”
Another volunteer I’ll run into while I’m here is Kimberly McGlynn. The young college student is here every Sunday like myself. She has been volunteering since May of 2016, excitedly approaching her one-year anniversary. I’ll typically find her in the cat room, socializing with all the cats and kittens. She’s always making sure to give the cats that have been at the shelter for what seems like too long a little extra love.
“Mochi’s in a mood, so make sure you give her some space,” McGlynn says as I walk through the gate, making sure no cats are in my way. I see Mochi next to her on the cat post, giving me a side eye as she has another episode. I’ve been bitten once by the cat, but I still always want to give her love. She has worked closely with Mochi while she has been at the shelter for over six months now. She’s been waiting for someone as patient as McGlynn to adopt her and deal with her diagnosed bi-polar disorder. I had never heard of a cat with such a mental disorder. After being diagnosed, she was given up to the shelter, and still hasn’t been neglected ever since she has been back.
McGlynn has further connected with the animals, studying to be a Vet Tech and devoting her time to LOH. She has been doing this to gain not only the hours for when she tries to submit her application in the fall at MCC, but also because this shelter is the only shelter where she has ever felt like a real volunteer.
“There’s always things that need to be done, and they make sure to keep us all informed about events that they want help with. They always let us know how much we are not only needed, but appreciated,” McGlynn says. “It’s refreshing to work with a staff that cares about the animals within it and understand how hard it can be on the future pets.”
Animals have come in under the recommendation of McGlynn, and many have gotten adopted because of her as well. “Not only is it a wonderful place to volunteer for, but I always tell people that find animals or cannot care for their animal anymore to bring them in to Lost Our Home. This way I know they’re going to the right home eventually,” McGlynn says.
She has always told me how comfortable she feels at a place like this, and it shows in how comfortable the animals are with her. McGlynn has had a few animals herself, and knows the important of a no-kill shelter being the go-to for future animal owners. Feral cats and abused animals have felt her love, and giving love to an animal to the point where they finally warm up to you is something special. While most people volunteer to help, the people that volunteer at an animal shelter like LOH are the right kind of people. They seem to have that special connection and touch that cannot be replicated easily.
“Lost Our Home is a second home for me, as it never feels like a chore to volunteer for a place that is so organized, caring, and hardworking to make sure that every animal they come across has a happy life,” McGlynn says.
When I walk around the shelter some more, passing the three cat rooms, the temporary care room, the medical room, and the various “kennels” with the wagging tails coming from sweet dogs on their made-up beds, I eventually run into Jarred Ervin in the back office. While he is a longtime volunteer back in his hometown in Maryland for the Association for Animal Rights, Ervin is the volunteer manager at Lost Our Home, which he feels is a bit of an upgrade.
“When I first moved to Arizona last July to live with some family, I knew I wanted to work with animals like I have my whole life. There were a lot of jobs at multiple shelters, but Lost Our Home caught my eye,” Ervin says. “I’ve always volunteered as a boy scout and my parents wanted me giving back to the community although I didn’t have a lot. I’ve volunteered for the homeless communities, but when it comes to animals, I feel more compelled to help an animal that cannot help themselves.”
While I will usually run into Ervin in the back office on Sundays when I’m volunteering, I will see him all around the shelter playing with dogs and cats and showing some love to the wonderful animals. If he had to choose though, he would rather hang in the back office with Ariel, the 21-pound cat currently on a diet, helping her exercise and stay active and happy. His biggest accomplishment in his two months has involved her. When he first started working, she was 26 pounds, and he has helped her lose five pounds since, knowing that Ariel is his girl and needs his attention.
“I’m a dog person, but it’s hard not to make a best friend like Ariel when she’s always back here hanging out with me,” Ervin says. “My parents always pushed fostering animals when I was young, and I adopted an older chocolate lab mix, Charlie, who I connected with at the shelter back in Maryland. I have to keep telling myself I can’t bring Ariel home – but we will see.”
Although Ervin has been with the organization for two months now, he has made sure to increase the volunteer interactions, as he knows how important something like this is. He acknowledges that the more hours he can get from the volunteers, the more adoptions they can make overall in the shelter. The numbers have been at all-time highs – hitting 138 as of mid-March since the beginning of the year. That number last year during the first three months was 93, and Ervin attributes the high adoptions to the wonderful volunteers.
“A no-kill shelter that offers so many programs like this one and makes your job not even feel like one, is all I could ask for, and I get that at Lost Our Home,” Ervin says. “The people here are the most passionate – especially the volunteers I work with every day – and I encourage them all to be consistent, even when I help them out in my free time.”
I follow many nonprofit animal rescue groups and have adopted pets before, but I can tell you not many compare to Lost Our Home Pet Foundation. I saw a post on Facebook of a little dog that caught my eye, who appeared to be exactly what we were looking for. When I arrived at the rescue place I was instantly impressed with how the animals were being cared for. It seemed more like a pet hotel than a shelter. It was clean and well organized. The staff were all very helpful. I just fell in love with the little dog I went to see and wanted to take him home that day, but he had been exposed to kennel cough and was being treated. The staff took every precaution to not infect the other dogs and he was quarantined. Because I had another dog at home, they recommended he stay at the shelter until he was cleared by their vet to be healthy. When I left that day, I felt like I was leaving my new child behind in a hospital. The staff was very good about keeping me updated on the pups health. I even got pictures sent to me via text
My family and I started volunteering at LOH 2.5 years ago and still enjoy and look forward to being there every single week! We have adopted 5 dogs from LOH as well. Founder Jodi Polanski has created a truly amazing, unique service to our community by providing not only a rescue for dogs and cats, but a food bank to hundreds of families, low cost boarding, a partnership with Sojourner center for women, and a temporary care program for people in transition who need a home for their pets for up to 3 months at a time.
Lost Our Home 08/17/2016
Thank you for your wonderful review! We appreciate all of your hard work and your compassion, dedication and care for the pets! :)
I found out about LOH through the Volunteer Match program at work. I like how they run the rescue and ever since I started volunteering, they just keep on improving in many ways. The organized levels of training and classes along with the newsletters that keep everyone up-to-date is top notch! The staff is beyond friendly and knowledgeable. Jodi made the decision to play an instrumental role in a growing problem here in the valley and focus on rescuing pets that have been abandoned in homes by their previous owners. Not only did she focus on that aspect, but in prevention as well by offering low income boarding among other options to struggling pet parents. I am proud to be a volunteer here!
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
Thank you so much for the great review! We truly appreciate all of our volunteers, thank you for donating your time and your love for the pets of Lost Our Home Pet Rescue!
LOH does amazing work with dogs and cats who for one reason or another have become homeless! The staff is caring and works to ensure the health of every animal. As a volunteer, I get to share love with these animals, walk them, groom them, and borrow them so they can have a break from shelter life.
LOH also provides low cost temporary housing - my nephew, a vet, recently lost his residence and was able to put his baby girl (black lab) at LOH until he had a place to go with her. What a blessing!
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
Thank you for this great review! And thank you for volunteering, we are happy to hear your nephew had such a good experience as well!
I was introduced to LOH Pet Foundation almost 2 years ago. I am amazed how it has inspired me to volunteer. The staff is so friendly and their goal is to assist cats and dogs to be adopted to wonderful families. While at the shelter, they are loved and cared for. I am so happy to be there.
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
Thank you for the wonderful review and your committed volunteer work! We appreciate all of our volunteers, and are so happy to hear how these great pets and experiences have inspired you!
I started volunteering here a few months ago and am truly amazed at the wonderful care the animals receive here. I have volunteered at numerous other places and Lost Our Home far exceeds all of them, from the care the animals receive to the friendly, smiling faces of all the staff and volunteers.
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
Thank you so much for your review, it means a lot to us that you've had such a good experience. We appreciate your volunteering and care for the pets!
I've been a volunteer with Lost Our Home for 2-3 weeks. I feel like LOH is an outstanding non-profit organization because of the care they give to the animals staying with them. The animals are so well taken care of and shown love. We've adopted our puppy Ziggy from LOH and the excitement at every adoption just shows the care displayed by this organization.
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
We're so happy and grateful that you are able to volunteer with us after adopting Ziggy! Thank you for your great review, we appreciate you and your care for the pets here and of course for your pets at home!!
We recently adopted a sweet 1 year old chihuahua mix from this shelter. It was clear how much love and care is poured into this place and how well all of the animals are taken care of. Our pup was in excellent health, she had all of our shots and microchipped! I have even recommended friends to adopt all of their pets from Lost Our Home!
Lost Our Home 07/13/2016
Thank you for your review! We love that you are loving your new family member! Thank you for the recommendation, we have a lot of love to share with pups and kitties looking for great families like yours!