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Review for Lost Our Home Pet Foundation Inc, Tempe, AZ, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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.”

Role:  Volunteer