**Please note: Before reading this article, understand that the animals taken from Oklahoma to Chicago were NOT animals that were displaced during the recent tornado. The animals that are currently being temporarily housed by PAWS Chicago are animals that were already in shelters around the area. By taking those animals, PAWS Chicago has freed up space in Oklahoma shelters for the animals displaced by the storm. There are no animals in Chicago that have been displaced by the tornado.
Okay, now that I have the legal fine print out of the way, let’s jump into the story.
PAWS Chicago is one of the largest shelters, if not the largest, in the Chicagoland area. It boasts many celebrities adoptions, as Oprah even got her dog there.
Because of their size, PAWS Chicago can do many things that smaller shelters cannot do. In this case, they were able to take 76 animals from Oklahoma.
Earlier this week, PAWS Chicago posted on Facebook seeking volunteers for this weekend, since 76 animals is no easy undertaking. Eagerly, I signed up and waited for a response that would let me know which shift I was working. (Side note: they received over 300 emails by people just like me asking to volunteer – I am thrilled I was chosen!!)
They needed help from top to bottom, whether it was transporting, cleaning cages for new arrivals, in-taking the new animals or taking care of them once they were all checked in. There was so much to do!
After working as a volunteer in Alaska for the Iditarod, I learned that nobody likes to make room for incoming pets. They like to work the shifts once the pets are there, so they can snuggle and cuddle with the animals. Plus, making space for new animals sometimes can mean cleaning a lot of dirty cages. Being a 6 year volunteer at a local shelter, I had no problems with that, so I took that shift.
Our shift’s volunteers met Saturday afternoon at PAWS Spay and Neuter clinic. It was impressive how PAWS works. They have a separate building for spays/neuters, along with recovery rooms, and each animal progresses through the floors and rooms of the buildings until after enough observation they can go to the adoption center on Clybourn.
Once in PAWS, we were taken to a conference room while we awaited further instruction. After signing waivers, boxes of “cones” were brought in for assembly as many dogs in this transport had not been fixed yet. While I had never assembled an Elizabethan collar in my life, I quickly found myself making quite a stack!
From there we split up into teams, cleaning cages, sweeping floors, taking dogs out for transport to the adoption center… It was a lot of work! We hauled crates up stairs, disinfected cages, filled water bowls, laid out towels… But the work you put in is what you get out of it, so I quickly found myself jumping into all different kinds of tasks.
Considering the massive job they were going to take on, the people at PAWS were absolutely wonderful and helpful! I can’t imagine taking on that many animals at the shelter I work at, or being clear-headed enough to actually teach new people what to do.
I’d like to personally extend a huge thank you to PAWS Chicago. It was fantastic to be a volunteer and should there ever be another opportunity like this, I’d gladly sign up again!
Correction: The original title said that PAWS took on 76 dogs – it has since been corrected as they only took 55 dogs (and 21 cats) bringing the total to 76.