by Bonnie Raskin, Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Manager
Working at IEA involves a lot more than being responsible for one’s own area or program. One of the most difficult jobs at IEA is that of the Marketing Coordinator, helmed with much finesse by Nicole LaChance. What makes this position particularly tough is that Nicole has to fill weekly blog post assignments with contributions from our staff, most of whom are otherwise engaged with a host of our own tasks and not particularly overjoyed at the thought of finding the time or topic to complete a blog whether inside or outside their purview.
While I’m not a procrastinator by nature, my blog-related inclination is always to sign up for the last possible annual date and throw caution to the wind that twelve months hence, I WILL find a suitable area on which to elaborate. In fairness, Nicole has supplied us with plenty of “gifted” related suggestions, several of which I’ve adhered to in past blogs. But as this December rolled around and my pressing BLOG DEADLINE approached, there was nothing that came to mind as an area I was enthusiastic about delving into. Not one to be deterred by a lack of enthusiasm when a commitment has been assigned, Nicole suggested some personal areas I might explore—what’s a day in the life of the Caroline D. Bradley Program Manager like? Has there been a CDB Scholar’s story that has impacted me to share? What do I look for in a CDB applicant? Well, I’d already blogged about CDB applicants and other topics surrounding high school selection. Picking one CDB Scholar from the hundreds I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to know and work with would be tantamount to selecting a favorite child, as every one of the CDB Scholars’ stories has impacted me in different ways. And there simply is no “typical” work day, as every work day varies based upon the time of year, as CDB is a program that never stops.
I often ask the CDB Scholars about their passions and what they commit their (often limited) discretionary time toward. The variety and depth of their involvement never ceases to amaze and delight me, so I thought I’d turn the tables and let the community know about my off-work passion as my current blog topic. While it might not be as informative as strategizing the high school interview, I hope you find it a window into who I am away from CDB:
I volunteer every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 pm at a dog rescue and adoption organization in Los Angeles called Wags and Walks. (You can learn more about us on our website or through our Instagram or Facebook postings.) I’ve been involved with several groups of this kind over the years, but none that has captivated my heart the way Wags and Walks has done. Wags is one of the most successful groups of its kind in Los Angeles. Every rescue/adoption organization has its own mission. Ours is that we rescue family-friendly dogs. This means we don’t restrict ourselves to breed, age or size of any of the dogs we rescue, from a litter of abandoned puppies to a one-eyed senior or three-legged “tripod.” For Wags, it’s all about TEMPERAMENT. When our rescue team goes on a recognizance mission to any of the SoCal animal shelters, they test a dog behaviorally before he or she becomes a Wags dog. This team is acutely knowledgeable about potential issues that can prevent a dog from adapting to a new home or family whether it’s because of previous abuse or neglect or other factors that come into play during an on-site evaluation. When a dog joins the Wags and Walks family, it is part of our community for life—even after a successful adoption, we stay in contact with our adopters and share life experiences near and far whether it’s through photos or videos or return visits to our Welcome Center for the life of our dogs and when previous adopters return for another Wags dog.
Wags and Walks is very fortunate to have a wonderful, welcoming location where people can come to meet our dogs. Unfortunately, many animal shelters are sterile and off-putting to potential adopters. They can feel more like holding cells than safe havens for their occupants. At Wags, our Welcome Center is full of rooms large and small with comfortable furniture, dog treats and toys for people to engage with potential adoptable dogs for as long as they like to get to know our dogs, many of whom are nestled next door in state-of-the-art kennels and treated to multiple daily walks, play and cuddle time with an army of volunteers whose shifts cover a full day and into the evening. Wags has our own medical professionals and shelter managers as well as people like me who are part of the adoption team and review applications and introduce dogs to prospective adopters. There is nothing more fun or satisfying than to meet a family who arrive interested in a small, hypoallergenic dog and end up falling hopelessly in love with a drooling mastiff that could double as a piece of furniture. And then go home with him or her.
Wags is an organization that is adopter-friendly. All too often we hear people complain that it’s easier to adopt a child than a dog from some groups— that you’re automatically eliminated if you’re a student or work a full time job or live in an apartment or have a pool. These antiquated caveats are among the reasons why there are so many dogs in need of a home. Our goal at Wags and Walks is to match people to the optimal dog for their life style. It’s a myth that all big dogs need unlimited roaming space. The truth is that many large breeds are very comfy and cozy in an apartment with daily walks and family time. Other than puppies, most dogs can comfortably be at home multiple hours a day without supervision, or there are dog walkers and doggie daycare, a burgeoning industry in Los Angeles and nationwide.
People sometimes say that they couldn’t bear to foster or volunteer at a group like Wags and Walks, because they would want to take all of the dogs home. Yes—we do fall in love with our dogs, but we also have full, happy hearts when our dogs find their forever homes. “Who Rescues Who?” pretty much says it all as I watch human and canine lives transform in the time it takes to meet and fall in mutual love with one another. And the bonding is not always instantaneous. I tell people that with very rare exceptions, love at first sight whether human or canine, is a rare phenomenon, but that doesn’t negate the long term success of relationships when given the time, space and patience to bloom. Wags adopts out over twenty dogs a week which allows us to regularly bring more dogs into our “pack.” We also have one of the most successful adoption and low return rates of any adoption group, because we take our time to meet and get to know our adopters. I have adopted dogs to celebrities and everyday people. Folks who have had dogs their entire lives and to total newbies.
All of our dogs are vetted– fully checked out by a veterinary team, microchipped, neutered or spayed and up to date with all of their vaccinations. Our team offers training consultations and special groups for special dogs such as LARPBO—Los Angeles Responsible Pitt Bull Owners. We also have many activities we offer to the public including Puppy Yoga, Yappy Hours at local pubs, children’s reading groups where youngsters read to our dogs in their kennels, and we’re one of the only groups that invite children to volunteer and help us walk, feed and learn about animal care.
In case you’re curious as to what drew me to adopt-not-shop, I have always been a person who leans toward the underdog, human or canine. My family has two rescue dogs. Jub-Jub was saved from a dogfighting group where he was used as a bait dog to rile up the fighting dogs. He is a 22 pound Shih Tzu/Cocker Spaniel who came to us with half an ear bitten off. Lester is a hodge-podge of terriers, a Heinz 57 mutt. I believe that rescue dogs know that they’ve been saved and are the most loving and loyal companions anyone could ask for. Dogs are unconditional in their love and commitment to their people, often regardless of what was done to them in the past. If only they could share their stories with us, although in some cases it’s better that they can’t. To watch a timid, shy dog blossom in the care of a patient, understanding person or family makes every hour I spend at Wags and Walks a gift that keeps on giving—passing it forward.
In my daily work as the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Manager, I spend a lot of time matching students with the right school based on the feedback I receive from them as well as research and intuition. It’s very similar with placing the right dog with his/her people. Many of our skill sets can translate into multiple areas of our lives, personally and professionally. I’ve had the great joy of introducing some CDB families to my Wags and Walks family with several wonderful adoptions happening within our IEA community.
I am incredibly fortunate in the work I’ve chosen and the fulfillment it brings me. During the week, I am able to change the lives of children, and on the weekend, I change the lives of dogs. It doesn’t get much better than this.
What is your off-work or after-school passion? Share with us in the comments!