Here at SASF, one of our goals is to help further the community impact of the Seattle Animal Shelter. One of the most important elements of that community impact is the Shelter’s volunteer program—an initiative supported by SASF funding. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to some of the wonderful volunteers at the Shelter. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Dana Litt, adoption assistant.

SASF: Tell us a little about what you do at SAS.

DL: I’m currently one of the shift leads for the Dog Adoption Assistant team. The adoption assistants work with the public to help them find a dog that’s just the right fit for them. When we aren’t busy with a potential adopter, we spend time with the dogs at the shelter. When I looked into volunteering, I was initially interested in dog walking, but upon learning more about the Adoption Assistant program, I felt that my love and knowledge of dogs would be well-suited for working with the public and helping match them with their future furry family members.

SASF: How did you first become interested in volunteering with animals?

DL: I’ve been an animal lover for as long as I can remember. I always grew up with multiple dogs in the family and was involved with their training even as a child. I read dog books voraciously and annoyed my family with all of my new knowledge. However, it wasn’t until I got my first “on my own” dog four years ago that I really got insight into the rescue process. After seeing the amazing team – from the animal control officer, shelter coordinator, to the foster mom – that it took to raise my dog after he was abandoned on the side of the road at three weeks old, I knew that I had to get involved and do my part to give back to the rescue community.

SASF: How does the work you do with the animals help them get ready for their forever home?

DL: The adoption assistants are often the most direct link the public has to the dogs. We’re responsible for facilitating the meet and greets. Being able to show off a dog’s particularly cute behavior or fun trick – most likely that the amazing dog walkers work with them on – and help the potential adopters start to bond with the dogs is an incredibly important step in the adoption process. Because we are often the people who are out in the corrals when the dog and person first meet, we routinely answer questions about not just the particular dog they are meeting, but about dog behavior, training, and general questions about pet ownership. I see being an adoption assistant as more than helping the dog find their forever home, but rather helping to ensure the best possible match between dog and owner.

SASF: Last year, you attended the Reactive Dog training class, funded by SASF. What skills or information did you take away from this class?

DL: While many of the dogs that come through the shelter have no behavioral issues, we do get some that are reactive to other dogs, or other stimuli. This class provided suggestions on working with these dogs. It helped reaffirm many of the things we are already doing at the Shelter, and taught me some new skills as well. Christine Hibbard [owner of Companion Animal Solutions] said something that really stuck with me: “Just walking a dog won’t get it adopted.” I realized that it is the individual attention and training we give to each dog that makes him or her the best dog they can be, and that every interaction we have with them truly does matter. On a broader level, knowing that our Shelter and the Foundation care enough about the dogs to offer this type of class absolutely made me beam. I couldn’t stop bragging to friends in animal rescue in different regions of the country that I was lucky enough to work with such a great organization.

SASF: What’s your favorite part of working with SAS?

DL: Watching the dogs walk out of the door with their new families. The sheer, unabashed joy that emanates off the dogs and owners as they leave the Shelter and walk to their cars is indescribable. All the volunteers get very attached to the animals, so to see the happy endings makes all our work worthwhile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the dogs drive away and have found myself with tears in my eyes.

SASF: What’s next in your volunteer career?

DL: I’ll be volunteering as the “day-of” coordinator at the 2013 Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation Auction. I’m really excited to get more involved with the Foundation, having seen how much value they are bringing to SAS. October 19th will be a crazy day of volunteer wrangling, but I know it will be worth it!

When Dana isn’t busy volunteering with the shelter or the Foundation, she is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. In her free time, she can typically be found socializing around town with her pit-bull type dog, Teddy, or working on her dog blog.

SASF is proud to provide funding support for the Seattle Animal Shelter’s volunteer program. Please join us: Support SASF today.