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 Emily Rieman.

SASF: Tell us what you do at SAS and SASF.

ER: I started as a dog walker in 2008. I was thinking about how my photography skills might benefit the Shelter even more, so I began taking pictures for Petfinder of the dogs who had been in foster homes a long time or who were difficult to get a good shot of. Now I’m doing the same for foster cats. I did the photography for a SAS ad campaign on Metro buses and I donate images for Shelter displays and promotional materials. For the Foundation, I shot the 2013 SASF calendar, which was a blast, and I’m thrilled they asked me to do it again for 2014. I also foster dogs, cats, puppies and kittens from time to time, and help with various Shelter events.

SASF: How did you get involved with SAS?

ER: I first considered volunteering for the Shelter back when I was an avid runner. My best jogging buddy and the love of my life, a shepherd mix named Stella, had recently passed away. I heard about the Get Fit with Fido program, where volunteers jog with Shelter dogs. I thought, I need a dog to run with and the dogs need the exercise. It’s win-win! When I went to the orientation, however, they said what they really needed were walkers who were available weekday mornings. I was able to do that, so I signed up.

SASF: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

ER: Where do I start? I’m a dog freak, and it’s a joy to have the opportunity to spend time with dogs of all shapes and sizes, young and old, with different personalities. I’ve even become enamored with some of the critters. There was a giant rabbit who stole my heart, and I’m quite fond of the little corn snake at the Shelter right now. The gratification of seeing animals go off with their adoptive families to new and better lives is huge. And of course just getting to know the other volunteers has been wonderful. It’s great to become friends with such dedicated and talented people who have the same values and concerns regarding animal welfare as I do.

SASF: How does the work you do help animals find their forever homes?

ER: As a dog walker, you aren’t simply getting the dog out for exercise, you’re getting them socialized, thus making them more adoptable. We even work on their manners when they’re in the kennels, by rewarding calm, composed behavior and not the jumping and barking. Regarding the photography work, it’s amazing how much a photograph can do. I’ve been told on a few occasions that it was a picture I took for Petfinder that made the adopter stop and inquire. Once, I photographed an elderly black cat who had kidney issues and had been in foster forever. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to get someone to stop and consider her among so many others. After the new shots were posted, she was adopted right away. The adopter said, “It was the pictures!”

SASF: What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced while volunteering at SAS?

ER: For me it doesn’t get any funnier than finding out how much my dogs love foster kittens. They have been great foster parents, especially my beagle Lily, who does most of the work for me in raising healthy, well-adjusted kittens. All the kittens were without mammas or siblings, much too young to be neutered or spayed, let alone adopted. I’d find the dogs and kittens all sleeping together on the dog beds. I joke that they’re going to become some pretty funny cats – following their noses, howling and chasing rabbits.

SASF: What have you learned while volunteering?

ER: You have to be patient and have faith that good things will happen. There have been dogs who have come through the Shelter and didn’t have great “curb appeal.” Dogs with such special needs that I felt it would take a hero to adopt them. But if you keep hanging in there, good people do come and adopt them. You never know where you’ll plant a seed in someone’s mind. They might see you walking a pit bull and realize that it’s a good dog. You might talk with someone about the joys of adopting an older dog. The public is gradually changing its perception about many aspects of animal rescue, for the better. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but when you look back after several years, you see how much progress has been made. And in the meantime, there are a whole bunch of dogs who need to be walked.

When Emily isn’t busy volunteering with the Shelter or SASF, she is taking photos for her business, Best Friend Photography by Emily Rieman. Emily lives in Seattle with her husband Mark, her dogs Lily and Chet, and her cat Stella.

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