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 Seattle Animal Shelter. Today we’re shining the spotlight on Cheryl Swent of the SAS digital team.

 

How did you get involved with SAS?

In October of 2001 I went to an animal blessing event at Magnuson Park. My dog had just passed away a few days prior, and I wanted to pay homage to her. The Shelter had a booth there, and I picked up a brochure about volunteering. I had volunteered at PAWS previously, but had no idea SAS had a volunteer program too. I attended an orientation a few days later.

Tell us what you do at SAS.

I’ve done many different jobs over the years. I started out as a dog walker, then took on various supporting roles for the foster dog team. My love of photography led me to the digital team, of which I eventually became the team lead.  I’m currently the lead for both the Petfinder and ROMPS (Reuniting Owners with Missing Pets System) digital teams. I also help out each year with the Furry 5K and auction events—fun!—and other projects that may come along.

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

With ROMPS, we photograph the lost/stray animals that arrive at the Shelter, and post them onto the Shelter’s Lost & Found Database. Citizens can also post animals they’ve found in their neighborhood, so it’s a really great vehicle for quickly getting a lost animal back home. It’s exciting when you can match up a lost animal listing with a newly found animal you’re about to post! On the adoption side, the Shelter has teamed up with Petfinder.com. We photograph the Shelter’s adoptable animals, then post their photos and a bio onto Petfinder. Citizens can then search for their next companion animal in the comfort of their own home.

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

One time in the cattery, we opened a cat’s kennel door in order to take a photo. The cat must have sensed freedom, and immediately flew straight up the wall toward the ceiling. While we stood there in shock, gravity took over, and the cat came down to the ground, on all four feet. This all happened in a matter of seconds. The only reason it’s funny is because the cat was unharmed!

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

Besides puppies? Soft, squirmy, sweet, fat-bellied puppies with sharp little puppy teeth? And sweet, white-muzzled seniors, and well, all the dogs. And we can’t leave out wide-eyed, fluffy kittens! It’s hard to say, but I think a big part of what keeps me coming back for more is the community. Being part of a diverse group of people—Shelter staff, officers, board members and fellow volunteers—who really care, are dedicated to their mission, treat each other with respect and dignity, and continuously strive for and achieve improvement…all for the sake of our animals. It’s a pretty great group, and I’m honored to be part of it.

What have you learned while volunteering?

I especially enjoy the occasional opportunity to attend lectures and classes the Shelter provides with various animal care professionals—positive, reward-based trainers, behaviorists, breed specialists and other rescues. I’ve become a big advocate for pit bull-type dogs after meeting so many awesome ones, yet learning of the stereotype that still exists about them. My last dog was a Pittie named Tasha—you can see her likeness painted on the donation bin in front of the Shelter—and my next dog will be a Pit as well. I’ve learned that while some humans are capable of animal cruelty to an extent I can’t fathom, there are many more humans who work tirelessly to rescue those animals, and stop the abusers in their tracks. I’ve learned about all the less-expected animals at the Shelter: the rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, chickens, peacocks, goats, pigs, reptiles and occasional wildlife. And I’ve learned that thanks to SAS, the lives of Seattle’s animals continue to improve, but there are many other communities, even in our own state and across the nation, that are in need of help. I’m proud to be a part of a nationally recognized volunteer program that can serve as a model to others.

Photo: Cheryl Swent and her late dog Tasha