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. This month we shine the spotlight on Christiane Woten.


Tell us what you do at SAS and SASF.

I walk dogs once a week as a volunteer dog walker. I also participate in the Advanced Dog Walking program where we take adoptable dogs to Green Lake, Alki Beach or other local parks. I am also a critter foster parent, which means at various times I have had hamsters, gerbils and rats in my home, along with my resident cat. No one has ever been eaten! I was very excited to be volunteering this year for the first time at the Furry 5K. I am also, technically, a cat foster parent, but in March I adopted my very first foster cat, Yeti, a big—he’s 20 pounds—shy, 11-year-old boy who just made himself at home and showed no signs of wanting to leave.

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

Walking and playing with the dogs gives us a chance to interact with them and teach basic manners and commands. Having some time and attention outside the kennels also helps the dogs be calmer and look more appealing to potential adopters once they are back inside. We also get to know the dogs, which helps when trying to match them up with the perfect adopter. Taking the dogs out to the parks reminds the public who we are and that we have animals available for adoption. With the rats I’ve fostered, sometimes they are shy and just need a chance to feel safe with people. Last year I had a very shy, lonely male rat, Yukon, and was able to introduce him to another older gentleman rat, Jack; they were both so much friendlier and happier together and ended up being adopted by a wonderful couple.

How did you get involved with SAS?

I have been volunteering since spring 2006. I initially saw a flyer for the Get Fit with Fido program, where you run with the dogs. I realized that realistically I am not going to be running four miles, but I can certainly walk dogs! I live in a condo, and I love big dogs, so this is my chance to walk and play with the big dogs I can’t actually have in my home. I started fostering critters because I used to have gerbils, and I liked them very much. Small critters can be very affectionate and have really big personalities. At that time I wanted to foster cats but could not since my cat Spike was a big, one-eyed, deaf male who hated other cats. On the other hand, Spike got along very well with the small, furry critters, perhaps because he could not hear them scurrying around. I have continued volunteering all these years because I truly enjoy doing it, and feel I am making a difference in the lives of the animals.

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

It’s always interesting to take dogs to a busy public park like Green Lake since we don’t know how they will react. One time we had a big, young, enthusiastic lab/pit bull mix who was so happy and excited to be out and about, and then we turned the corner by the boathouse and there was a person dressed in a full-body furry animal suit, with the big head, gloves, tail—you couldn’t tell there was a person in there at all. The dog was completely baffled, and eventually decided that he did not like this odd, scary thing at all! Also, just recently I was helping a gentleman at work who had a question about downloading e-books to his iPad, since his dog had completely chewed up the tablet where all his books were downloaded. Naturally, I asked about the dog and it turns out the dog he is fostering is one of our SAS dogs! (The dog has a medical condition that causes hunger, so he really couldn’t help himself.)

What’s your favorite part of volunteering at SAS?

I love spending time with the animals. I never had pets growing up so I feel like I am getting to make up for lost time. I also work with the public every day at my job, so coming to SAS and working with the animals is something I really look forward to. It is a great stress-reliever. Especially walking the dogs, I get to enjoy the great outdoors, get some exercise, and have wonderful company. Dogs are just so happy to get out and experience the world. I also enjoy working with the other volunteers; I have learned so much since volunteering here. Everyone is very generous in sharing their knowledge and experiences. When my new foster kitty had litter box issues I immediately knew who to ask for help. He now uses the litter box with no problems!

What have you learned while volunteering?

The most important thing I have learned is that one person can make a difference, even if it is in the life of one animal. Sometimes we become overwhelmed with how much there is to do, and feel like no matter how much money we contribute, or time we spend, we aren’t really making any difference. But every single time a volunteer takes a dog for a walk, or plays with one of the cats, or makes room in their home to foster a pair of rats, it makes a huge, immediate difference to that animal. I often feel bad that I can’t adopt more cats, especially when I see them in their cages, but my former foster cat, Yeti, who was one of those cats, has a pretty awesome life now.

When not volunteering at SAS, Christiane is a librarian for The Seattle Public Library. She enjoys traveling and has volunteered with sea turtles in Costa Rica and at an elephant reserve in South Africa. So far she has managed to limit herself to one cat at a time.

SASF is proud to provide support for the Seattle Animal Shelter’s volunteer program. Please lend your support to this valuable effort!