Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
Today’s post is a collaboration in hopes of raising awareness of shelters and rescues in our area! I actually got to speak to a lovely volunteer from Fetch & Releash, a rescue that helps rescue dogs in need of homes. Hope you enjoy our chat and learn loads about the awesome organization she’s a part of!
Hey Michelle, a pleasure to have you on the blog! I want to start off by asking you to tell our readers a little bit about yourself to get to know you!
My name is Michelle Lynn – a twenty-six-year-old vegetarian, animal-loving, certified yogi with a passion for reading and writing. I was recently described as an onion in which I asked if this was because they meant I make people cry, but they clarified that it was because “I have many layers” which I think is a fairly accurate description. I was born and raised in the GTA but have dreams of moving away one day, just don’t ask me where. I’m big on planning and making lists, but if there is one thing life has taught me is that it never goes as you plan. For a long time, I felt quite lost and it wasn’t until I started chasing my passions – including volunteering and my love for dogs, that I started to really find myself. The only guarantee that life has shown me thus far is that if you invest in yourself you won’t regret it. It isn’t easy and is a never-ending journey, but one that is worth it.
What kind of animals do you have in your household?
I have a three-legged dog, Pepita, from the streets of Mexico that I adopted through Fetch & Releash almost two years ago now. She’s got beautiful black fur with white markings on her belly and paws, typical Lab face and nose with the body of a Whippet (skinny, long, and a big belly). I was told that she had been hit by a car and was found by someone who took her in; from there she had her back-right leg amputated which she does just fine without. She’s able to jump into SUV’s, run up and down stairs, jump up and down, and give me paw. She’ll lose her balance when running fast but gets up quick – that’s dogs for you, ever so resilient. She’s got a sweet personality, always eager to please and looking for belly rubs or ear scratches.
Have you always been a dog person?
Without a doubt! I wasn’t allowed a dog growing up due to my brother’s allergies, and when I moved out at 18 I desperately wanted a pet of my own but knew I needed to be in a more financially stable place. If I went to someone’s house who had a dog, my attention was solely on the dog.
What got you first interested in being part of Fetch & Releash?
I had been wanting to volunteer somewhere for a while but was unsure where. I considered various environments such as Sick Kids, homeless shelters and food banks and but felt discouraged in how I would be able to handle it working full-time, part-time, and then having to commute to a location for my volunteer. Shortly after adopting Pepita, I found my calling as Fetch & Releash needed volunteers. I began with small roles here and there which was great because I could do it from home and was able to fit into my schedule but soon after found myself wanting more responsibility, I wanted to be a bigger part of such an amazing team making a difference. When I was asked by the adoption manager if I wanted to be promoted to team lead and help train other volunteers, I was incredibly flattered to be trusted with such an important role and eagerly said yes. Looking back, I’ve really grown as a person as well as a volunteer and I always say of my three jobs – volunteering with Fetch & Releash is my favorite.
Can you tell us a little bit about the organization and how it started?
Fetch & Releash was founded in May 2016 by five girls that shared the common dream of starting their own rescue and passion to make a small difference in the world. It has been such a rewarding process watching Fetch & Releash grow over the years that initially started with a family of five to now being a family of over 100+ incredible volunteers. To date we have helped to rescue and rehome over 300 dogs. We rescue internationally as well as abroad, from our home in the GTA all the way to places like Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic – we believe compassion has no borders. Although we work with our local shelters, our primary focus is with high kill shelters in the U.S.A. or down south. Oftentimes, these shelters are so overcrowded that the dogs have only a matter of days before they are euthanized to be able to make room for the next dog. Certain areas face a problem with overpopulation in which we assist by providing funds for vaccinations as well as spaying or neutering before arranging to transport them to Canada. Once in our care, we work diligently to find the dogs their forever family. We are 100% not for profit and all the money made from our adoption fees are then reinvested back into the rescue to help save more dogs. It is important to note that the adoption fees of the dogs we bring in internationally help to support the rescue and rehabilitation of local, behaviorally challenged dogs who otherwise may be euthanized. We believe every dog deserves a loving forever home, regardless of healthy or behavioral issues, and our mission extends Canada-wide and beyond.
What is a day like working for this particular rescue?
Some days are quiet and some days are hectic, which I love. My main role as of right now is an adoptions coordinator/team-lead, and so I oversee the adoption process as well as help other volunteers who conduct phone screens for potential applicants. The adoption manager will send me an e-mail with an application and I contact the applicant to arrange a phone interview (which has ranged anywhere from 30 minutes in length to two and a half hours) to ensure they are a good fit for the dog. I also e-mail their two personal references as well as calling their vet (if applicable). If all goes well, they’re approved for a meet and greet in which I would then introduce the applicant to the foster, again via e-mail, so they can make the necessary arrangements. Should the applicant want to proceed and the everyone agrees that it is a good fit, the adoption manager then takes over in regards to making the adoption official through necessary paperwork and the adoption fee.
What is your favourite part about working with Fetch & Releash?
It’s hard to say as there has been so much I’ve learned and enjoyed in the last two years, but beyond knowing I help dogs find a good home, it would have to be the friendships I’ve made. The ladies who run the rescue are one of the reasons why I stay motivated to work so hard; to watch them handle it all from their professional lives to their personal, to running Fetch & Releash and dropping their needs for those of others is truly inspiring. The kindness and generosity that has been displayed towards me from my fellow volunteers who treat me like family instead of friends has brought me to tears at times, I’m truly blessed to be surrounded by such kind-hearted people. I’ve been fortunate enough to phone screening an applicant who later became a volunteer and is someone I now also consider a dear friend. I’ve met all different people from all walks of life that share the same common passion – a love for dogs and generally animals overall, and if it wasn’t for the positive influence of everyone in Fetch & Releash, I wouldn’t be the strong but compassionate woman I am today. Fetch & Releash, and the amazing volunteers who run it have helped me find my voice and in so, find my confidence.
I know rescues are always in need of helping hands, what would you say your rescue needs right now?
Besides the generic answer of donations and volunteers, I would have to say it would likely be fosters. We do not have a shelter and so we rely entirely on our fosters, without them providing a home for our dogs in need we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Often, we rescue dogs from high-kill shelters and it is thanks to our fosters that we can remove them from a dire situation and give them a second chance at the happy life they deserve. I often get questioned how people could foster in that it would be so hard to get attached to a dog then later see it go, to which my response is that there is nothing sad about saving a life. Not much, if anything in life is permanent and although the dogs may only stay for a short period of time, that period has without made a difference in their lives – sometimes a life or death one.
Is your team working on anything right now like a fundraiser that our readers can check out and support?
We don’t have a fundraiser in process right now (we just had a bingo night!), however you can always donate online at www.fetchandreleash.ca/donate.
I will be hosting an outdoor karma yoga class in Streetsville, Mississauga come June with all proceeds being donated to Fetch & Releash. I am incredibly excited for the dogs, and even more nervous for myself! We have just begun the early stages of planning but I know we will be able to get an awesome turn out. Despite the expected anxiety that comes with public speaking I know it will be a great experience. If there’s any reason to push myself out of my comfort zone, helping dogs in need would be it. Be sure to follow @fetch_and_releash on Instagram to keep posted on all our upcoming events! With summer around the corner, there’s sure to be plenty.
What is the most life-changing experience you’ve had with this organization?
I think the most life-changing experience is the personal growth that came along with volunteering in which I had never expected. I wanted to volunteer because I’ve always felt giving back was important, but I never in a million years could have imagined what it would do for my confidence. I started out as a very shy, insecure girl who was afraid to preach her beliefs in fear of those who didn’t agree. I’ve now grown into a strong, secure and confident woman who will proudly discuss the importance of adopting and/or spaying/neutering, etc. Through finding a happiness and passion in volunteering for Fetch & Releash that I decided I needed to begin to chase my passions and stop questioning where they would take me but instead trust, and embrace the journey. Whereas I used to feel lost in my life and profession, I recently decided to follow my love for yoga and became a certified instructor with my own business. I still work a full-time office job while waitressing part-time, and I have no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Surround yourself with like-minded, hard-working, kind-hearted people who inspire you and humble you to be the best possible version of yourself and watch your life change, too.
Where can our readers find more information about the rescue and even little puppers to adopt?
We’re online at www.fetchandreleash.ca, or you can follow us on Instagram at @fetch_and_releash. We’re also on Facebook at @fetchandreleashrescue. I recommend giving the Instagram and/or Facebook page a follow as it well help you stay up to date with our events and available dogs!
Anything you want to leave our readers with to contemplate?
I think it’s important to remember that before I was a volunteer, I was just a regular first-time dog-owner and adopter. I adopted a dog knowing she was shy and skittish; but not truly prepared for the reality of not “connecting” with her right away. The first couple of months I often felt sad, disconnected, and questioned if I had adopted the “right dog” (it pains me to write this – thank goodness my Pepita cannot read). I vented my concerns, more than once, to one of the five founders who reassured me that these dogs have been through a lot – coming from another country, to being in one home to another and that it can take them time to adjust. Looking back, I truly was expecting way too much from Pepita. I mean, if you were placed in a stranger’s home how would you feel? A little sketched out, I would think. But the months in which we really began to bond; the first lick she gave me, when she finally started to let me cuddle her, when she stopped running away at the sight of my hair curler, when she would jump up and down when I return from work, when she paws my laptop screen because I’ve been starring at it too long and it’s her turn for some attention, well to say it has been worth it is an understatement. She’s my absolute pride and joy, my parents’ too, and she brings so much happiness into our lives. It went from being just me, myself and I, to Pepita and I and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Some rescue dogs adapt right away, and others take longer… but they’re all equally worth it – trust your journey. You never know what lays ahead of you and our bonding experience has made us the close pair we are today. For those who say they can’t – can’t foster or adopt, or whatever they feel they cannot do in their life, I want to leave you with the thought of stepping out of your comfort zone and instead of saying I can’t, try to say I will.
**Editor’s note: There are so many organizations that can use your voice on National Animal Advocacy Day, like Fetch & Release. So consider stepping out of your comfort zone, as Michelle mentioned, to become an advocate and hold a nonprofit fundraiser. By encouraging community contributions, you’re also spreading more awareness for the organization and advocates like these are very appreciated. Comment and share how you’re going to acknowledge this important observance so others can join in!