We Let the Dogs (and cats) Out: A Volunteer’s Tail

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Lara with Buddy (12 years old, currently available)

Hi Geva Journal readers! This is Lara Rhyner, Geva’s Associate Director of Education. At the theatre you’ll find me leading talkbacks with our casts, and coordinating many of our education and accessibility programs, such as Summer Academy, the Stage Door Project, our PLAY Student Matinee program, Sign Interpretation, Open Captioning, and Audio Description, to name a few. I’m also a proud member of our Staff Appreciation & Support committee. I’ve been a cat care volunteer at Lollypop Farm on the weekends for about a year and half now. Growing up, pets were always an important part of my family and, thankfully, Geva is a very pet-friendly place to work!

Since I began volunteering at Lollypop every week, I have learned multitudes about what an incredibly valuable organization and tremendous resource Lollypop Farm is, both for the animals in our region and the people in our community. From their Humane Law Enforcement department who address animal cruelty and rescue neglected and abused animals, to open admissions, adoptions, community resources, low-cost spay/neuter program, lost and found stray program, pet assisted therapy, dog training, Pet Peeves behavioral services, on-site clinic, end-of-life services, education and outreach programs, and thriving volunteer program, Lollypop saves and enriches the lives of animals who have so greatly enriched our own lives. As someone who has a passionate appreciation for what non-profits can contribute to the value and vitality of a community, I think it’s important to note that Lollypop Farm is a fellow non-profit organization and, in light of the expansive list of worthy services they offer, they are supported entirely by private and community donations.

In the cat adoption center, I spend about half my time showering cats with individual socialization, cuddles, and playtime (in addition to emptying litter boxes, cleaning cages, doling out meals, and notating medical or behavioral observations), and the other half of my time is usually spent in customer engagement – sharing information about our cats with prospective new families and assisting adopters with questions relating to the adoption process. Fortunately, I like both cats and people, so this is a great fit for me on Saturday afternoons when Lollypop is at their busiest.

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With Ashes (adopted)

The most frequent question I am asked by visitors is if I ever feel sad spending time at the shelter with so many homeless animals. Before I started volunteering, that was one of own concerns, too.  But I’ve found Lollypop Farm to be a really uplifting place to be. From the time they are admitted to the time they are adopted, the animals are surrounded by staff with huge hearts and hundreds of generous, compassionate volunteers who make sure everyone is healthy, safe, fed, comfortable, and given plenty of love and attention. If you’ve never visited the cat room at Lollypop Farm, you’d be surprised by how much attention everyone receives, and how cozy and active the cat colony rooms with attached screened-in patios are!

The second most common question I am asked is how I keep myself from taking them all home with me! Surprisingly, it’s not as difficult as you might think. I know that by cuddling or playing with a shelter-shocked feline who might otherwise have spent a good portion of the day sleeping under a blanket in the top corner of their cage as they adjust to their new surroundings (unseen by families eager to adopt), I helped him or her showcase their personality, which prospective adopters fall in love with. The best part of volunteering at Lollypop Farm is seeing happy, deserving animals in the arms of their happy, loving, new families. Also, cuddling love-muffins regularly is definitely not the worst thing in the world! In fact, it’s a pretty reciprocal relationship: I frequently think how thankful I am to be a Lollypop volunteer, because I receive just as much as I give.

***

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Janice, out for a walk with Doodle

My name is Janice Ferger and I am the Draper in the costume shop here at Geva Theatre. While I am not frequently seen, my work is! In the costume shop, I am responsible for creating patterns for all the costumes we build. I also run fittings and determine how costumes will be altered to get an actor the perfect fit.

I have always wanted a dog. Growing up, we always had a dog and I have wanted one of my own since the day I moved out of my parent’s home. But life is what life is and, 9 years later, I still don’t have a dog to come home to. Sure, that’s disappointing, but its reality.

This past year, the desire to have a dog and to spend time with dogs has been unbearable. Just ask my friends, co-workers, and boyfriend. All have been inundated with pictures and posts about dogs. I started following a Labrador rescue group on Facebook, and now my boyfriend gets regular posts of dogs I want to take home that are approved to live with cats. All of them.

This fall, I decided I wanted to be more active, but I am a homebody and Rochester is cold, so I started thinking of ways I could convince myself to walk outside. I decided I would volunteer to walk dogs for a local shelter. This way, I could be more active and I would get to hang out with dogs. Win-win. Choosing Lollypop Farm as the organization to volunteer with was an easy decision. They have a great reputation in the area and several of my friends and co-workers have adopted pets from them.

Walking dogs at Lollypop is everything I hoped it would be. The dogs are so sweet and

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Janice with Doodle (currently unavailable, but keep an eye on Lollypop’s website for status updates)

often so thrilled to get out of their kennels, even for a short period of time. Lollypop Farm utilizes the potty break system wherein all dogs are walked morning and evening to give them a chance to go to the bathroom outside, keeping their kennels cleaner and the dogs happier. Volunteers also walk dogs during the day so they have multiple chances to get some fresh air, take a run, or just go to the bathroom again.

It’s a great feeling to go up to a dog and see its face light up at the sight of your leash, and to be able to give that energetic pup a chance to run around one of the enclosures and really stretch its legs. Thanks to dog walking, I get to spend a couple hours every Saturday making a dog’s day better, which makes me happy. Every week when I come home, my boyfriend asks me if I had any favorite dogs…and then I list the 6-8 dogs I walked that day. “Is every dog your favorite?,” he asks. Maybe.

***

Geva Theatre Center has partnered with Lollypop Farm for our production of Sylvia, playing January 10-February 5 in the Geva Theatre Center Wilson Stage. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.GevaTheatre.org, in person at the Geva Theatre Center box office, or by phone at 585-232-4382. To learn more about Lollypop Farm, including available pets, information about the resources and services they provide, to sign up for volunteer training, or to make a donation, please visit http://www.lollypop.org/.

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Lara and Janice, Geva Co-workers and Lollypop co-volunteers, with Buddy the raspy-voiced lapcat who loves a good brushing (and would love a forever home even more!)

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