Reflecting on 2022 as the Outreach Coordinator at GTHS, the main theme that arose for me was compassion in serving others. As someone with a background in social work, I am no stranger to helping people overcome systemic barriers. At GTHS I get to use my lived experience and education to help our community members and their pets through difficult times.
During my first year in this role, I have been privileged to serve members of our community whose pets clearly meant the world to them. I encounter pet owners at a very stressful and vulnerable time during their lives, which is never easy to navigate. My goal is to make sure that people are treated as people first and walk away with having felt heard. Asking for help is a difficult thing to do and it requires us to be open and vulnerable, this is the same approach I aim for when working with pets and their owners.
My favorite part of being Outreach Coordinator at GTHS is that I never know what my day will bring. I remember starting this role and being curious as to what it would look like. A year later, I have seen and experienced many emotionally fueled situations that continue to reinforce the importance of Outreach for people and pets.
I’d like to share some memorable moments to give a small preview of why I love what I do. Imagine receiving a call from someone who vulnerably shares that they have found the courage to leave their abusive relationship but cannot safely leave without knowing that their animal will be safe, too. I did what many of you would do – jumped into action, and worked with this caller to ensure that she, her child, and pet could access GTHS’ Emergency Boarding program. I remember people praising me for driving multiple hours to help, but all I could think about was how difficult it must have been to make that decision as the caller.
On another occasion, a young family and their pet showed up at GTHS after being referred to our Emergency Medical Assistance program. The family was in such desperation about the well-being and health of their pet that the only option they saw was to come to our doors and explore any options available to them. I vividly remember the look of defeat on the owner’s face and could hear the heartache through each word they shared. In going through this situation, I was humbled by how quickly life can take a turn when we least expect it and how an emergency can affect so many aspects of one’s life. Despite the many barriers faced by this family, their distress and difficulty were met with compassion and leadership by those involved in caring for this family’s pet. I feel so much peace knowing we were able to help this family out by thinking outside the box.
I love the work we do in Outreach at GTHS. Pets are such an important part of overall health and wellness in our lives; helping make sure that bond stays intact just makes sense. I believe that working with vulnerable members of our community and their pets allows us to do our part towards addressing bigger issues such as food and housing insecurity, domestic violence, financial insecurity, mental health and more.