If you are wondering where I’ve been all this time, I have a boatload of puppies to blame. You heard me right, a boatload of furry balls and adoptable cuteness. I happily spent my summer days as a volunteer photographer and social media intern at Paws Chicago.
As every other college student experiences in the spring, I was sending applications to internships and job opportunities left and right. I spent countless hours hunting through various internship and job websites. I was writing cover letter after cover letter, and following up one email after another. Rinse and repeat. At the end of this grueling process, I learned that I was only going to receive one response. And that response was summed up in this one sentence email…
Instead of giving up on the chance of a paid internship, I decided that my time is useful elsewhere, especially if it’s not going to be paid for. I ran into Paws Chicago, a no kill animal shelter, during my search for a summer job. I decided that they deserved my time and effort more than some fashion line that needed a photographer but was only willing to exploit my skills (which I invested a lot in, aka university).
My days at Paws consisted of tracking down dogs, photographing them, editing their photos, and sending them off to be uploaded to their adoption profiles online. These photos often made their way onto the Paws social media feeds, but more importantly, these photos helped to inspire individuals, families, and couples to come in to visit these deserving dogs.
If you asked me to describe my internship this summer, I would tell you about how unreal and humbling of an experience it was. The people I got to meet and work with are incredibly kind, caring, and driven.
Now, if you asked me what I've experienced, I’d begin with telling you how many times I’ve fallen in love and how many times I’ve willfully accepted heartbreak. It is a bittersweet thing to see some of your favorite animals go on to be adopted. But you know, deep down in your heart, that you wanted it for them the entire time. You wanted it for them because these animals are some of the most resilient and grateful animals. Their attitudes are congruent with the Paws motto “it’s great to be alive”. No other sentence could sum up the atmosphere of PAWS better.
With each new day, PAWS animals wake up, are fed, and enjoy playgroup sessions on the rooftop while having their rooms cleaned. They demonstrate positivity and treat each new day as if it’s the day they go home. This is true because I’ve walked down the halls of the adoption center numerous times. Each time I do, I receive several hopeful looks, even from dogs that recognize me. These dogs have a lot of hope, but even more loyalty to give.
Sadly, bright personalities and hope can’t save all the animals. The kill rate in Chicago in 1997 was 42,561, one of the highest kill rates in the nation. Paula and Alexis Fasseas, the founder, and her daughter believed that something had to be done. They eventually created a no kill model that began with making spay/neuter surgeries accessible to ALL. In 2000, the Lurie Clinic opened in Chicago’s worst neighborhood for strays. Up through 2015, PAWS Chicago has performed 196,212 spay/neuter surgeries. Anyone on Medicaid or Public Assistance in the city of Chicago is provided with free spay/neuter operations in order to continue preventing strays. In 2015, the kill rate had reduced to 8,682 (by 80%). Watch this video for a better explanation about the beginnings of PAWS, their no kill model, and some shocking truths about highly known animal shelters that do, in fact, kill. We’re literally talking puppies that can’t make it more than 24 hours in some facilities…
So if you’ve been wondering what I have been up to this summer, I hope this gives a bit of an explanation. It’s been a crazy amazing experience and I would HIGHLY recommend that you consider adopting from a no kill animal shelter, especially PAWS because of all the amazing work that they do for the entire city of Chicago. And if you are not able to adopt, you should absolutely consider volunteering, fostering, or donating to this amazing organization. After spending a summer working with PAWS, seeing the backside, and meeting outstanding humans that care so much about animals, I fully back everything that PAWS does.