February Volunteer Profile: Rod Soviak
In his seven years at the Winnipeg Humane Society, Rod Soviak has done a bit of everything, but his heart belongs to Animal Intake, where he’s spent most of his volunteer hours.
Location was one of the factors that initially got Rod to start his volunteer service at the WHS. He worked nearby at Manitoba Hydro and lived in the neighbourhood. He felt comfortable helping at a local organization.
Another factor in his decision to volunteer at the WHS was a life-long relationship with dogs and cats. “I really like dogs and cats,” he pointed out. “And this volunteer job lets me meet and interact with them.”
So, two years before retirement, Rod came to a WHS volunteer orientation session and Kelle Greene, Manager, Volunteer Services, recommended a placement in Animal Intake. All these years later, you could suggest it was a wise choice.
“I really enjoy being in Intake,” Rod explained. “The staff is so great there. And I’ve learned so much about handling and treating animals. I’m particularly pleased that I’ve learned how to comfort dogs or cats who are scared because they’ve been surrendered. They’re in new surroundings and they don’t know what’s next.”
When an animal is surrendered, WHS staff assess the animal, giving it its shots and de-worming and they’ll let the volunteers know what the cat or dog is like. ”My job would then be to take the animal back in the cage to the animal care area. You only have a few minutes with the animals but in those few minutes I like to have the opportunity to help and comfort them because they’re scared. You learn how to handle them to help them feel calm.”
“Some of it is a matter of approach, Rod said. “What may only take a few seconds may be the key in calming them. For example, you might approach an animal but you let them take the first step and sniff you and then perhaps they’ll start rubbing against you. It’s done in a way that they’ll feel comfortable with. I try to let them know that they’re safe.”
Rod said the opportunity to spend a little time caring for the animals is what keeps him in Intake. “People have asked me how I can do it because it can be very emotional,” he said.” But if my dog was ever lost, I’d like to know he’s being comforted and taken care of.”
Rod said that he sometimes gets a new volunteer to shadow him for a shift. Occasionally, a newcomer will be surprised to see people talking to the animals. Rod explains that it’s part of making the connection. “You have to tell them that here everyone talks to the cats or dogs. It’s part of the environment. You can make those kind of connections and not feel awkward.”
The Intake staff and volunteers appreciate Rod’s dedication. “Rod greets everyone with a smile and an eagerness to help,” they said. “He is always eager to learn more about the department and tackles even the smallest task with enthusiasm.”
But Intake is by no means Rod’s only volunteer assignment. He’s done ‘a bit of dog walking’ and helped out with the book sale, telethon and golf tournament. And in his spare time he’s done “eight to ten foster sessions” with cats and dogs.
“I have two Shih Tzu dogs, so fostering cats is a little different,” Rod explained. “I like to do the mom and kittens when I foster. The kittens like the attention and they like to play with you. You have them for two months and as they get bigger they get more playful and curious.”
And the dogs have enjoyed the company all along. “The first time I fostered, I used the spare room to put the foster cats (a mom and six kittens) in. I set them up in the spare room and put a child gate in the doorway,” he said. “I went to the kitchen to prepare something for them to eat. I’m getting everything ready and I turn around and there are three sets of eyes looking up at me. Mama cat had joined the dogs, waiting for me to get the food ready.”
“It was a good first experience, because that cat was really good with the dogs and the dogs were great with Mama and the kittens.”
Rod would like to remain involved with the WHS for many years to come. “I still learn something new every shift,” he said. “It’s almost magical how people here are able to connect with the dogs and cats that have been brought in.”
Written by: Brian Kozak, Volunteer MVP Writer
Photo by: Jim Harvey, Volunteer MVP Photographer
A group of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Humane Society in 1894 and are vital to our success today! With the help of volunteers, we can provide care, love and attention to our four (and sometimes two) legged friends until they find their forever homes. The MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) will recognize the work and get to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs will receive a framed photo and gift card as our thanks!
Is there a volunteer you’d like to nominate to be MVP? E-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us why you think they should be an MVP!