Our volunteers wear many hats, and sometimes they transition to different positions within the rescue. Jennifer McKinley is one of our southern volunteers in Alabama who has been involved with Lu’s Labs since the fall of 2016. She started out working in transport, to help the dogs get from the south to their forever homes in the North, but after Hurricane Matthew, Rebecca Arnold – our VP of Transport planted the seed of fostering for Jennifer, and she ended up taking in a mama dog and her 3 puppies.
Jennifer soon became the Southern Foster Coordinator. This job required Jen to vet fosters, make sure they would be good matches for our dogs, and helped the VP of Transport get dogs ready and arranged to transport up from the south.
One of Jennifer’s most memorable moments happened last December when Logan escaped from paid transport while Jennifer was at her office Christmas Party. As she learned that a dog had escaped at Tuscaloosa’s busiest truck stop, she immediately left the party and kicked into rescue mode.
For the next 6 days she did nothing but eat, sleep, and track Logan. Everyone stepped up to help inside and outside the rescue. The local Animal Control was amazing, and the local shelter and neighborhoods kept watch for him. “That Friday Morning when I was going to change out the fried chicken in the trap, I held my breath when I saw a big, black dog in the trap. I started crying when I got close enough to see the green slip lead still attached around his neck.” She knew it was Logan. “Nothing beats that moment.”
The entire rescue process is very rewarding to Jennifer, she says, “Nothing beats pulling a dog from the shelter, fostering her, and then seeing her in a new home.” Now Jennifer is much more involved in transport for the rescue, as well as organizing fosters for puppies in the south. Her week starts on Mondays when she takes a look at the dog sheet and works on arranging who is going north by date. She sends out transport reminders, and makes sure all the volunteers have what the gear they need for transport. As the week progresses, she makes sure the fosters have their appointments for health certificates lined up, and gets a copy for everyone’s records.
She is very involved with the southern fosters and making sure they have everything they need. When new fosters sign up with Lu’s Labs in the south, Jennifer checks their references and trains them by phone. She also helps match southern fosters with puppies.
One of the things that Jennifer loves about Lu’s labs is that she knows any dog Lu’s Labs pulls from a shelter will be taken care of medically and personally, “We have a terrific group of fosters that love on them until they are adopted,” She emphasizes. “I have a sense of peace that each dog we pull (From a shelter) and re-home has the best chance at a happily ever after with Lu’s Labs.”
Just as most volunteers do this for the love of animals and have their own Jennifer has 2 dogs of her own, Kaylee and Cosette, and no surprise, are both rescues. If you’ve never worked in rescue, Jennifer says it’s heartbreaking and rewarding at the same time. “Rescue is heartbreaking yet one of the most rewarding charitable organizations that you can volunteer for. People can be crappy, but a dog’s love is unconditional. All rescues are not equal and Lu’s Labs is top notch. The resources Lu’s gives fosters and the alumni can’t be beat.”
While each volunteer spends different amounts of time and commitment to the rescue, Jennifer juggles the time and makes it work between her full time job, and her family. She jokes that her family gives her some good-natured complaints at times that she’s on the phone a lot, but they understand that she believes strongly in what she is doing. For those who would like to start out with a rescue, she recommends starting out with a small job that you can do well and then slowly add tasks to that. “Also, make sure that your family is onboard with your involvement or you are in for some arguments down the road.” Rescue is full of volunteer opportunities that can take as much or as little time as you are willing to spend.
Jennifer wants everyone to remember that mattresses, shoes, bras, molding and carpets are just possessions that can be replaced. But spending time as a foster whether it’s for a couple of hours, and overnight, or a month of fosters is worth it because you are changing a precious soul forever.
If you are interested in getting involved with volunteering there is no small role. We have lots of opportunities, and as Jennifer suggests the best way to start is just to dive into a small position and see how it goes. It may lead to a lifelong passion.