2017 October Volunteers of the Month: Dawn and Marie Gerken
Meet Marie and Dawn! Marie and her adult daughter Dawn are among the most dedicated and longest serving volunteers. They started volunteering together as kitty cuddlers in 2006. They have worked in many RASKC roles since that time. Marie now works regular cat-care shifts at Reber Ranch Cat-Care, plus she and Dawn staff RASKC’s booth at community events. Every week Dawn selects, photographs, and writes descriptions for RASKC’s Pet of the Week that she sends to several newspapers. She also updates RASKC photographs on Petfinder and has served as an instructor. Dawn and Marie often provide transportation to RASKC cats from Kent to the Meowtropolitan Café in Seattle. Thank you, Marie and Dawn!
Q: How did you hear about RASKC?
Marie: I heard about RASKC (at that time known as KCACC) through Chris Duvall. She was volunteering at Petsmart in Federal Way. That was my first place to volunteer for over a year. I dressed as Santa for pictures with animals during Christmas. If it wasn’t for Chris, I wouldn’t be a volunteer.
Dawn: My mom and I decided to start volunteering together originally as cat cuddlers.
Q: What made you want to volunteer, especially to work with animals?
Marie: I wanted to be a part of animals finding a permanent home. Being a volunteer here has been the best thing that happened to me. I have been a part of hundreds of animals finding a home, meeting new people and other organizations doing the same thing.
Dawn: We used to find stray and abandoned cats by our apartment and would take them to RASKC/KCACC. Finally we decided to volunteer to help take care of the animals and help them find new forever homes. I have always loved animals.
Q: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering at RASKC?
Marie: I like to help the homeless in Seattle and Mary’s Place. Collecting items to take there, with others collect items and bring food to Homeless. Also do crafts.
Dawn: I have a full time and a part time job. I enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking. I’ve climbed Mount Saint Helens twice, and I love the trails around Mount Rainier. I’m also an avid reader and like both fiction and non-fiction, as well as biographies. Why limit myself?
Q: What have you gained and hope to gain from your experience as a volunteer with RASKC?
Marie: I have learned a lot from RASKC’s Animal Control Officers on how to interact with animals, how animals are great teachers and how smart they really are. Animals’ love is unconditional. Every person that I have met through RASKC has taught me something and to be respectful of each person or animal.
Dawn: I have learned so much about the adoption and shelter process and what volunteers and officers do each day. It has really helped to bust the myth of the “dog catcher” and animal control officer stereotypes. Having worked with and become friends with some officers and vet techs I have gotten to see the other side. It’s still hard to see the reasons some animals are brought in and/or returned, but then I get to see them go to new loving homes. I get to help families find the purrfect companion and help get the pets out there for others to see. I particularly like interacting with the more scared and timid cats to help get them out of their shells. It’s wonderful to see when their personalities come out and they start to see that not all humans are bad. When they start to trust you it’s the most amazing feeling! A scared animal learning to trust again.
Q: What is your life motto?
Marie: Everyone has a purpose. To find your purpose you have to open your eyes and really look inside yourself to find yours.
Dawn: I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought about this. Maybe just “Be Kind.” Whether it’s to animals or other people…just be kind. It’s not always happy, but when you do good for someone else, it makes you feel good too.
Q: What is your favorite activity to do with dogs?
Dawn: I’ve taken friends’ dogs hiking with me before, and it’s fun. She has a black shepherd and when people seem scared, I try to encourage them to come over and pet her and see that she’s not so scary.
Q: What’s the best thing about your cats?
Marie: My daughter and I have had five cats since 2006; three have passed on. Licorice is 13 years old. I would be lost without him. He loves to wake me up to play. Ghost is my daughter’s cat, who loves to talk and can be very needy at times. But I would be lost without these two cats.
Dawn: Their catitude! My cat Ghost used to race me up the stairs at our old apartment, she always had to be first. She also yells at me when it’s time to go to bed.
Q: How would you describe your cat’s personality?
Marie: Although Licorice is 13 years, he is still a fraidy cat. He loves catnip and will do whatever it takes to put his head into that container. It took him several years to be comfortable enough to sleep close to me or sit near me. I still can’t pick him up.
Q: What is the best advice you would give people who want pets?
Marie: Do your research on insurance, do(s) and don’t(s) of being a guardian, and the cost of owning a pet. They are a lifetime commitment – not yours, but theirs. If you have allergies, there are ways to deal with that. I am allergic to cats, dogs, and litter. If you have to move, find a place that accepts pets.
Dawn: Don’t just get a breed, because you like the breed. Get a pet who is good for your family and home. Not all breeds are the right fit for everyone. A dog or cat that looks amazing may not be the right fit for your family or home. Talk with the officers and volunteers to try and find a pet who is the right fit for you.
Q: Describe a memorable moment you’ve had with an animal.
Marie: Just recently someone had left a message that they saw a cat on our website and wanted to come and meet him. I called her up (she lived 45 minutes away in Seattle) and told her to come. Luxe is a very loving cat and loved attention, but when he saw Anne he transformed. He met his forever Mom. They were meant for each other. In about 2007 a young girl named Angel came in to RASKC’s Store of Hope where she met kitty Angel who adopted her.
Dawn: We brought in some abandoned kittens once. I went every day to the shelter to see if they were put in adoptions. One day I went there and there they were! I was there when one of them was adopted, and the person thanked me for bringing them in. I thanked them for adopting one of them. I called the kittens the Patches Gang, because they were all black with a white patch on their chests. I would visit a black kitten at RASKC named Tubo who had Cerebellar Hypoplasia during every one of my shifts. My mom and I both were there when he got adopted…we both almost started crying we were so happy for him.
Q: What else would you like to say about volunteering for RASKC?
Dawn: Just that’s it’s an amazing thing to do! I look forward to every Tuesday and the first Wednesday of every month for Meowtropolitan Café transport. It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Interested in becoming a RASKC Volunteer? Find out how!