Meet Tessa! RASKC is extraordinarily pleased to honor Tessa Higgins, who serves as a “red” Dog Walker, on our new Dog Behavior Modification Team, as a Dog Walker mentor, as a Dog Skills Assessor, and as the Dog Team Co-Lead. She also contributes weekly shifts as an office volunteer. Tessa has contributed more than 520 hours since 2018. Over 10 years ago she had also volunteered by caring for RASKC cats at Federal Way PetSmart. Tessa is a tremendous pleasure to work with. Animal Services Coordinator Nickie Ford said, “Tessa is such a dedicated volunteer. She always has a smile on her face. She is such a pleasure to work with, and we are so lucky to have her on our Dog Team!”

Q: How did you hear about RASKC?

A: Growing up in the Seattle area, I adopted my first pet, a cat who I named Cairo, from RASKC in 2007. Soon after, I started volunteering through RASKC at the Federal Way PetSmart where I interacted with cats, cleaned cat kennels, and helped customers find a new pet that was their perfect match. After some time, I left this volunteer position to pursue a master’s degree. After graduating, I began volunteering at RASKC again. This time, as an office assistant and dog walker.

Q: What made you want to volunteer, especially to work with animals?

A: I have always been drawn to animals and wanted to share the joy and friendship of an adopted dog, cat, or rabbit with others.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for RASKC?

A: When not at work as an environmental scientist or volunteering, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two dogs, one cat, six chickens, one snail, and several small shrimp. I also enjoy traveling, jogging, hiking, snowboarding, reading fantasy and science fiction, and watching horror movies.

Q: What have you gained and hope to gain from your experience as a volunteer with RASKC?

A: The best part of volunteering at RASKC is helping animals that need it the most. However, there are so many additional benefits that I didn’t initially expect. With a volunteer base of over 800 people and terrific shelter staff, joining the volunteer team is a fantastic way to get to know amazing passionate people and make great friends. I have also gained skills that improve my ability to interact with scared and exuberant dogs and have gained training skills that are useful in interactions with dogs in and outside of the shelter environment. Volunteering at RASKC is a rewarding experience and I am thankful for the opportunity.

Q: What is your life motto?

A: One quote that I relate to is: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou. I also have a t-shirt that I relate to. It says, “Introverted, but willing to discuss dogs.” Things that are important to me are include: friends and family, plants, animals and the environment, community, learning, hard work, and my career. I strive to be reliable, dedicated, open minded and authentic.

Q: Where did you grow up? Where is a favorite place you have lived?

A: I was born in Tacoma and grew up near Covington, WA. I won a “Women in Science and Engineering” award in high school. I spent five years in Bellingham going to college at Western Washington University. Bellingham is a gorgeous city with plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities – I would probably never have left if I was able to find a good job in the area.

Q: What are your favorite places to take your dogs for a walk?

A: For a short walk, I enjoy taking the dogs to Lincoln Park in West Seattle. There are tons of walking trails and beautiful views of Puget Sound. For longer hikes, I enjoy getting away from the crowds. A couple Puget Sound favorites are Greenwater Lakes Trail or Chinook Pass to Crystal Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail off of Highway 410. In southern Washington, a couple favorites are the Sleeping Beauty Trail by Mount Adams or Dog Mountain near the Columbia River in the spring when you walk through fields of yellow flowers. After our hikes, the dogs and I enjoy snuggling up together on the couch for an afternoon nap.

Q: What is the best thing about your cat?

A: The best thing about Cairo (AKA ‘Kittie Meow Meow’) is her willingness to snuggle. If you sit down with a blanket, she is almost always immediately hopping up on your lap. She is also pretty entertaining when she starts playing with the dogs’ toys.

Q: How would you describe your pets’ personalities?

  • Cairo (Cat, 12 years old): Laid back, friendly, loving, spiteful, meow-ey
  • Lily (Dog, 11 years old): Committed, protective, smart
  • Adilade (Dog, 4 years old): Friendly, silly, docile, energetic
  • Gelbie, Alice, Impostor, Moose, Boots, Darth (Chickens, 2-3 years old): food-motivated (will peck at painted fingernails, thinking they are bugs), silly, adventurous but afraid of snow

Q: Please describe a memorable moment you’ve had as a volunteer.

A: Recently there has been a small Chihuahua, Green Bean, at the shelter who has struggled with being approached while in his kennel. During my first Dog Behavior Modification Team shift last week, I decided to spend some time working with Green Bean. When I first entered the kennel, Green Bean cowered and bared his teeth. It took 45 minutes of reading news articles out loud for him, but eventually he approached me and rubbed against me until I would pet him. After that, we took a nice walk and finished the visit with him sitting on my lap. The next day during my normal dog walking shift, he was approachable and friendly from the moment I opened his kennel. It is so rewarding to see the positive impact that you have had on an animal.

Q: Fun fact?

A: I have heard that I am distantly related to Aaron Burr – the third Vice President of the United States, who was vice president during Thomas Jefferson’s first term.

Q: What else would you like to say about volunteering for RASKC?

A: Volunteering is easy when it’s this much fun. 😊

Interested in becoming a volunteer? We’d love to have you join us! Simply sign up for New Volunteer Orientation to learn more!