Volunteer Spotlight — Laura Poole

What is the Visiting Paws program?

We select dogs from the shelter to visit nursing homes and retirement communities in the city of Virginia Beach. I personally visit about 14 locations right now, some monthly, some twice a month. I’ve also gone to schools for final exams and we set up in the student center. What better way to destress than to hang out with a dog?

What is the impact of the program and why is it important?

It’s just so rewarding. When you a dog to these places, like the memory care units at the retirement communities, these people are bound to beds and wheelchairs. But when they interact with one of our shelter dogs, their reactions are incredible. Sometimes the residents are crying because they are so happy to see an animal and to have human contact as well. We spend 45 minutes at each location and the time we spend there is incredible. When you see somebody staring at the ceiling and you bring a little pup up to the bed and they smile, it just makes it all worthwhile.

Does this program help the animals destress outside of a shelter environment?

Yes it does! The biggest reason we have this program is for the dogs. Just to get the dogs out of the shelter for an hour is great for their mental state. It just gets them out and gets them socialized. I also know of two cases where the dogs were adopted by a staff member of the places we visit!


Volunteer Spotlight — Kevin and Heather Ford

How did you get involved in fostering?

We started volunteering with VBSPCA in 2016 in other areas, special events, dog walking, helping in the cattery. I wanted to foster as well but was concerned about the time commitment. After about 6 months I signed up for foster orientation. It really didn’t sound that intimidating, especially when fostering older kittens. So we put our name down as available to foster and waited. This was January or February. Kitten season doesn’t start until March or April. We took in 5 kittens for our first time. Which is a lot of kittens for a first timer. But we managed it and have been fostering ever since. Due to work schedules we haven’t been able to foster bottle feeders or puppies.

Why should someone foster an animal with the Holiday Elf Program?

The shelter is a stressful environment for an animal. The shelter staff and volunteers do a great job to try to minimize that, but it is still stressful. Fostering with the Holiday Elf Program is an opportunity to help out in way that can fit almost any schedule while having a very positive impact for the animal. And in return you get to cuddle with a dog, cat, or other critter for the holiday season. It is a way to give and get at the same time.

Any special stories about a specific animal that you have fostered?

The hard part is narrowing down the stories. We fostered Jalapeno last summer with his brother, Chili, and 4 older kittens from a different litter. When it was time to send them off for adoption (first the older kittens with Jalapeno and Chili following two weeks later) we did so with a heavy heart. He just kind of struck something for us. After about 5 weeks all the kittens except Jalapeno had been adopted. Jalapeno had two applications during that time which fell through. So Kevin and I decided we couldn’t give him up and went back and adopted him. He is such a cool cat and gets along well with our other pets, especially our dog Cookie. Those two have a weird bond.

What is the personal impact volunteering at the VBSPCA has had on the lives of you and your husband?

It is fascinating to watch kittens grow and develop unique personalities. Young animals can get sick easily in the shelter and have a high mortality rate, making the foster program very important. We get to “play” with kittens while helping them grow healthy, strong and ready for their forever homes. It isn’t easy. Kittens are messy and high energy. Each time it has been hard to let them go. We do so knowing that there is another litter needing a place to land so they can grow healthy, strong and ready for their forever home.

Volunteer Spotlight — Linda Patterson

How did you get involved with Listening Ears?

I have always been a supporter of animal shelters and the great work they do, but I had never been involved. We recently adopted our beloved Kelly from the VBSPCA, and I saw what a wonderful place it was. Someone who works there made me aware of the Listening Ears program and I thought it sounded so worthwhile. I volunteered to be part of the program.

What kind of impact has this program made in the Virginia Beach community?

The program is a positive presence for the VBSPCA in schools throughout the community. When in the school, I wear my VBSPCA volunteer shirt, and Kelly has a bandana saying she is a VPSPCA alumni. We can hardly walk down the hall because teachers and staff will come up to pet Kelly and say “thank you” for coming to their school. When classes are walking in the halls, teachers don’t seem to mind their students coming up to Kelly and petting her. I often get a chance to say that the VBSPCA has many valuable programs in the community. I have talked about “Visiting Paws” which Kelly has been part of, and how it brings shelter animals to visit residents in nursing homes. When Kelly has reading time with the students, each child has talked about their own pets, past or present, and asked questions about Kelly and where shew came from. I tell them Kelly’s story and can remind them of all the amazing animals who are at the shelter waiting for homes.

If someone is thinking about volunteering, why should they choose the VBSPCA?

There are lots of problems that touch our hearts in the world. For the most part, we can’t do much on the big scale. But there are things that CAN really make a difference.
The VBSPCA is there, 24 hours a day with amazing staff and volunteers operating a beautiful shelter. Just one walk through to see how these animals are sheltered and cared for shows the caliber of the organization.
If you are considering volunteering in the community, you want to volunteer where things are well managed and the time you give is of value. I know that any volunteer hours I give do contribute to the VBSPCA mission, and that my time is a helpful piece in uniting these sweet animals with their forever homes. The VBSPCA has many ways to volunteer, and anyone could find something that is a match to them. It truly feels so good to be helping. When you walk through the shelter and see the faces of the animals looking back at you, you feel so good about anything you are doing to help.

Volunteer Spotlight — Josh Hall

Why did you decide to volunteer?

Both my wife and I decided to volunteer in memory of our previous rescue pets, that had passed away. Having had rescue pets most of our lives, we were already big supporters of “adopt, don’t shop” and wanted to find a way to do more. It wasn’t until we adopted our current dog, Thor, from the VBSPCA that we realized how and where we wanted to volunteer. The entire experience was so positive that we both just knew the VBSPCA was where we wanted to give back and volunteer.

What is the best memory you have from an event you volunteered at?

I think my best memory from an event would have to be the very first event I volunteered at. The event was at apartment complex in Virginia Beach and I was asked to take a young hound named George. While at the event, a young man who lived in the complex came down to meet with George. The young man spent nearly the entire two hours getting to know George, and was so excited and happy that we brought him to the event. The young man had been looking at George’s adoption profile on the VBSPCA’s website and because I was able to bring him to the event, he was able to meet and interact with George. A few days after the event, he came in and adopted George. It was such an awesome experience!

Favorite adoptable animal and why?

All rescue pets are awesome, so it’s really hard to pick a favorite. That said, I tend to be more of a dog person. Dogs are awesome. Whether they’re a puppy or a senior, a dog has the ability to be so much more than just a pet. They can be your best friend, protector, comedic relief, and even your therapist. A dog will give you everything they have and all they ask for in return is love and maybe a few french fries.

What is one thing you want people to know about the VBSPCA?

I think the one thing I want others to know about the VBSPCA is just how much they care about their mission and about improving the lives of all animals. Not only do they offer the ability to adopt, but they provide so many other services to help animals. They offer animal training and education support through the Pet Academy. They offer low cost medical services through their in house clinic, and the Neuter Scooter. They even have an amazing wildlife support and rescue team. While these are only some of the many services the VBSPCA provides, none of this would be possible without the hard work of the amazing staff. From the moment you walk through the shelter doors, you can tell you are in a place where the love for animals is the number one priority. To anyone who has ever thought about volunteering or adopting an animal, I would encourage you to check out the VBSPCA — you won’t be disappointed.

Volunteer Spotlight — Sara Hall

How did you get involved with walking dogs at the VBSPCA?

My husband and I wanted to find something good as there was so much negativity in the world.  We had talked about volunteering at a shelter off an on for a few years.  We chose VBSPCA since we adopted our dog as a puppy in 2018.  We went through the Pet Academy program and wanted to give back to the organization that not only brought us our dog.  The shelter saved him as a puppy when he had parvo (pre-adoption) and helped us train him for success.

Why is walking shelter dogs important?

There are so many reasons that walking the shelter dogs is important.  First impressions matter, for shelter dogs that is cage presence.  When a dog has excess energy, he may jump and bark as people walk through the shelter.  That is especially true for larger dogs. This can be a deterrent for potential adopters.  So many are afraid of getting a dog that is just “too much.” That is why getting them out for 10-15 minutes to get out energy and allow them to sniff things (which stimulates their brain) helps them have better cage presence. During the 9 months that I have been volunteering that I have taken many dogs on a mile to a mile and a half run.  These are the high energy dogs that needed that extra something in order to have good cage presence.  Another reason it is important is it gives the shelter/volunteer a chance to see the dog outside of the shelter.  To see how they walk on a leash, are they easily distracted, are they love bugs, are they looking for approval.  Walking is one on one time with that dog. Lastly, a selfish one, it is great exercise.  I burn about 700-1,000 calories walking the dogs every Saturday and Sunday!

Are there any special dogs you would like to highlight?

One of my running buddies, Ares, has been in the shelter for almost 4 months now.  He is a gorgeous brindle pittie mix that is just a love bug.  He is high energy, so we run as much as we can.  He is a great running partner for anyone looking for one.  He’ll push you, but will stop easily when it is time to walk. His cage presence isn’t the greatest. so he has been overlooked so many times. But honestly, how would you feel after 4 months in a 3′ x 8′ kennel run?  He is going a little stir crazy waiting for his perfect person to come along.  Once that person comes, he will be the best dog for an active family.

Why should someone volunteer in the kennel?

While there are multiple areas in the shelter that you can volunteer, I felt volunteering in the kennel the most rewarding.  There are so many dogs that come through.  The staff is constantly trying to rotate them outside in the yards, feeding them, giving medications, cleaning and have to interact with the potential adopters.  On the weekends, when I am there, the shelter is usually very busy.  Having volunteers to help with the needs of the dogs allows the staff to focus on the potential adopters.  You get to know the dogs when you walk them every week, so you can help speak to that if someone has questions.  You also can sit with the dogs and puppies and get unlimited amount of snugs and kisses.  What is better than puppy kisses?

Any dog-walking tips?

Remember that every dog is different.  Allow the dog to sniff around as it helps wear them out mentally. However, the dog also needs to know that you are the one leading the walk.  You need to be firm and confident. If a dog pulls when you walk them, simply stop until they stop pulling. From experience, it won’t correct it immediately and you will likely have to stop many times during the walk and for several walks.  Bring treats to give them when they are walking appropriately as it will help reinforce that behavior. 

Giving Tuesday – How You Can Make The Difference

Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement that was established in 2012. It falls just after Thanksgiving and helps kick off the holiday season of giving, which is a critical time for nonprofits. This heart-driven movement reminds the community that their generosity ensures ongoing care for people, places, and – of course – pets.

To donate to the mission of the VBSPCA, click here. 

If you are an animal-lover and would like to fundraise for the animals to help us make Giving Tuesday a success, please click here to set up a facebook fundraiser. Select the Virginia Beach SPCA as your nonprofit, and start promoting! All facebook fundraisers are eligible for a match from facebook, so your efforts could double the impact for the animals! For more info on Giving Tuesday and how it all works, click here. 

In addition to fundraising, we would like to shine an additional spotlight on another type of giving — volunteerism. Volunteers make our mission possible. If you are interested in donating your time to the animals, please read below to learn about the various ways you can be of service. Stay tuned to our social media on Giving Tuesday for highlights, photos, and videos that showcase our amazing volunteers and how they have impacted the VBSPCA.  If you are interested in registering for our volunteer program, click here. 

Thank you for your compassion.  Thank you for your support.  Thank you for caring for the animals of the VBSPCA. 

Ways to Volunteer

Cattery | The cattery is a calming and enjoyable place to volunteer at. Our knowledgeable staff loves all of our cat friends at the shelter and showing new volunteers how to care for the animals. Cattery volunteers focus on keeping cat condos clean and providing cats fresh food and water. Another plus of volunteering in the cattery — there are always opportunities to give some cute kitties some cuddles once the work is done! 

Kennel | Kennel volunteers have an energetic and fun atmosphere to work in. The main task in the kennel is cleaning up after the dogs and making sure that they have enough exercise. The VBSPCA is always looking for more volunteers to walk the dogs so that they can burn off their extra energy. 

Foster | Who doesn’t love animal cuddles for a great cause? Fostering gives shelter animals a chance to get socialization, destress from the shelter environment and frees up room to take in more surrenders. For every animal you foster, you are saving two lives!

Visiting Paws | This amazing program is an opportunity for volunteers to take shelter dogs and cats out to visit with the Virginia Beach community. The VBSPCA visits nursing homes, memory centers and colleges to give animals a chance to socialize. 

Listening EarsSome children need a little help with reading confidence. Our volunteers bring dogs to schools all over Virginia Beach to cuddle and listen while children read to them. This is a great way to help children build self-esteem while also giving dogs a chance to cuddle with new friends.

EventsWe have so many fantastic events throughout the year that we need volunteers to help with! Events would not be successful without the hard work of our volunteers. Events volunteers help with set up and tear down, on-site adoptable animals and various staff needs.

LaundryLaundry is often an overwhelming task here at our shelter due to the amount of animals that we care for. Picking up bags of laundry, taking them home to wash and bringing them back clean and folded has a huge impact. Volunteering to wash laundry frees up our full-time staff and allows them to focus on the animals.

PhotographyOur wonderful photography team takes all pictures of adoptable animals and also works during events to capture promotional pictures for the shelter. They work many hours to shoot, edit and upload photos that capture what is going on at our shelter.

Front Desk Aide | During busy days at the shelter, our front desk staff needs as much help as possible for adoption counseling, retail sales and to process applications. 

Holiday Elf FosterThe shelter environment can be very scary for the animals, especially during the holiday season. Additionally, staff often have to work on holidays to care for the animals. A great way to help both the staff and our shelter animals is to foster a shelter animal during the week of Christmas. This gives shelter animals a much-needed break and also a great companion for this wonderful time of year!

November Volunteer Spotlight — Donna Schnaars

Why did you decide to volunteer at the VBSPCA?

I started volunteering here because I signed my husband up, and after he passed away, I enjoyed it so much I stuck with it. That was in the summer of 2017 and here I am now a regular volunteer with Visiting Paws and Listening Ears.

What is Visiting Paws and Listening Ears? Why do you serve in those programs?

Basically Visiting Paws is a chance for shelter animals to get out and socialize at nursing homes and daycare centers, and Listening Ears is generally the same thing but focuses more on helping children struggling to read build self-confidence by reading to an animal.

Why should someone volunteer at the VBSPCA?

Volunteering at an animal shelter is very fulfilling. You get to make animals lives better, but it also makes your life better. I love spending time with the people I meet through these programs and seeing their reactions to the animals. It’s just a great feeling when you see a senior citizen’s face brighten up when they see a dog enter the room.

Any favorite moments you would like to share?

There is one that stands out to me. I was at a memory center for Alzheimers patients, and I know that’s not for everyone. I had brought a puppy over and placed it on the lap of one of the patients. She began to pet the dog and all of a sudden her eyes lit up and she smiled at me. That experience made a huge impact on me.

Cat Body Language Basics

Cats are amazing animals and great companions, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what your cat is trying to tell you if you don’t know what you’re looking for!

The good news is that cats are very expressive animals and use their whole body to communicate with their human friends. According to our experienced trainers, taking into account the animal’s surroundings, body direction and physical cues all help to decipher what your cat is saying.

Body position is one of the most obvious ways a cat will express their emotions. A confident cat will have a relaxed body position and will angle their body toward you. Cats will also show they are comfortable and trust you by exposing their belly. This is not an invitation to scratch and you can lose the cat’s trust by doing this. If a cat becomes nervous, they may try to crouch down in case they need to flee. Watch out for an arched back with hair standing straight up — this means that the cat is fearful or angry and may try to get away through any means necessary!

Tails are energy meters. A high quivering tail means that they are excited and ready to receive affection! A fearful cat will tuck their tail and keep it close to their body to protect themselves. Many people think that a wagging tail means the same as dogs — it is actually the opposite. This means that they are agitated and you need to back off.

A cat’s pupils are like mood-rings and change depending on their mood. A happy cat usually has medium-sized pupils and will give you slow blinks to show they are not a threat. Make sure to give slow blinks back because this is a great way to communicate with your cat! Large and dilated pupils mean that a cat is stimulated. Generally this is not a good thing, but it can happen during play if they become overexcited! Slit pupils mean that a cat is not happy and may be scared or angry.

Ears are also good indicators of what a cat is feeling. Generally, if ears are perked up or moving around, the cat is curious and investigating their surroundings. Watch out for airplane ears, which is an obvious sign that the cat is unhappy and feeling afraid!

Context is key when learning how to read your cat. Instead of focusing on one part of the body, look at the bigger picture! Cats can be very easy to read if you understand what each movement means combined with what is going on in their surroundings. Just like anything else new, it may take a little practice, but your cat will be very happy that you are learning to understand their language.

Gifts That Give Back

‘Tis the Season to Celebrate the Animals! Whether giving gifts that support the pups, joining us for our Holiday Lighting and Open House, participating in our Holiday Elf program, or scheduling a visit from the brand new Paws Express, there are lots of ways to support the animals through the holidays.

Surprise Your Staff

Schedule a visit with the VBSPCA Paws Express! During the week of December 14-20, the VBSPCA Paws Express will be making stops throughout Virginia Beach to share the spirit of the season through the joy of animal companionship. Mrs. Paws and her elves will bring puppies, kittens, and shelter animals to local businesses to help spread joy, relieve stress, and get shelter animals some much needed socialization. All donations will go toward the Miracle Medical Fund, click here for more information!

Gifts the Give Back

If you have animal lovers in your circle of family and friends, consider giving gifts that gives back to the animals! The VBSPCA has a number of fun, heartfelt ways to support the mission this Holiday Season.

  • Make a Holiday gift to Miracle Medical Fund in honor of a loved one. A gift to the Miracle Medical Fund will touch the heart of any animal lover. The VBSPCA Miracle Medical Fund benefits the medical care of over 2,700 homeless pets annually. Many of the animals who come through our shelter have been neglected or abused and require more costly treatment for conditions such as heartworm, broken bones, and dental disease. This fund makes needed medical care possible, and the road to forever homes begins with you. Click here to make your gift today!
  • Sponsor a kennel, cat condo, or small animal cabin in someone’s name. These very important sponsorships contribute to the cost of shelter and care for shelter animals providing a unique opportunity to directly support animals in need. A personalized plaque will be placed your chosen kennel, condo, or cabin for an entire year, and sponsors receive quarterly updates on the animals who have benefitted from your kindness. Gifting a sponsorship to a loved one is a great way to show you care. To learn more, click here.
  • Send VBSPCA Holiday Cards or including inserts in your cards. We have very special holiday greeting cards that feature some VBSPCA animals! Cards are sold in packs of 10 and can be purchased at the VBSPCA shelter. If you already have your holiday cards, you can pick up some holiday inserts that tuck right inside your greeting cards. Both are great ways to support the animals while spreading the joy of the season.
  • Purchase Pet Toys or VBSPCA Apparel as gifts for family and friends. The VBSPCA has a great retail section that has a variety of different gifts for both your favorite animals and humans! Plus, all money made goes directly back to the VBSPCA and helps support the VBSPCA mission. Take a look at our gift guide here. 
  • Gift a Membership. VBSPCA Members get perks throughout the year, including discounts on retail, events, and more. Plus – all members get a very special “For the Animals” tee which helps promote the cause all year long. Learn more here. 

Other Ways to Support the Animals this Season

  • Come to the Open House and Lighting. Take a couple hours to surround yourself with the best kind of holiday spirit – the four-legged kind. Wrap up the first week of December with a tree lighting for the animals, a Parade of Pooches, light hors d’oeuvres, family activities, and festive beverages. Stop by to meet our CEO and staff, visit with adoptable animals, get a kickstart on some holiday shopping, and put an ornament on our holiday tree. It will be a special evening, and we hope to see you there! Click here for more information.
  • Be a Holiday Elf  and foster a shelter pup from December 24-26. Our Holiday Elf Foster Program gives animals a break from the shelter and allows them to enjoy the warmth of a home for a few days. And not only does this help the animal, it eases the burden on the shelter staff who have to work through the holiday. This brief foster commitment is a wonderful way to be in service to the animals. If you are interested, email us here. 


For Our Future — Humane Education Inspires Kindness In The Next Generation

Educating younger generations about the importance of caring for animals is extremely important to the VBSPCA. We want to inspire the next generation of animal welfare heroes and show the impact of the work that we do every day.

That is the main mission of the Humane Education department of our organization. Through camps, workshops and other various events, children of all ages can learn more about why we should be kind to all animals. Below are various ways your children can discover the animal welfare world at the VBSPCA.

They can discover our shelter during guided tours. Guided tours are a great way to introduce children to our mission. Children will get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look of what it takes to care for our animals friends. Tours are by appointment only, email humaneeducation@vbspca.com to book one today!

Children are inspired through camps. Our camps offered in the spring and summer give kids a chance to take a closer look into animal welfare and engage in fun activities that are also educational! Campers will hear from guest speakers and will meet many new animal friends during the week-long camps. Click here to learn more.

They learn about compassion through our school programming. Compassion Classroom is a program that teaches great character traits along with humane education. Listening Ears pairs a dog companion with reluctant readers, helping them build self-confidence. We use these unique programs to impact the next generation in our community. Click here for more information.

Responsibility is taught at our workshops. Our Vet For a Day, Junior Training and Kitten Around workshops are hands-on educational experiences that kids love! These single-day workshops are perfect to expose children to various careers within the animal welfare world. Click here to sign your child up today!

Parties celebrate our mission. Birthday parties are great for people of all ages to experience our shelter while also celebrating a life event! Whether it is a birthday, anniversary or other milestone, parties are a fun way to help continue educating our community. Email humaneeducation@vbspca.com to schedule your party today.