For the Good of Dogs: Volunteers Make All the Difference

Volunteers are the unsung heroes of all humane oranigazions and dog rescue groups. In this issue of Bay Woof, we introduce you to ten people who have made a difference in countless lives by donating their time, skill, and love to canines in need.

Needless to say, this is just a small sampling of local people who are dedicated volunteers. We sent out a call for superstar nominees and went with the first ten we heard about. Volunteers who weren’t included: please know that we salute you, too!

If you aren’t yet a humane volunteer but are inspired by this feature to get involved for the good of dogs, consider contributing your time and talent to the efforts of a local group. You won’t get a paycheck, but the non-tangible rewards are huge. Keep in mind that children, too, can participate in many volunteer activities and what they learn will stay with them for a lifetime.

To learn about orientation schedules or the specific needs of various organizations, please see our shelter list under Online Resources at and contact shelters and rescue groups directly.

In the side bar is a listing of the volunteer positions generally available at humane organizations and rescue groups throughout the Bay Area. Though this list focuses on dog-related volunteer work, many of the same services are needed for cats and other animals.



Ilana Strubel


Dr. Strubel examine a canine client in Mission Bay; Credit: Emilia Gordon

Profession/day job: Veterinarian

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: 25 years

First volunteer job: Volunteer dog walker at the Houston SPCA at age 15

Current volunteer efforts: In 2001, I founded Veterinary Street Outreach Services (VET SOS) and I continue to volunteer as the VET SOS Project Coordinator. We provide veterinary care to homeless people’s animal companions.

Number of hours you donate per week/month: Approximately 30 to 60 hours a month, depending on our clients’ needs.

What makes it all worthwhile: When I provide veterinary care for a homeless person’s sick or injured animal companion, I’m also helping the person who loves and needs that animal.


Sharon Lohman 


Sharon with her father’s dog, Nonnie; Credit: Carla Johns

Profession/day job: I care for my 92-year-old father. My REAL job is volunteering, which takes about 60 hours a week! 

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: I have been volunteering for forty-three years, the past four working directly with animals at Merced County Animal Control. 

First volunteer job: Caring for children in a church nursery at 13 years old 

Current volunteer efforts: I am the Volunteer Rescue Coordinator at Merced County Animal Control. Merced is a very poor rural county and we have a lot of discarded animals. I facilitate getting animals out of the Merced shelter and into rescue groups all over California, and as far away as Colorado. This past February, we got 283 animals into rescues. I often feel like an animal broker – finding out which rescues can take which animals and arranging transport. We have formed a nonprofit group named “Trails of Happy Tails” and rely on donations and gas cards to keep our minivan rolling! 

Number of hours you donate per week/month: About 60 hours a week. 

What makes it all worthwhile: To look into the eyes of animals and realize that they now have a chance at being loved as part of a family.


Todd Trundle


Todd with Parker, best buddy and pet-assisted therapy parner; Credit: Todd Trundle

Profession/day job: Raising two girls, ages 3 and 5 1/2.

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: I have been volunteering at the PHS & SPCA for almost 2 years now.

First volunteer job and your age at the time: In my twenties, visiting the veterans affairs hospital with my mother, who has been volunteering in some capacity as long as I can remember.

Current volunteer efforts: I participate in the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA’s Pet-Assisted Therapy program with my dog Parker. We visit the Brookside Skilled Nursing Hospital every Monday morning. I also occasionally go on mentoring visits with newly graduated Pet Partner teams at new facilities. Parker and I also participate in the PHS/SPCA PAWS For Tales Program at the Redwood City main library, where children read books to us once a month.

Number of hours you donate per week/month: 6 to 10 hours per month

What makes it all worthwhile:  Besides the fact that each outing is solid bonding time with Parker, it is the happy faces on the folks we visit, no question.


Linda Chwistek


Linda (left) with BADRAP volunteer Elizabeth and trainee Stella; Credit: Tim Racer

Profession/day job: Logistics manager and partner, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: 18 years

First volunteer job: I did independent rescue on and off after graduating from college, then at 32 decided to try volunteering and joined a local animal rescue group. We operated on a shoestring budget, re-homing stray dogs and cats from a trailer at the farmer’s market every Saturday, rain or shine.

Current volunteer efforts: I volunteer with BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), coaching group Canine Good Citizen classes every Saturday morning (yes, still rain or shine). I also volunteer as a trainer with the Vallejo Dog Training Club, coordinating its community service projects. The Benicia/Vallejo Humane Society occasionally asks me to educate potential adopters about dog ownership. I am hooked on the dog sport of agility and volunteer with my agility Pit Bull at events promoting responsible dog ownership. 

Number of hours you donate per week/month: It’s not uncommon for me to spend 20 hours per week holding classes, answering questions on the phone or by email, and working on events.

What makes it all worthwhile: My dogs enrich my life. When I train pets and their owners, I’m helping them stay together and enrich their lives. How good is that!


Laura Rathe


Laura and Wayne Rathe with family farm dogs; Credit: Laura Rathe

Profession/day job: Retired

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: 12 years 

First volunteer job: I have been rescuing animals my entire life.

Current volunteer efforts:  My husband and I run a non profit animal rescue called “Pets Without Partners,” pulling dogs from high-kill shelters and preparing them for rehoming. We also work with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation as canine recruiters, traveling to shelters to find search-and-rescue candidates. We work with our local shelter, too, and showcase the “Pet of the Week” on local TV and radio stations.

Number of hours you donate per week/month: This is a lifetime commitment and we spend all day/every day working with our rescued animals. There will never be enough hours in the day to get our work done
What makes it all worthwhile: To turn society’s throw-away pets into cherished family members. To rescue dogs from certain death and see the faces of the new guardians as they meet their new canine partners for the first time. To watch dogs that are frozen in fear blossom into loving and faithful companions.


Sandra Olson


Sandy and Sasha at a Paws to Read event; Credit: Elaine Stanley

Profession/day job: Sales executive for Bay Woof

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: 4 years

First volunteer job: Working with Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) in my early 30s

Current volunteer efforts: My Golden Retriever Sasha and I got trained by Therapy Pets to do animal assisted therapy. Now we make two visits per month to a senior assisted living facility in Alameda and participate in two Paws to Read programs at Alameda library. We also work with Berkeley/EB Humane Society’s education program once or twice a month. 

Number of hours you donate per week/month: Probably about 10 hours a month

What makes it all worthwhile:

It’s a wonderful way to strengthen and share the love/bond I have with Sasha. My life is busy with 

working and being a caregiver to two parents. Volunteering with Sasha keeps me connected 

with the humane community and is as emotionally rewarding for me as it is for those we visit. 


Carol Tessler 



Carol with family dogs Buckie and Tatum; Credit: Larry Tessler


Profession/day job: Retired

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: Since 1978

First volunteer job: San Francisco Zoomobile Program at age 36

Current volunteer efforts: I am an animal care volunteer for Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). I assist animal trainers in agility and obedience training, socialize animals with medical problems, do yard work, help out at ARF Thrift Store, and take on miscellaneous duties as needed.

Number of hours you donate per week/month: Minimum of 25 hours per month

What makes it all worthwhile: The satisfaction I experience from working with and helping the dogs, as well as the camaraderie shared with the ARF staff and other volunteers.


Candace Byers 


Candace and Hayat, her mixed-breed rescue; Credit: Kathy Wood

Profession/day job: Physician assistant, internal medicine

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: Since 2000

First volunteer job: Berkeley Community Health Project at age 21

Current volunteer efforts: Vet tech at Berkeley East Bay Humane Society

Number of hours you donate per week/month: 9 hours per week

What makes it all worthwhile: The work I do at the BEBHS is of direct, concrete benefit to the lives of beings, and the animals give me joy.


Tim Tyler


Tim with his Min-Pins, Nike and Baby, and assorted foster dogs; Credit: Lindsay Reynolds

Profession/day job: Senior Systems Analyst for a Silicon Valley aerospace firm.

Number of years you have been a humane volunteer: Started fostering dogs about 10 years ago.

First volunteer job: Something way back when I was a Cub Scout.

Current volunteer efforts: I help out with TLC, behavior, outreach, fostering, mobile adoptions, and veterinary services for The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.

Number of hours you donate per week/month: I don’t keep track, but not enough.

What makes it all worthwhile: Rehabilitating aggressive or timid dogs and being part of the process that lets people leave PHS with wonderful new additions to their families.


The following was compiled by Tina Carroll.

Administrative and Web Support
Data entry, phone support, envelope stuffing, and other office duties are essential to every organization. If you are a web wizard, your skills are invaluable to shelters and rescue groups.

Adoption Counseling
It is important work to match families with their perfect pets. Many agencies use such volunteers both onsite and for mobile adoption efforts.

Animal Transportation
Volunteers are always needed to drive shelter animals to vets, groomers, and foster homes. 

Board Membership
If you like politics, serve on the board of a local shelter organization. Offer your ideas and be part of the solution!

Canine Care
Dogs in shelters need individualized attention. Volunteers can provide playtime, walking, feeding, grooming, and just plain affection. Cleaning kennels is also essential. 

Community Outreach
Represent your local shelters at special events by distributing literature and  encouraging people to support humane programs and services.

Foster Care
Foster families provide temporary shelter for dogs with special needs or those who need a home until a permanent adoption takes place. There is always a great need in this area.

Volunteers can assist in fund-raising endeavors by soliciting donations of goods and services and helping to plan, implement, and staff events. 

Well-groomed dogs have a much better chance of getting adopted, and volunteers are needed to keep them looking great.

Humane Education
Teach children and adults the importance of compassion and respect for animals by making presentations at schools or leading tours at your local shelter. 

Help out by writing articles, covering events, or producing newsletters and flyers. 

Your talent can help provide a face for animals in need. Take pictures of adoptable pets or shoot events and activities for a local group.

Veterinary Assistance
At shelters that offer spay/neuter services, volunteers can help with prep and aftercare for dogs. Booking appointments, calling owners for pickup, and cleaning up are other clinic-related services volunteers can perform. 

Other Ways to Help

  1. Donate your services as a carpenter, electrician, painter, or repair person.
  2. Train a “service dog,” such as a seeing-eye or hearing assistance companion animal. 
  3. Get trained with your favorite canine to provide pet-assisted therapy. 
  4. Gather donated items for shelters, such as newspapers, bedding, and food.
  5. Get involved in off-leash issues and other dog-related politics.
  6. Give money, the most valuable asset for any shelter or rescue organization.