By Nicole Forsyth, RedRover President and CEO
In mid-April, I had the opportunity to spend four days on the ground at the Monadnock Humane Society in New Hampshire, where our RedRover Responders staff helped build a new space to house the pets of domestic violence survivors who are fleeing abusive relationships. We anticipate being able to safely deploy volunteers again soon, but in the meantime, we’ve been sending a small number of staff to assist on the ground wherever we can. And I’m so grateful I was able to be a part of this deployment!
The project also overlapped with my 15-year work anniversary at RedRover, and I can’t think of a better way I could have spent that anniversary than at a collaborative project between the animal shelter, RedRover, and GreaterGood Charities’ Rescue Rebuild program.
The highlight of Day 1 was seeing RedRover staff members Katie and Devon, and working side-by-side in person with people for the first time in a year! Devon and I spent a large part of the first day assembling raised dog beds and other furniture for the visitation room. Meanwhile, Katie and the Rescue Rebuild crew members were working hard, converting what was a storage garage into the indoor kennel space and visitation room and refurbishing the outdoor dog runs with new chain link fencing.
On Day 2, we had a surprise: snow! Since I’m from New Hampshire, this wasn’t new to me – April snowstorms are not unexpected – but it was novel nonetheless. Devon and I enjoyed the storm from inside, where we worked on painting.
I spent Day 3 and 4 putting up the privacy screening in the chain link and a lot of wire tying – securing the new chain link to the poles. On these days, as well as Day 1 and 2, I saw so much gratitude from the volunteers and staff at the shelter who made or purchased lunches for us – as well as two cakes, cookies, and brownies! We also had many dog-visit breaks with the staff’s rescued dogs Calliope, Hunter, and Seamus, as well as sweet, shy dogs available for adoption at the shelter. This was a win-win for us and the shelter dogs! Volunteers out walking dogs brought them over to us and our strange tools and noises to say hello, which was a nice socialization experience for them, and gave us a break and reminder of why we do what we do. Not that anyone needed more motivation though! I have never seen a group of people so hard at work, and skilled, knowledgeable, patient, and helpful to each other as well as the cause.
Knowing that New Hampshire – and specifically this region where I went to high school so many years ago – has this space available for domestic violence survivors and others in crisis is deeply meaningful for me. Currently, the state has only one domestic violence (DV) shelter that is pet-friendly, and it is more than two hours away from this region. I am grateful that the Monadnock Humane Society, their board directors, and supportive community have stepped up to fulfill this need in their community, and I look forward to continuing to explore ways animal shelters and other community-based organizations can find innovative ways to implement solutions in their communities to improve the lives of both animals and people.
My four days on deployment were filled with moments of feeling RedRover’s mission to my core. My experience was a reminder of why I am so passionate about collaboration: seeing the different strengths, knowledge, experiences, and connections come together, not to mention just how much more can be accomplished through positive teamwork, is endlessly energizing for me.
There is so much more to come. In May, I am traveling again to a different community to explore a new collaborative partnership that I hope to share more about soon. RedRover’s antiracism work is leading to dozens of new ideas and new ways we can better support people and animals in crisis and strengthen human-animal relationships. I read somewhere early in the pandemic that this can be a time for people (and organizations) to incubate, and while we may not have control over how long the incubation is, how we emerge after that incubation is entirely within our control. I believe RedRover will emerge in true metamorphosis fashion with strong, expansive, beautiful, and inclusive wings.
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