A Decade of Devotion: Kara’s Volunteer Journey with the SPCA

By Judy Layne

Sometimes it’s a family member who inspires us to volunteer with homeless animals. Sometimes it’s a beloved pet. And sometimes it’s both. Take Kara Hyland for instance, one of the Nova Scotia SPCA’s paw-some volunteers, who just celebrated 10 years of giving back to the animals!

Kara initially learned about volunteering from her older sister who was a long-time volunteer with the SPCA. Kara recalls “I loved hearing her stories about all the animals and the progress that they’d make. What eventually pushed me to sign up, and for dog care in particular, was my rescue dog Pippin that I adopted in 2012. He was adopted from the SPCA of Western Quebec, but he actually travelled all the way from Nunavut. He was a stray there and needed a lot of work and training to overcome his fear-based reactivity. Working with him made me see how patience, love and understanding can go a long way with animals.”

Over the years, Kara was happy to do whatever was needed, whatever would help. She relates “I’ve been a dog care volunteer for the entirety of my tenure with the SPCA. I have also done Girl Guide presentations at the shelter, which I loved because it was talking to children about what the SPCA does and actually having them meet some of our shelter animals. I’ve filled in as an adoption counsellor, which is always rewarding when I get to see our shelter animals leave for their fur-ever homes!”

Kara has also done various outreach events, such as helping to host a puppy event for donors and volunteering at the Evergreen Festival for SPCA pet photos. She says “At the Festival, there was a line-up for the whole day; a lot of pet parents had to wait a bit for their pets’ pictures to be taken but they were all so patient and just happy to participate. Some of the pets were SPCA alumni, and I loved talking to the owners about their pets and interacting with them while they waited. They were all so generous with their donations, it was a great experience for everyone!”

Kara has even done a pet therapy session at Dalhousie in conjunction with St. John’s Ambulance. “A big passion of mine is talking about the therapeutic effect animals have on us,” explains Kara. “When the SPCA and the therapy dog program at St. John’s Ambulance decided to do a dog session at Dalhousie during exams, I was happy to help! University students face a lot of pressure and most times, don’t have the benefit of having a pet of their own (busy schedules, no pets allowed in dorms or apartments). Giving the students an opportunity to take a break from the stress and interact with some adorable dogs was so much fun.”

Ask any volunteer and they’ll tell you how rewarding the experience is. Kara is no exception. In fact, she calls the shelter her ‘Happy Place’ and looks forward to going there every week where she fulfills two volunteer shifts – on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. She explains “The best thing about volunteering is the animals. I love seeing them come out of their shell once they realize they’re safe and cared for at the shelter, and when their personalities start to blossom.  I love watching them progress and start to open up with all the staff and the other volunteers. And most of all, I love it when someone special comes in, recognizes how amazing they are and decides to take them home! I also really appreciate and enjoy working alongside the other volunteers and staff who are as passionate about the animals as I am.”

Kara shared that many times when she talks to people about volunteering at the shelter, they ask her two questions: ‘How do you not take every animal home?’ – and – ‘Is it sad being there and seeing all the animals without homes?’  Kara says “I can’t take credit for having the willpower to not adopt every animal – my dog Pippin needs to be the only pet in the home, otherwise I probably would have a whole pack by now! As for seeing animals in the shelter, sometimes it can be sad, but I truly think the good outweighs that. When you see a dog wiggle their bum for the first time when you approach their kennel door or hear a cat purr when you give them chin scratches, it makes me feel good that I’m playing a part in the SPCA’s mission of finding animals their happily-ever-afters.”

There are so many different ways to volunteer at the SPCA both inside and outside the shelter. SPCA volunteers are actively involved at every stage of the rescue process.  From trapping and transporting feral cats, to keeping kennels and shelters clean, to walking dogs and cuddling cats, to doing office and maintenance work, to fostering animals, to taking photos of adorable adoptables and helping at various events, to working in our Thrift Stores, to fundraising.

Kara encourages everyone to consider volunteering and getting involved. She states “Apply online or send an email to the Volunteer Coordinator and they’ll be sure to have many different options of how to help that would suit your needs and wants! You can be part of a great community and make a difference in the lives of homeless animals.”

The SPCA is incredibly lucky to have hundreds of amazing volunteers across the province that share their time and talent and is extremely grateful for their tireless work. But with thousands of abused, neglected, injured, homeless animals to care for annually, there is much work to be done and never enough hands. Are you ready to put your paw up and help? To find out more information and to apply, click here. You can also contact Catherine, SPCA Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@spcans.ca or call 1-844-835-4798. Come see for yourself why the SPCA has been voted as one of the Best Place to Volunteers in The Coast!

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.