2021 March MVP: Eve Finnbogason, Adoption Team
When lawyer Eve Finnbogason moved back to Winnipeg in late 2008 after retiring, one of the things she wanted to do was sign up to volunteer at the Winnipeg Humane Society. It didn’t take her long. By early 2009 she was volunteering as a Cat Adoption Assistant, where she’s been for over a dozen years.
“It was something I always wanted to do but never had the time. It’s been an excellent volunteer gig. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work over my career, but this I’ve done for purely personal reasons, and it’s been great. The best part is interacting with the animals and helping them find good homes.”
“And the way volunteers are coordinated and the liaison with staff is first rate,” she continued. “I can’t praise the staff members highly enough. If you volunteer for the long term you work with lots of people and everyone seems to bring the same level of commitment and positivity to the job, regardless of what they’re doing.”
Volunteering came naturally for Eve. “I was raised in a family where everyone volunteered for something,” she explained. “My parents were very active volunteers in a number of organizations and both my brother and I grew up with the idea that everyone should contribute to the community.”
Her love for cats began at an early age. She had a cat from the time she was born until she started university. It was a Siamese, who dispelled any rumours that this was not a friendly breed. “As a young child, I remember dressing my cat up in baby clothes and putting her in my doll carriage, and when I was doing homework from school. she’d sit on it. The experience of growing up with a pet teaches a child so much in terms of empathy and responsibility. And you’re never alone when you have a pet.”
She said cats are her favourite because they are such great companions and typically so clean and quiet. When she meets potential customers, who are unsure of what they want to adopt, she asks questions about their lifestyle. If they are out of the house during the day every day and often in the evening, a cat might be a better choice than a dog, which requires a lot more time for daily exercise and training.
The Humane Society usually has a good pet for everyone, she stressed. “It’s fascinating when people come in with a very specific list of what they’re looking for, in terms of fur colour or eye colour and age and gender. If you get them to look around a bit, often the cat with whom they feel a connection doesn’t match their list at all. Anyone who has volunteered in the cats’ area has experienced clients who come in looking for a kitten and leave with a senior cat. Often it feels like the cat chooses them.”
Every time she volunteers, there is a cat Eve thinks about after her shift, but there’s one day she’ll never forget. “A parent and little boy (three or four) came in looking for a young cat because there had been a separation in the family and their cat had moved out with the other parent. He was very shy little boy, and they thought a kitten would be ideal company for him. We had a room of younger cats, but someone was already in there. I explained they would have to wait a few minutes but suggested that they could spend some time with a very nice cat in another room while they waited. This cat was almost as big as the boy, but he was a lovely cat with a great personality so, they went in and the cat hit it off with the child. When the people in the other room left, I told them that they could visit those cats. The boy looked up at me and said, ‘He loves me’ and the big cat was adopted on the spot. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place that day.”
Like many WHS volunteers, Eve said she has friends and family members who tell her they couldn’t volunteer at the Humane Society because they’d want to take all the animals home. “What I always tell them is that it’s crucial to keep the animals socialized and to ensure they have positive and loving interactions with people so they are adoptable,” she said. “Even though it’s a lovely shelter, it’s still a shelter. It’s stressful for the cats and I’m sure for the dogs too. Without the kind of loving human contact that they get from volunteers, they would be so much less ready to meet the members of the public that might adopt them.”
“The WHS certainly has the reputation of an excellent facility and a necessary facility within the city, and I think a lot of people don’t recognize that this is not supported by government funding,” she stressed. “With the exception of city and provincial contracts for services, the source of revenue to keep the doors open is primarily donations and volunteer time and so forth. With these financial restrictions, the organization does a fabulous job.”
Eve’s contributions and hard work are recognized by the Humane Society. “Eve provides excellent customer service and always has a smile on her face,” said Kristina Graham, Manager, Adoptions and Retail. “She is a wonderful asset to the Adoptions Team and really helps support both clients visiting cats and staff whenever she is on site. If we could clone her, we would!”
More people should volunteer with the WHS, Eve pointed out. “My view is that the Humane Society is about the best place you can spend a couple of hours a week, no matter what else you do. You never leave here not feeling better than you were when you came in. No matter how lousy a week you’ve had, the cats are always happy to see you.”
“And the good feeling you get and the service that you perform by volunteering is worth its weight in gold.”
Written by: Brian Kozak, Volunteer
Photo by: Jim Harvey, Volunteer
A group of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Humane Society in 1894 and are vital to our success today! With the help of volunteers, we can provide care, love and attention to our four (and sometimes two) legged friends until they find their forever homes. The MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) will recognize the work and get to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs will receive a framed photo and gift card as our thanks!
Is there a volunteer you’d like to nominate to be MVP? E-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us why you think they should be an MVP!