August 2022 Monthly Volunteer Profile: Jennie Diacos
When Jennie Diacos retired and sold all her businesses in 2021, she knew there were many local organizations that could use her help. But her life-long love of animals drew her to the Winnipeg Humane Society last fall. And she seems to keep finding more ways to help.
Among her businesses was a popular Osborne Village restaurant which she owned and managed with her brother. She was used to working seven days a week, so retirement created a need for something to help her wile away the hours. The WHS was a natural for her, and she keeps on volunteering for more roles.
“There’s a lot of places that need volunteers,” she pointed out. “This one is made for me – animals, meeting some kids and people. I just keep expanding what I’m doing there.”
Her primary role currently is volunteering with the See Spot Read program, where she brings her dog Rocky to a school (or the Humane Society classroom) and children read to Rocky, instead of reading to an adult.
“They sit there, they bring their own books to read to Rocky in a non-judgmental situation,” she explained. “He’s just there to get a cuddle. I’m there to help if I’m needed but honestly, I’m there more as the dog’s owner, and the kids just read to Rocky (or one of the other volunteers’ dogs).
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s great to see how the kids start out because sometimes they are a little tentative and not all of them start out as dog lovers but by the end, they’re all looking forward to seeing the dogs.”
Jennie is quick to credit Rocky for the success they’ve enjoyed in See Spot Read. He’s 18 months old and is 50% basset hound, 25% boxer and 25% Lab. He weighs in at 70 pounds.
She’s had dogs since she was a young girl, and Jennie said it’s made her a better dog care-giver. “He’s just the best dog I’ve ever had,” she said. “A real gem – just a sweetheart.” Except, perhaps, when he uses that leg strength to leap onto the dining room table. “You see that and you think ‘that’s pretty impressive. Now get down, Rocky,’” she laughed.
In addition to See Spot Read, Jennie and Rocky have made appearances as WHS dog ambassadors through the Animal Companionship Program at hospitals, schools, and campuses. They visited Westgate Mennonite Collegiate every day for a week. Students were given 15 minutes to meet in groups with Rocky. By the end of the week, the students would quickly take their places and Rocky would walk around the circle, visiting with each student and gladly accepting a treat from each of them.
“He was so good at it I didn’t even need to be there. They loved him,” Jennie laughed. “He plays to his crowd and knows his audience.”
Rocky and Jennie also visited the University of Manitoba campus during exams, a stressful time for students. Students would take a break from studying and come out to pet Rocky for a few minutes, escaping from the stresses of the ‘real world.’
Jennie and Rocky also acted as ambassadors for the One Great Lottery promotion at Polo Park earlier this year.
Jennie can draw on past experience for her dog ambassador duties. Years ago, when the shelter was on Kent Street, Jennie would pick up dogs at the shelter and take them to seniors’ homes for visits.
In addition, Jennie also is part of a small group of volunteers that picks up dogs at St. Andrews Airport and drives them to the Winnipeg Humane Society clinic. These are dogs or cats from northern Manitoba that have been injured and require surgery,” she pointed out. “There are four of us who do it. We’ll get a text message saying there are animals coming in. The four of us will have a group chat to decide who’ll do it. If it happens to be me, I’m happy to go to the airport and pick the animals up in their kennels.”
One time, she said, there was a bunch of puppies. Jennie said she talked to the pups in the car all the way down to the shelter and back to the airport (for their return trip) to keep them calm. “It’s a great program that WHS can do – look after these dogs’ medical needs and send them back up north,” she said.
Jennie has nothing but praise for the Winnipeg Humane Society and the people. “I come away from each day that I volunteer with a good feeling,” she said. “It’s easy. You could almost say I do this for selfish reasons because it makes me feel good. I see the animals when I’m there, walk around a little bit and just enjoy it. Rocky likes to come there too, especially in the winter because with a short-haired dog who’s low to the ground, there’s only so many things you can do in our climate.
“Staff and volunteers at the Humane Society are lovely. Everyone is there for the same reason, because they care about animals. Being there is always a good experience.”
Written by: Brian Kozak, Volunteer MVP Writer
Photo by: Jim Harvey, Volunteer MVP Photographer
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) recognizes the work and gets to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs 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 ([email protected]) and tell us why you think they should be an MVP!