Monthly Volunteer Profile: Michelle Hedin
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!
MVP is a volunteer-driven project with articles by Brian Kozak and pictures by Jim Harvey.
MVP: Michelle Hedin
Michelle Hedin has successfully made the transition from Winnipeg Humane Society volunteer to staff member. But the Foster Clerk hasn’t forgotten her volunteer roots and still commits much of her time and seemingly boundless energy to helping the animals.
Michelle got her volunteer start with the WHS socializing dogs in 2006. “I loved socializing the dogs so much I decided I wanted to do it as a profession,” she said. “One of the women here encouraged me to apply. I applied and I got hired in the Intake department. It was a good match because you get to deal with a lot of animals. I got to help out with Behavior as well.”
“When an opportunity in the Foster area became available that was something I’ve always wanted to do, so I jumped at the chance,” she added.
Michelle figures that in the seven years she’s been a WHS employee she has fostered hundreds of animals – mainly cats, but some dogs and the occasional rabbit, bird or guinea pig. As of this writing, she had two foster kittens but took in a mom cats and seven babies on an emergency basis.
“I said I would do it because I had the space and I only had two kittens,” she explained. “Mom was near death with a calcium deficiency because her babies were taking too much milk.” So now Michelle is bottle-feeding the little ones and Mom is making a full recovery.
So, of the hundreds, are there any foster animals that stand out to Michelle? “I had one kitten that was completely blind, “ she said. “This one got a really wonderful home after. He was just like normal. He would run around like any other kitten. He would learn where the walls and the furniture were and he would go about on his way. You’d think he would hurt himself but it was all good.
She also had a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a neurological condition sometimes referred to as ‘shaky cat’ syndrome. The disorder creates coordination and balance problems. “What a wonderful kitten!” Michelle said. “It had two siblings who would play but were so respectful for him. He got a great home too with a staff member here.”
In addition to her foster animals, Michelle also has two dogs, Lola and Candy, and a cat named Jazzy. No one who knows Michelle would be surprised to learn that they were adopted as fosters. But how has she been able to refrain from adding more pets to the household?
“I miss them when they come back, though. It’s always hard,” she explained. “I try not to visit them again because it hurts so much and they see me and they don’t understand why they can’t come back home with me.
“I always check to see where they’re at, though.”
Michelle’s volunteer involvement with the WHS extends well beyond her fostering animals. She comes in a minimum half-hour early every day on her own time to clear out the required paperwork and give her maximum time to focus on the animals.
And over the years she has combined her love for animals with another passion – sewing. “I do a lot of sewing,” she pointed out. Recently, Michelle designed and produced dog adoption vests that dogs wear when they are out at adoption events. “I also sew the little cat igloos that the kittens seem to love in the condos, and cage covers and toys for the animals.”
Being at the WHS gives Michelle job satisfaction. “I’ve worked many places,” she said. “Before this I’d never worked in a place where I’d go home and feel satisfied like this. I feel good and I’m lucky to work here.
“And volunteering here is so rewarding too. You can feel the love from the animals and see how they’re coming around from one day to the next.”