Monthly Volunteer Profile: Richard Nichol
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: Richard Nichol
Story by Brian Kozak, photo by Jim Harvey
Like so many other volunteers at the Winnipeg Humane Society, Richard Nichol has done a bit of everything because he wants to do whatever he can to help the animals and the organization.
He began his WHS volunteer journey in September 2009, the year before he retired from a career with the Manitoba Government. For much of his adult life, Richard had done volunteer work with amateur sports organizations and continues to volunteer with his church. In 2009, “there was a void,” when his children moved out of sports and a need to plan for retirement according to Richard.
The shelter had just moved much closer to his home, so Richard decided to give it a try.
Initially he thought he would be best suited for dog walking because he had owned and enjoyed dogs all his life. “I thought I could walk dogs, but I was told ‘everybody wants dogs and there was a long wait list,” he explained. “So instead they suggested I start with rabbit wrangling and evening care with the cats.”
It proved be to an enjoyable and educational experience. “I learned a lot about how to care for rabbits during that time,” he laughed. “I also learned they all have unique personalities, can kick hard and some of have quite a bite.
As time moved on, Richard took on other responsibilities. He also did more evening care, where much of his time was spent feeding and caring for cats and helping with the walking of the dogs in the back of the shelter and Clinic.
He quickly discovered that they too, like rabbits, have their own distinct personalities and some are very strong.
One day, he was walking a Great Pyrenees, which Wikipedia says grow up to 55 kg and are known to be strong-willed. The one with Richard decided that day to bolt and dragged Richard across the grass before eventually stopping and coming back to check on him.
On another occasion, Richard had a Coonhound in the back of the shelter. The dog, not quite as large as but equally determined as the Great Pyrenees, decided it really needed to go to the bathroom NOW. It too took off and pulled Richard “like a water skier” down the floor in the back of the shelter as some staff and volunteers watched with amusement.
There have also been days that sadden Richard. He was at the shelter one day when about 60 dogs were brought in, seized from a location in rural Manitoba. “Many of them were in rough shape – sores, beat up – some never made it,” he said. “But in a way it was inspiring to see the dedication of the staff, and volunteers doing whatever they could for these animals in very difficult circumstances and seeing numerous success stories of the survivors – all of which made me more determined to help in whatever way I can.”
He also had a chance outside meeting with a dog he’d worked with at the shelter. “I’ve done some stints enumerating for elections and at a house on Wellington I met a dog I had walked a number of times in clinic and when it moved to adoptions” he said. “I recognized it right away because it was a front-leg amputee. It recognized me too.
“These people were treating the dog very well. It’s nice to see good things happening to the dogs that were in your care and that there are success stories when they leave the shelter.
Richard’s volunteer service has now extended to the executive of the WHS. “In 2015 they needed somebody to record the minutes for the boards and I volunteered,” he explained. “There are benefits to both in terms of consistency of format. It is a pleasure working with the boards and their members. The members are all passionate, extremely knowledgeable quality people.”
“I and the rest of the board truly appreciate the way Richard conducts his work recording our minutes,” explained Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Javier Schwersensky. “It’s almost as though Richard plans his life around the board and its meetings.
“Richard takes the most complete, meticulous notes you can imagine,” continued Schwersensky. “And equally important, he fully understands the principles of privacy and discretion. His minutes are just phenomenal and hiring a recorder for board minutes can be very expensive. We are very lucky to have Richard.”
And in what’s left of his spare time, Richard has also helped out behind the scenes at events like the Used Book and DVD Sale, Bow Wow Ball and Paws in Motion, where he’s done the can/coin counting or counting donations. “In talking to Kelle Greene (WHS Manager, Volunteer Services) I recognize there’s lots of opportunities, so if there’s a hole to be filled, let me know what I can do to help.”
“I enjoy working with everyone. The staff and volunteers are all excellent, very dedicated and welcoming people. It’s very enlightening.”