Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Sarah O’Leary on 2/12/23
Today’s interview is with Leonard, who has been a very active volunteer with Dog Star for a few years and recently became Transport Director on the Board. Thanks again to Leonard for agreeing to be interviewed! This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Sarah: Hi Leonard! Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself and your involvement with Dog Star?
Leonard: My involvement consists of two parts… the first part is that I just happened to be at Hooker Brewery having a beer and our volunteers came in with some of our dogs to socialize them. So, I got to meet the dogs and that is probably what made the difference. Before I had all of these negative stereotypes about rescue dogs and that whole thing and I met the dogs and I was like “These dogs are awesome!” And then, a couple months later our dog passed away and we thought this would be a cool way to honor our dog and also help some dogs as well. That was the second piece that got me to volunteer.
Sarah: Gotcha! And what position do you have with Dog Star?
Leonard: I am the Director of Transport now and I am a foster. Those would be the main positions.
Sarah: And again, congratulations on your Board position!
Leonard: Thank you!
Sarah: What do you think led you to want to work with Dog Star as a volunteer?
Leonard: I like animals and I do like dogs. Just being able to meet the dogs and I am lucky that it is right in town for me so that helps, but the dogs were really the big piece of that.
Sarah: What is your favorite thing about Dog Star?
Leonard: My favorite thing would be all of the things you have the opportunity to do like having a litter of puppies for the weekend or taking dogs to the Puppy Bowl. In addition, it is really rewarding when you are able to work with some of these dogs, like the ones that don’t trust people or like men, and earn their trust. It’s a good feeling.
Sarah: A great example of that was Rey.
Leonard: Yeah, I know the dogs don’t understand English but I think they get the tone. So, I always tell them something like “I really respect that you’ve given me this trust”.
Sarah: I feel like it is pretty apparent that you are very involved with Dog Star. Something that many volunteers have noticed and also appreciated is that you take a lot of dogs on adventures throughout the week, especially adoptable Poppy. How did that start?
Leonard: I think that mainly started with the recognition that with some of our dogs, the kennel and the time that they get with volunteers just isn’t enough for them based on their breed and personality. So, if there is a dog that I think I would connect with around those things and I have the time to do it, then I want to get them out. I try to connect with all the dogs in the kennel, just knowing that I may need to handle them at some point or get them to listen to me.
Sarah: From your perspective, how does this benefit the dog? Maybe talk about Poppy specifically, considering her breed and temperament.
Leonard: One of the things I find very interesting about Dog Star is all of the breeds I am exposed to that I probably would never have seen or known about. Poppy is clearly a beautiful dog. I do like the hound dogs. And with her, she is a high energy breed. Hounds are known for being pretty stubborn and I often handle her at adoption events so I want her to listen to me and have a connection with me. In addition, I like hiking, we’ve even seen each other hiking before, and that is what she loves. She is a natural on the leash, she just loves being out there walking so it is a really good connection for Poppy and I.
Sarah: I feel like a lot of volunteers have seen the connection between you and Poppy. I’ve had similar experiences with some of our dogs that I’ve been able to take on hikes. It is such an amazing and rewarding feeling. Do you have any advice for current volunteers or for people who are interested in getting involved with Dog Star?
Leonard: With current volunteers, I would recommend that they try to explore different areas and opportunities of the rescue. In addition, they should get familiar with how parts of the rescue work and general rules with the dogs, such as leash-handling. Personally, I try to be a team player and help out in any way I can. Just try your best to be helpful and help other people.
For people wanting to join, I would recommend that they come down, meet the dogs, and see the different things that happen. You never know what will speak to you specifically and it may not be what you thought you would be doing. However, then you find something that you really enjoy and know where you fit in.
Sarah: Piggybacking off of what you said about helping out wherever you can, my mindset with Dog Star is that the rescue, and the world itself, never stops needing help. Do what you can when you can. There is always a place for someone at Dog Star.
Leonard: Yeah, it is similar to people coming into the rescue with a specific dog in mind, but then another dog speaks to them. I think that’s the same thing here, like you are set on doing one thing but then it’s not necessarily what you want to do, so you find something else that makes you happy.
Sarah: You are definitely a knowledgeable and skilled person with the dogs. I am curious if you had any background or experience with dogs, other than having your own dogs?
Leonard: That’s interesting. I’ve definitely done reading of books about that and I have to credit James, our Behavior Lead. By watching him you can pick up a lot. With wild animals in general, at least with the ones that are in my area, I do develop these relationships with them which might sound weird. We’ll get to a point where I can see certain animals and when I see them, I just sit down on the ground and they’ll just hang out and do their thing and we’ll do ours. Professionally, I am a psychologist. There are a lot of things about the shelter-rescue world that are the same in the human world, so there is an easy transfer for some of that knowledge.
Sarah: My last question to you is how has Dog Star influenced your life or life goals?
Leonard: That was a good question! I never considered doing this type of work before like keeping us on a regular schedule of fostering dogs. I just fell into it, it’s not what I expected or planned to do. Goal-wise, there are certain dogs that I want to connect with. It’s not like I want to connect with 200 dogs and then I’m done. It’s just an ongoing and rewarding thing to do. The better I can be at working with dogs and helping them with their problems, I feel like that is a loosely-defined goal of mine. The more diverse I can be with helping different types of dogs would be a goal of mine. I’ve talked to some volunteers at the rescue about learning about dog first-aid. Basically, learning how to better care for dogs, being a better handler, and being able to work with a broader range of dogs. I definitely want to be there to the end with Poppy. I want to see her get a good home. That’s my current goal. That kid needs the right home. I’d love to go the distance with her and see her get what she needs.
Sarah: All amazing things! Without a doubt, there is the one out there for Poppy.
Leonard: I found a Coonhound Rescue online in Northern Massachusetts and they do courtesy posting for other rescues. I haven’t seen her posting yet but they said they would. I hope that this helps attract the right people to Poppy.
Sarah: Wow, that’s a great opportunity for her. Hopefully that works out!
Leonard: I really hope so. I am going to ask a reverse question: what is it like up there (at the University of Vermont) dogless?
Sarah: It is sad! I check in with my dogs all of the time, I check every single day to keep up-to-date with Dog Star dogs and see if there are any movements. I certainly miss that companionship with my own dogs and the Dog Star people and dogs. I hang out with my friends here more often than I do at home, so I feel like it balances out to an extent. Plus, school work keeps me crazy busy. I miss dogs and I can’t wait to go back home and just hang out with some. Trust me though, it’s not as bad as people may think, considering how dog-obsessed I am.
Leonard: Well, I think it is awesome that you still come by for everything when you’re back in town. And obviously, you are a valued volunteer here and pretty dog with the dog yourself, and you do the same thing with getting the dogs out and about. I think everyone notices that and appreciates that.
Sarah: Right back at you Leonard! Well, it was lovely talking to you! Per usual, you are continuing to do great things for Dog Star so keep it up!
Leonard: You too!
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I hope you have a great day and I will see you soon!