Volunteer Interview: Sarah O’Leary

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Sarah O’Leary, interviewed by Francis Aguisanda 10/20/22

Today’s interview is with Sarah O’Leary, who has been a volunteer with Dog Star for a few years and works with many teams here at the rescue. Thanks again to Sarah for agreeing to be interviewed! This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Francis: Sarah, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sarah: I’m Sarah! I’m 19 years old and am a current college student at the University of Vermont. I’m studying environmental science and minoring in marine biology, but back home, I was a very active volunteer with Dog Star. I’m part of the behavior, kennel, adoption events, and marketing teams and I absolutely adore it! Both of my dogs that I have rescued have been through Dog Star. My first dog, Bandit, was at the very first adoption event at Dogology that Dog Star ever had back in 2014!

Francis: Get out, that’s so cool!

Sarah: Yeah, it’s full circle for me now that I’m a volunteer, and I can’t speak more highly of the rescue.

Francis: You mentioned that you got your dogs from Dog Star, but what made you want to work with us as a volunteer?

Sarah: A few years ago, I was looking at a lot of rescues. It had always been my dream to volunteer at a dog rescue, and I always had Dog Star in the back of my mind. The main reason why I started volunteering with Dog Star was actually because we were looking for a second dog. We were initially drawn to Koby, James Mackey’s dog, after seeing a photo of him but we soon realized that he would not be a good fit for us. I started talking to Michelle Brown at an adoption event, who is on the board and leads marketing and communications. She encouraged me to volunteer, which I did! I was very excited and am very pleased I made that decision.

Francis: One of the things that a lot of noticed over the summer was that you would take a lot of dogs from the kennel on hikes. How did that start?

Sarah: I’m very close with my family and we would go on hikes all the time. I said to my Dad, who had some extra free time, “Would you be interested in doing some volunteer stuff with Dog Star?” He wasn’t as interested in the events and kennel teams as I was, so we tried to find a middle ground. We were originally going to do some work around HQ, but my dad suggested bringing dogs on hikes and giving them a fun and well-deserved experience. It started from there – we took around 20 hikes this summer!

Francis: Awesome, that is very cool! Do you have any advice for current volunteers at Dog Star or for people who are interested in getting involved?

Sarah: It is very worth your time! You gain a lot of valuable skills, no matter where you are in life. I’ve been learning different skill sets and meeting lots of new people. I would highly encourage people to get involved. You can get involved on many different levels. If you only have a few hours a week, or even a month, Dog Star will welcome you. It’s a really empowering experience and the rescue is such a positive and worthwhile community to be a part of.

Francis: Thanks Sarah! That’s a really great perspective. I just have one more question for you, since you’re in college now – how has working for Dog Star influenced your life and goals?

Sarah: Volunteering with Dog Star has helped me become more mature. It also really helped me out during the college application process – one of the acceptance letters I got back actually mentioned Dog Star! Being a part of this rescue has been influential on where I am today. I have full intentions of continuing to work with dogs as much as I can here at the university. For example, there’s a club at UVM (the University of Vermont) where you volunteer to train service dogs. In addition, every Friday I spend time training some faculty member’s dogs in my building. I also have the intention of volunteering with the humane society in South Burlington, VT once I have adapted more to college life. After college, I really hope things work out so that I can continue to volunteer with Dog Star and make impactful change. I’m definitely making an effort, even here, trying to figure out how I can help out and whenever I come back home, I will also volunteer with Dog Star. When I was able to go home and volunteer with Dog Star for the first time since I got to college, it felt like Christmas morning! The volunteer experience has been truly life changing and I am forever grateful for all of the experiences.

Thank you, Sarah, for chatting with me. It was great (and so inspiring) to hear about your experience with Dog Star!