There are people who are passionate about their profession, and then there is Sandy Graul.
The Sabattus resident has been the volunteer coordinator for the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston for 11 years, not taking a day for granted. “People spend their entire lives looking for something they’re good at,” Graul said. “I was lucky to find something that I like.”
The non-profit organization aims to protect and find homes for stray animals. It was created in 1885 by former Governor of Maine Nelson M. Dingley Jr. of Lewiston and today helps more than 3,500 animals to be adopted each year. Graul started her career at the shelter taking care of cats, became a volunteer coordinator and has been “in love ever since.”
“She really goes beyond her role as volunteer coordinator,” said Samantha Sainte Marie, volunteer at the shelter. “Sandy is one of the few people in a director / coordinator position who actually ends up in the trenches with the volunteers. She is always involved and (has) always a smile on her face.
Graul is in charge of running awareness programs and fundraisers that promote the adoption of pets in the region, such as the company’s Clear the Shelter, which strives to get every animal adopted in one. daytime.
“We would have queues at the gate, people waiting to come and adopt,” Graul said of past events. In 2019, the end of summer effort had a 100% success rate.
Pet adoptions have been going well during the pandemic. One in five households has adopted a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In the hope that people would slowly return to work, however, the shelters braced themselves for a large number of surrenders that would befall them.
The staff at the Lewiston shelter didn’t have to worry. Many pet owners have chosen to continue working remotely, as have entire businesses. The same ASPCA survey found that tThe majority of these new pet owners kept their pets: 90% for dog owners and 85% for cat owners.
Graul adopted his dog, Nina, from the shelter. “She had been here for four years. There was an event at Petco (in Auburn) where she was one of 12 adopted dogs, but someone brought her back.
Having attached himself to the dog, letting him wander and hang out in his office, Graul took the opportunity to adopt him outright. “My husband knows not to push me with me when it comes to animals, because it’s him or the dog, and sorry to say that, but sometimes I will choose the dog.”
Graul’s dedication to his work cannot be easily discouraged. Feeling tired and afraid to go to work one morning, she found a PBS documentary flipping through the channels. It focused on animal euthanasia practices in Illinois and depicted the gassing of several golden labs. “I said, ‘I guess I’m going to work today! “”
The ultimate goal of shelter staff is to find a home for each animal in their care. Animals are paired with owners the same way they are paired with volunteers to care for them: by measuring their temperament and comfort level. For Graul, getting the right person in the right place in this line of work is integral; that way you know they will stay and thrive.
“When I put in volunteers to take care of and help the staff take care of these animals, it is very important that I can read their hearts,” said Graul.
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