2021 Volunteer Spotlight
We are so thankful for our wonderful volunteers and Happily Furever After Rescue would not be able to operate without their support and dedication to helping animals in need. Check out our incredible foster families who helped make 2021 a success. We are so grateful for all of these wonderful people!
JANUARY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: DANIELLE AHNE
Danielle Ahne has been a foster volunteer with Happily Furever After Rescue since conception in March 2020. Since then, she has fostered 14 dogs to date, many of which have been ones who needed extra TLC and socialization. In addition to fostering, Danielle has been a key player in networking our adoptable animals across social media.
"Being deaf/hard of hearing, Happily Furever After Rescue gave me the opportunity to foster, whereas many other organizations never gave me a chance. I have been able to be a voice for these dogs, and that's the most rewarding part. Each one that comes into my home, holds a special place in my heart. While it can be hard, it's all worth it when I see the wonderful families they end up with." When she's not fostering dogs in need, Danielle enjoys refurbishing furniture and spending time with her own pup, of which she rescued, Hailey.
FEBRUARY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: THE GOMEZ FAMILY
The Gomez family began fostering in July of 2020. After moving into their new home, they knew they wanted to do something to help animals in need. To date, they have fostered six dogs and have continued to show compassion, devotion, and endless love to the animals that come through their home. "We love that we can give dogs a second chance at a better life. Their stories break our hearts but it is so rewarding to see how far they come in only a short time with us. The best part is witnessing once fearful dogs gain our trust.
Fostering has filled our home with more love and joy. Each dog will always have a special place in our hearts. I also love how involved our two boys are. They really like helping to take care of the dogs and our oldest, Ethan, even posts a picture of each pup on his Google Classroom. I love that they can share this with others and help spread the word about fostering and animal rescue." When they're not volunteering, The Gomez family enjoys spending time with their own rescue pup, Brownie. They love being out in the great outdoors, whether it be hiking, hanging at the beach, or just playing in the backyard.
MARCH VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: SARAH & LARRY BEIRNE
Husband and wife team, Sarah and Larry, joined the HFAR family in October 2020. Having always been involved with animals, they wanted to open their newly purchased home in Stratford to foster and help dogs in need. They just finished fostering their sixth dog and number seven is on the way! “We love making a difference, not only just in the life of an animal, but also the family that adopts them. We get to meet all types of pups and watch them grow,”
Sarah says. The cool thing about Happily Furever After Rescue is that our volunteers are included in the process. “My favorite memory was going on the runway at the airport and taking my foster off the plane.” When asked what Sarah and Larry like most about fostering, they said, “We love saving lives. It helps that we are able to do it alongside someone who is well organized and has an amazing heart for animals. When people ask me about volunteering, we always say “try it, do it! It costs nothing to open up your home and save a life.”
When Sarah is not volunteering, she enjoys singing, cooking, crafting, and wine. She has recently starting a custom jewelry business. Larry is a musician who is in an acoustic duo. When he’s not playing music, you can find him smoking meat. They have a rescue dog of their own named Chester who has also been a big part of why they do what they do.
APRIL VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: HEIDI & PAUL HIRSCH
Heidi and her husband, Paul, wanted to do something useful in their free time so in August of 2020, they joined the Happily Furever After Rescue team. To date, they have opened their hearts and home by fostering 14 cats and kittens! “I love that I’m helping to give these cats a second chance,” Heidi says. “When I brought home the first litter of eight kittens last summer, they were calm for about five minutes and then went crazy - running, and jumping, and playing. It was so nice to see the change from being caged to finally free in a foster home. My family and I would be in tears watching them, they were so funny.” Heidi and Paul have played a crucial role in cat socialization as many they have helped save experienced human interaction for the first time. With shelters across the country overflowing with cats and kittens, they have truly made a difference. When they’re not volunteering, Heidi and Paul enjoy reading, crafting, traveling, hiking, and Netflix.
MAY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: JOANN AMENDOLA
After losing her rescue pup of seven years, Joann Amendola, wanted to do something special to honor her beloved pet. So, in July of 2020, she began fostering with Happily Furever After Rescue. Since then, she has fostered two dogs, one of which is our longest resident, a cattle dog named Jesse. Her patience, kind nature, willingness to train, and love for these animals is truly admirable.
“Watching the transition and decompressing of these dogs has honestly made me a more compassionate person. Despite all they’ve gone through, they all deserve a second chance and being able to give back to these animals also makes me feel like I'm making a difference,” says Joann.
When Jesse arrived in August of last year, little did we know he’d have such a hard time trusting people. The world scared him but Joann took him under her wing and provided him with a safe space. “My favorite moment was when Jesse decided to trust me and nuzzled his nose in my neck before falling asleep in my bed, where he stayed with me the entire night. I cried with joy for the breakthrough. We have had many more moments since then and he’s been amazing!”
Prior to Jesse, Joann fostered a gorgeous plott hound named Hershey. He was previously living on the streets in NC before coming to CT. Like Jesse, it took him time to accept people. A few weeks after arriving, he was adopted to a wonderful family on Long Island. “I couldn't be happier for my first foster - he now has a fur brother to play with, a human sister, and parents that love the outdoors. He has a great yard to run in and spends weekends in the county camping and hiking. The family has also been kind enough to send me updates so I still get to be involved, which has been super rewarding!”
“When it comes to fostering, I know most are afraid that they won’t be able to let go, however, the truth is you become so happy when the right family presents themselves, knowing they can provide what that particular dog or cat needs. I know Jaclyn always has their best interest at heart, making it easier to say goodbye. While it can be hard, you know you are helping to save a life in the process.” When Joann is not volunteering, she enjoys boating on Candlewood Lake, cooking, watching documentaries, and traveling.
JUNE VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: THE MILL FAMILY
Mother and daughter team, Renee, Alyssa, and Abigail decided to begin fostering in June of 2020 after their dogs passed away. It was not the right time to adopt but they knew having a dog in their home would bring them a lot of happiness. “Fostering definitely helped to fill the void of missing having a pup around. Our second dog was a victim of abuse so we did it for him - after all, if he didn't have a foster home before he came to us, who knows what would have happened,” explains Alyssa.
Over the past year, the Mill Family has fostered five dogs, one of which was one of our longer-term residents. Many of the pups they’ve helped care for have come from difficult pasts and the girls have done such a great job building their confidence to prepare them for adoption. “Fostering has definitely made an impact on our lives. Watching some of the dogs with anxiety grow and learn to trust you is so gratifying. It has also taught us that with patience, anything is possible. Bre, our fourth foster, is such a great example of this…the first day she wouldn't even come into the same room as anyone, which turned into her sleeping in my room, and then eventually into her playing with me. Watching the progress is truly amazing.”
Fosters serve as a bridge for these dogs to begin their new lives. While it can be emotionally exhausting, it’s all worth it. “We absolutely love receiving updates from adopters. As bittersweet as it is to send them away, it feels good knowing where they end up.” Having fostered for nearly a year, these ladies have seen it all. “It’s the small things we love the most - Marcy playing wiffle ball, the way that Finn would come cuddle right on top of you as if he was a lap dog, and watching Courtney climb into the passenger seat the day she went off to her new home. We feel so lucky that we got to be a part of their journey.”
Volunteering as a foster makes such a difference to these animals. The Mill Family has played such a crucial role in helping so many dogs in need. “For those looking to foster - it may not be the easiest job at times but it is so rewarding to be able to help these animals that need it the most. Being a foster is much more than just taking care of a dog, you really help to change their lives forever.”
JULY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: ABBY & SHARON TOMLINSON
16-year-old high school student, Abby got involved with fostering kittens due to her SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience), which is a required project at the school she attends in Trumbull, CT. This two-year prerequisite program plays a major role in students deciding their college majors and gathering volunteer hours. She wanted to do something to help animals in need so she joined the HFAR team!
Abby, and her mom, Sharon, have been fostering since October 2020 and since then, have helped care for seven cats. “Something I have come to love about fostering is being able to spend time with these kittens and giving them a second chance. It's very satisfying watching them get adopted, after many hours of feeding, playing, and caring for them,” Abby explains. The Tomlinson Family have opened up their hearts and home to many litters of kittens, some which needed extra TLC. “One of my favorite memories was watching Dahlia, who was very sick, heal over the weeks I had her. Sometimes it was a struggle to administer her medicine, but it paid off and she was adopted to a great family.”
Abby is the first youth volunteer we’ve had in the organization and she has shown great commitment to the animals that come into her care. She has even joined us on transports at the airport, carrying her animals off the plane when they arrive. “Thanks to Happily Furever After Rescue, fostering has made a great impact in my life. I have been presented with new responsibilities and watching these kittens learn and grown has been a memorable experience, says Abby.”
In her free time, Abby enjoys reading, listening to music, and playing lacrosse and video games. She has a twin sister and younger brother, both of whom love to visit and spend time with the kittens when she fosters. Abby also has some pets of her own – a Boston Terrier named Stella and a pair of Siamese cats, Lily and Daisy.
AUGUST VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: VICKI FERRARA
Vicki Ferrara always had an interest in fostering and helping animals in need so in November of 2020, she joined the HFAR team! Since then, she has fostered six kittens, one of which became a “foster fail.” Sabrina, a young Siamese/tabby is actually her second “foster fail” since being involved in animal rescue. Prior to her volunteer role with HFAR, Vicki also adopted her first kitten foster three years ago, a special needs orange tabby named Romeo.
“Being part of Happily Furever After Rescue is so rewarding,” Vicki says. “As a volunteer, Jaclyn allows you to have as much or as little to do with the foster process as you’d like. I love being on the transport end of things, whether it is by plane at the airport or by ground at a local park & ride. Bringing home kittens and watching them bloom, learn, and trust is something that every person/family should experience. It is so fulfilling!”
Many of our fosters have their preferences and for Vicki its bonded pairs. “I will always remember bringing my first bonded pair of kittens home. I was so scared and didn’t know what to expect. In the end, Holly and Noel were so ready to be adopted that sending them off filled my heart and is what ultimately had me wanting to foster over and over again,” explains Vicki.
Getting involved in animal welfare makes a difference not only to the dogs and cats, but also to the volunteers who help make it all possible. Vicki shares, “HFAR has changed my life by teaching me how to how to be less selfish and know that every animal has a furever family out there. It is my job as a foster volunteer to help teach them how to be the family pet that people are looking for. Saying farewell to the kittens is so hard but so very gratifying and thrilling!”
In her spare time, Vicki spends time with family and friends, enjoys reading, watching documentaries, and loves being outdoors.
SEPTEMBER VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: JAIME CAPAODSE
Jaime Capaodse and her parents joined the Happily Furever After Rescue team this past June. Previously fosters for another organization that had shut down, they wanted to continue their mission in helping animals in need. In addition to fostering, Jaime has recently become the rescue’s first event teen photographer. “I love animals and photography so it has been great to combine both of my passions. “I’ve been involved in photography for a little over a year now. One day I was taking pictures in my backyard and realized that I quite enjoyed it. My parents saw how much I liked it, so my dad let me have his camera. I enjoy photographing nature, old buildings, and especially animals,” says Jaime.
The Capaodse family has fostered one dog so far with HFAR, a beautiful shepherd mix named Hazel. She was adopted to a wonderful family after only a few short weeks in their home. Jaime shares, “I have always wanted a dog so I love having one as a foster that I can take care of, train, go on runs with, and snuggle up to.” While fostering, Hazel enjoyed many trips to the dog park for exercise and socialization. “It was so great seeing how excited Hazel was the first time we went. She was so happy to meet the other dogs and interact with the people there.” One thing Jaime really enjoys about the process of fostering is that the animals learn how to behave in a household, undertake essential commands, and discover how to be a perfect companion for a new family in order to live their best life.
Being that Jaime has such an interest in photography, we invited her to hone her skills and attend our adoption events where she has the opportunity to practice her craft and take pictures of all the animals and visitors. “Volunteering at this organization changed my life because it helped get my pictures out there so that people could see them, making me a more confident photographer. It also showed me just what it would be like actually owning a dog and that has been amazing,” exclaims Jaime!
A lover of animals and meeting new people, when Jaime is not volunteering, she enjoys hiking, cycling, skiing, and running. She also likes to draw, work with children, hang out with friends, and do photography, of course.
OCTOBER VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: DEENA ABBATE
Deena Abbate joined the HFAR team last summer, in August 2020. She first got interested in fostering after seeing one of our posts on Facebook for a pup named Rosie, a mama dog who was left abandoned tied to a tree in South Carolina. She was extremely malnourished and was clearly neglected. Her babies were all taken away from her so when Rosie came into the rescue, she needed a lot of TLC, and Deena gave her just that! “When I saw Rosie’s picture, I couldn’t resist and dove in head first! I always knew I wanted to spend my after ‘retirement’ petting puppies. Over the course of a year, Deena has fostered five dogs, and according to her, “one has been better than the last!”
Some of the dogs that we pull are very timid and fearful at first but Deena can vouch that with a little patience and love, their puppyhood begins to show. “What I love most about fostering is feeling so needed by these pups who have had difficult, and sometimes traumatic beginnings. Yeah, I shed a few tears each time one leaves but the feeling you get when you ‘release’ these pups to their furever home, knowing they are going to be living their best life…there’s no better feeling! It’s true when they say, “there is no greater earthly pleasure than to have been loved by a dog.”
When Deena is not fostering, she works as a professor teaching prospective practical nurses and in her free times enjoys walking along the Milford shoreline, music, travel (pre-covid), chardonnay, cooking, and of course, puppy breath!
NOVEMBER VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: AMANDA GAFFNEY
Amanda Gaffney began fostering with Happily Furever After Rescue in June of 2021 and since then, has fostered eight kittens. One of her friends even adopted one of our bonded pairs, Pablo & Picasso, who Amanda gets to visit often. “I was previously fostering with another rescue and they were not communicative, warm, or compassionate. It has been a joy to see how invested Jaclyn is with her rescue, and how much she cares about each and every animal and volunteer. She has been amazing to work with!”
Being a former dog foster, Amanda started fostering cats with HFAR due to her long commute and hectic work schedule as a special education teacher. With two of her own large dogs at home, she decided to delve into the world of kittens and has loved every minute of it! “I absolutely love fostering all of these little guys. I have always been a huge animal lover. If it were up to me, I would have a houseful of cats and dogs! Fostering has been a wonderful experience and has brought joy to not only myself, but to my entire family. It has taught my children how to care for animals that have been in less fortunate situations and to welcome them with open arms,” shares Amanda.
One of Amanda’s favorite things to witness is the progress that happens with a little bit of time, love, food, play, socialization, and of course, snuggles. “I love watching the kitties grow and become more and more confident and trusting every day,” explains Amanda. “If you have the time to open your heart and house to a dog or cat in need, even if you can only do it once or twice a year, you will love it and will truly make a difference in that animal’s life.”
Amanda resides in Fairfield with her husband, Tim, two children, Ben and Brooke, and their three fur babies, dogs Nala and Bodie, and a cat named Teagan. When she’s not volunteering, Amanda enjoys spending time with her family and animals, singing, visiting the beach, and vacationing in Topsail Island, NC.
DECEMBER VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: DANIELLE & GALEN
Danielle Chaloux and her partner, Galen Curtin, joined Happily Furever After Rescue a year ago after they began working from home. They were not yet ready to adopt a pup of their own, however decided that helping dogs decompress from shelter life before being adopted was a great project to stay busy. To date, they have fostered five dogs.
“It's so gratifying working with the animals and getting to know their personalities,” shares Danielle. “You don't know exactly what you're getting into until the dog has a chance to settle in. Once they're comfortable, it's incredible to watch their growth over time as we prepare them for their furever home.”
A big part of fostering is all about patience – sometimes the dogs will need to learn housetraining, leash walking skills, or call for extra socialization due to their fear of people or unfamiliar things. “My foster dogs have taught me more patience than I ever thought possible. When I find chewed shoes, the trashcan raided, or an accident in the house, my reaction is one of resignation. It's my own fault for not putting my shoes away, and it's a reminder that teaching our temporary houseguest acceptable behavior is a continual process. Taking the dogs out has also been a way to meet my neighbors and really feel part of the community,” explains Danielle.
While fostering isn’t all that easy, when you can get past the challenges, it’s extremely rewarding. “It's always bittersweet when a dog gets adopted, but seeing the excitement and enjoyment the adopters have to welcome a new member to their family is so special,” says Danielle. “If you're looking to foster, I'd recommend having a conversation with all members of your household about overall expectations. Talking about what the daily routine will look like and who will be responsible for feeding, walking, and exercise makes it easier to set boundaries.”
Danielle and Galen currently reside in Southbury and are both motorcyclists and avid hikers. Danielle enjoys knitting and traveling, while Galen can often be found working on a car project or making stromboli.