Whitman Internship Stories – Saba Zewdie ’18

IMG_0717This summer I’ve discovered that, despite their messiness, there’s nothing like a room full of kittens to get you out of bed and off to work in the morning.

For the past few months I was lucky enough to intern during kitten season at The Pixie Project, an amazing nonprofit no-kill shelter in Portland. All of the services they provide center around their goals of “working tirelessly to connect pet owners with the resources they need to keep their pets with them” and “finding life-long matches between pet and adopter.” This first mission is accomplished through the Scott Wainner Pixie Care Clinic in the shelter which provides spay/neuter clinics to low income and homeless pet owners. They also provide veterinary care ranging from wound care to blood work for those who can’t afford treatment at other clinics. As for their adoption philosophy, I was blown away by Pixie’s dedication to their animals. Through the hard work of both the staff and the many volunteers that come in, these animals are given everything they need to find a loving family. Since the beginning of the summer I’ve seen countless dogs come in scared, dirty and sick from local shelters and owner surrenders and, after many baths, treats and love, you would have never known they were part of the shelter system.

IMG_0466 (1)During my internship I worked a variety of jobs in and out of the shelter. At the beginning of the summer I focused mainly on getting to know the ins and outs of the organization, and was trained in how to handle and socialize the many frightened cats and dogs. From there, I started to work with the trainers that come in to evaluated and work with all the new dogs that come into the shelter. I was able to first observe dogs on my own, and then collaborate with the trainers to begin to work with the animals. I learned how to recognize and address aggressive or frightened behavior, what triggers to look out for in shelter animals, and much more. The information we gathered was then used in finding in each dog a home, as The Pixie Project focuses on finding animals homes in which they can be successful.

IMG_0527 I also had the opportunity to assist Sydney, the amazing technician who runs the veterinary clinic, in her work with both Pixie animals and ones from the community. My duties ranged from assisting with kitten neuters, to administering fluids and medications, to surgery prep and more. Not only did Sydney have a great sense of humor and an endless supply of hilarious veterinary stories, but she also taught me so much about the realities of the veterinary field and answered any and all of my many medical questions.

Finally, my last project for the summer was to work with the auction procurement team for The Pixie Project’s largest fundraiser of the year. Armed with letters, pamphlets and business cards I contacted local businesses all over Portland for donations. There was definitely a learning curve, and as I’ve always been afraid of asking for favors it was an intimidating experience at first. However, to my surprise the community was much more receptive than I anticipated, especially due to the fact that Pixie is so well known in the area. It pushed my comfort zone, but now looking back at the end of the summer I’m so happy I was able to represent the organization and make connections to local businesses. It really opened my eyes to how important it is for a successful nonprofit to have a strong, positive relationship with the community.

IMG_0673I came into this internship hoping to learn more about nonprofits and their relationship to animals and the community, and I came away with so much more than that. I learned that helping people and animals go hand in hand, which I experienced countless times when I saw the gratitude on people’s faces when we treated their pets. I learned that no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone loves little, fuzzy kittens. I saw this every day when every kind of community member; young, elderly, homeless or disabled would sit in the kitten room with their faces lit up. Finally, I learned that no matter how horribly mistreated these animals have been, they always still have an amazing capacity for forgiveness. So, next time you are looking for a pet, please don’t forget to look at your local shelters because there are so many great animals out there looking for homes.


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