January 2015 Volunteer of the Month: Karen Hardwick

by Rebecca Reid • Posted in: Volunteer of the Month, Volunteering

A warm thank you to January’s Volunteer of the Month, Karen Hardwick. If you have ever visited Town Lake Animal Center, you have undoubtedly seen her snapping photos or walking dogs. An indispensable part of the APA! team, Karen was overwhelmingly nominated for recognition by her peers…

KarenH Volunteer“Karen is everywhere! She is super involved, does an amazing job with the APA! Dog Volunteers FB page, runs Pet Pals, and is a huge asset for APA! She is tireless :)” – Anonymous

“Karen is a wonderful photographer with a special talent for showing the personality of each dog. She also does amazing videos. She often spends all day at TLAC, taking videos, walking dogs, taking pictures and talking to adopters and volunteers. She is a great ambassador for APA! and she is always willing to help or just to listen. She also maintains the volunteer Facebook group and has helped build our community by introducing staff and volunteers through her “pet pals” series, teaching new skills through her “dawg talk” series and other features.” -Anonymous

“If you didn’t know better, one would assume Karen works at APA!. She dedicates a great deal of her heart, passion and time at APA! in service to our dogs. On the behavior side, Karen is a Silver trained handler who works with some of our more fearful or challenging long stay dogs. When those special needs dogs see Karen, it is truly heartwarming to watch their expressions change, faces bursting into smiles, and their entire bodies wagging furiously at the sight of her. The dogs are nuts about Karen, especially the most fearful dogs. But, handling the scared or special needs dogs is just one of her gifts! She’s also a talented professional photographer and videographer. You can see her walking around with her camera, squeaky toy and hot dogs, getting all of the dogs to smile or perform an amazing action shot. Thanks to her photos and videos, many of our dogs have been branded and marketed in an attractive, appealing way that gets them adopted faster! Finally, Karen plays a major force in driving the APA! Volunteer Facebook page. She’s always posting the cute pictures with hilarious captions, sharing news about training classes, and just making all the volunteers laugh and feel part of a family. She also creates the Volunteer Spotlight, which introduces us to volunteers we haven’t met. I love reading about the volunteers I see around the shelter but don’t know. This helps us all connect in new ways and build friendships. I really feel she is highly deserving of this recognition!” -Heather Jafar

“I am nominating Karen because she is constantly on the scene and is always involved in making things happen at APA!. APA! would be a very different and less dynamic place without her efforts. She is especially welcoming to new volunteers. Her efforts on the volunteer Facebook page are stellar. She would never nominate herself, but she certainly deserves it.” -Anonymous

“Karen gives so much time and talent to APA! She uses her considerable social media and photography and design skills to help volunteers and staff feel connected through the dog volunteers page, including regular features such as “pet pals” “dawg talk” etc. I know that she helped to start the staff FB group page and has assisted with the adopters’ FB group page as well as the Senior dogs page and the Lonely hearts dog pages.But she also spends quite a bit of time at the shelter, in the elements, spending time with the individual dogs (and volunteers) and taking amazing photos and videos of them. Karen’s contribution has been huge for fostering communication and community among the people of APA!” -Terry Ross

“Karen is ever-present with photos and stories of the dogs and the volunteers and staff. She does the Pet Pal stories and photos. If anyone does more to support the “community” of APA! I do not know who that is. She worked tirelessly to market Brooke, and is now doing the same for Fannie. Karen is a constant positive presence at APA! She should be recognized for her efforts. Dunya Tretjak, volunteer Karen is integral and vital part of APA!. She is engaged on multiple levels; as regular daily dog walker and committed big sister. Her amazing photography and witty comments enhance the presentation of dogs. Whenever I come to APA! I can see Karen rushing on one of the many tasks and chores – she is not shy of taking complete care of dogs including cleaning the kennel, preparing their beds for the night, bathing and walking them. To top it all she remains kind and helpful to us all. She is my volunteer role model!” – Sarah Lyons

“Karen is committed to making the lives of the APA! dogs better and getting them into homes. She takes amazing photos and videos, walks dogs, creates attention getting marketing materials, coordinates volunteer teams focused on specific dogs and projects, and spends lots of time taking dogs on outings and sleepovers to give them a much needed break from the shelter. She is really the dogs’ and APA!’s best friend.” -Bic Wood

“Karen is a huge asset to APA!. She uses her professional photography skills to get our dogs the best photos and videos. She administers the dog volunteer group on Facebook and facilitates communication between volunteers (and staff) about everything APA! related. If she’s not actually at APA!, walking dogs and taking pictures and videos, she’s on a field trip with one of our more challenging long stay dogs, or at her computer making amazing graphics and documents.” -Anonymous

“Great marketing the pups, takes pics/videos. She spent over 2 hrs on a Saturday morning working on pics/vid for Mack. And Mack is only one of the many others she has helped with walks the dogs. takes them on field trips. I see her just about every time I volunteer or she posts about it. Coordinates teams for special projects. She recruited for team Fannie and team Mack. And I know of those because I was on the teams Encourages volunteers and very supportive, offers to help and if she can’t will point you in the right direction. Helps fosters with the pups and rallies the troops if financial assistance. Helped Leslie and I with Mack, also when Fannies mom couldn’t afford the crate she got that going. updates Facebook at all hours of the day and night. She’s very involved and committed to APA!” -L. Flores

“Have you seen her photos? She has a way of getting a dog’s personality to shine. Plus she’s easy to approach and is very friendly and helpful, so people like her just as much as the doggies do.” Anonymous

“Karen is a huge asset to APA! She spends many hours at the shelter, walking dogs, taking amazing photos and video. Then she goes home and spends many hours donating her excellent design and social media skills to APA!.” -Anonymous

Now, please join us in getting to know Karen Hardwick even better:

How did you get interested in volunteering at APA!?

About 3 years ago, my husband and I adopted an APA! dog that loved people but not other dogs. We took her for an assessment at a well-known training center and they recommended that we put her down. In great distress, we called APA! and was put in touch with Mike, the dog behavior manager who reassured us that we had other options. We ended up taking dog training lessons at APA! to help my dog and that led to us to walking dogs. Eventually, I started getting more involved in other volunteer opportunities.

What are you most passionate about at APA!?

When I first started, one of the concerns often voiced by volunteers was feeling disconnected from one another. After I was asked to be a dog volunteer liaison lead, I made it a priority to build a camaraderie among us volunteers. I’ll introduce myself over the fence to people when out walking dogs. It also gives me a chance to find out their interests and let them know of other opportunities. There are many APA! groups led by volunteers like dog marketing, volunteer coordinators, mentors, greeters, etc. that encourage teamwork through collaboration.

One of the things I’m happy to see take off is the growth of the dog volunteers Facebook page which I started at Dr. Jefferson’s request and still maintain. Our mission statement is this is a page for the volunteers by volunteers. We encourage people to meet and get to know each other through the Pet Pals features, teaming up for doggie contests, and it also gives everyone a place to communicate and ask questions. We have the most passionate and dedicated volunteers and they are very involved with this mission to save animals, alongside with staff.

What is your favorite thing to do at APA!?

I really enjoy the enrichment part of dog volunteering. I love taking the dogs on field trips so they can experience what the real world is like. Seeing their entire face light up as they encounter the sight and smells of a new place is priceless. It gives the pups a break and a chance to learn socialization skills when they’re out with the public which helps them be more adoptable. It also gives me a chance to get fun photos and videos of the dogs to promote them for adoption.

What are some words of wisdom for new APA! volunteers?

Be tenacious. patient and, “Just do it!” You will find your niche here if you give it time. Take dogs out for walks. It’s one of our simplest but greatest need every day. Bring good treats like cheese or hotdogs and you’ll quickly make doggie friends. Throw in some brownies and you got yourself some people friends too! And join the dog volunteers Facebook page!

Do you have a favorite dog at APA!?

There are several long-stay dogs that I’m a Big sister to; Mack, Max and Slate. Mack has my heart and I would adopt him in a second if I could. He is so lovable and has gained a huge volunteer fan club. He’s one of those great dogs that seems to get passed over time and again. I’m hopeful that the right adopter will come along soon.

What’s an interesting fact about you people may not know?

I was previously part of another “APA” organization called the American Poolplayers Assoc. Our team, the Ballbusters, won the regionals and went on to compete in the national competition in Vegas.