April 2015 Volunteer of the Month: Sarah Lyons

by Jen Cohen • Posted in: Volunteer of the Month, Volunteering

Thank you to April’s Volunteer of the Month, Sarah Lyons! Among many other things, Sarah leads the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, implemented the Dog Diaries tool, works with frightened and shy dogs, and fosters!

Sarah LyonsThis is what her peers have to say about her:

Sarah created and manages one of the most useful tools for Volunteers and Staff alike, the Dog Diaries. It is a tremendously helpful resource to learn about a particular dog, as well as contribute findings about a dog that may help others. I always consult the diaries to pick a new Little because the Dog Diaries contain all of the info I need to choose a Little who is in most need of a human buddy advocate.
In addition to this, Sarah is a skilled handler, and favors working with what she describes as “naughty teenagers”, as well as extremely scared dogs. You’ll often find her calmly wrangling in a silly, rambunctious dog, or crouched in a kennel softly coaxing a terrified dog out of his bedroom. She has the magic touch, as well as the skill, in working with all types of dogs.
Finally, she is a foster mom. She and her own dog rehabilitate APA!’s most shy and fearful in her home. She does wonders with them, and it’s truly inspiring to watch the videos of their progress that she shares on the APA! volunteer FB page.
On top of it all, Sarah is a truly nice person with a calm, relaxing demeanor that is therapeutic for dogs and people alike.
—Heather, Volunteer

Sarah fosters shy or terrified dogs. She works with dogs at the locations, and has written the dog diaries computer program to meet the APA! volunteer reporting needs that are in place. I think she probably does much more and I just don’t know about it. She is not one to toot her own horn. —Anonymous

Because she is awesome. She fosters the scaredy-cat dogs, and her dog (Augie) helps with therapy, getting these dogs to gain more confidence. She also takes care of the programming and all sorts of yucky computer stuff none of us can tackle. She is also responsible for making sure everyone is drunk at least once a month. —Titi, Volunteer

Sarah is active on the dog behavior team and a foster, but what impresses me the most are the changes she makes to dog diaries. It’s hard for adoption counselors and matchmakers to know everything about each dog and the work she does is absolutely vital to get the information about each dog accurate and gives them a better chance of being adopted. She’s added the rating system, custom filters, behavior skills ratings and more. She works so hard and I think it’s one of the best things our organization has. —Laura, Behavior Volunteer Trainer

Sarah is a wonderful volunteer and does AMAZING work with the scared, shy, and shut down dogs at both locations as well as fosters in her home. She also is incredible at setting up, maintaining and refining Dog Diaries to make it the best it can be. She’s incredible! —Anonymous

Sarah created the dog diaries with constant adaptations for use in new programs like CGC and ratings that help matchmakers choose dogs for families based on their lifestyles. She also set up the volunteer sign in so that APA! can count the hours that volunteers spend on different activities. She also fosters dogs that are completely shut down and gets them adopted. She transports and gives the most amazing advice to people that post on the APA! Adopter and Volunteer Facebook pages. —Belinda, Level 2 Dogs

Sarah wears many hats as a volunteer. She is on the dog behavior training team, fosters many scaredy pups, takes photos and video to help promote them, leads the Big Brother/Sister program and admins the Adopters FB page. She also does the programming for many of the web site functions that volunteers and the general public uses. Among them include the search features on the adopt a pet page that makes it easier to see the animals available for adoption. Sarah has a calm personality which the dogs and people respond to. She and her dog pack have worked their magic in turning shut-down dogs into socialized pups ready for adoption. She’s the bees knees and absolutely deserves this recognition. —Karen, Dog Volunteer Liaison Lead

And here’s what she said when we got to know her a little better:

How did you get interested in volunteering at APA!?
My friend was volunteering and always talking about all the dogs he got to help. I was so envious–wishing I had something as rewarding in my life. It suddenly occurred to me that there was no reason that I couldn’t volunteer too, and I immediately signed up for orientation. Best decision of my life.

What are you most passionate about at APA!?
I’m passionate about having the opportunity to help save lives every day. I’m constantly inspired by the energy, creativity, and diligence that volunteers, staff, and fosters bring to saving every life they possibly can. As the admin for APA!’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters group, I love how people rise up as advocates for their “littles” and do whatever it takes to help them, and I adore watching the shelter dogs get spoiled on sleepovers and field trips.

What is your favorite thing to do at APA!?
I enjoy working with the naughty, rambunctious teenager dogs, and also with the super-scaredy dogs. It’s a great feeling when you see your training start to click in a dog’s mind. And earning the trust of a fearful dog is just such a huge reward and an honor in itself.

What are some words of wisdom for new APA! volunteers?
There are so many different ways to help. Try different things until you find what you love. If you have a great idea for how to do things better, and you are willing to work hard yourself to help make it a reality, reach out to people who can help. APA! is an organization that is very open to creative ideas and solutions.

Do you have a favorite dog at APA!?
My favorite dog is always my current foster. Right now that’s Hailey–a scared, sweet lab mix who has spent her whole short life huddled in fear whenever she’s around people. She’s just now starting to come out of that shell and learning to enjoy things like walks around the neighborhood, playing in the yard, and being part of the family. She actually inspires me to want to be more adventurous in my own life.

What’s an interesting fact about you people may not know?
I guess people who’ve seen my foster videos know this, but I have a giant geodesic dome in my backyard. It serves no purpose whatsoever but it does include a disco ball.