Dog walker retiring; leaves big shoes to fill

SOUTHWICK-Debbie Gaulin knows the importance of a human’s touch for animals in shelters, and for more than four years, she has been steadfast in her dedication of making morning and evening visits as a volunteer at the Polverari/Southwick Animal Control Facility.

Debbie Gaulin walks Legend earlier this week at the Polverari/Southwick Animal Control Facility.

Gaulin, owner of Dimensions Hair Design in Suffield, Conn., is closing up shop after 40 years in the business, and relocating with her husband Roger to North Carolina. Gaulin is excited about the move – especially knowing that dealing with winter storms will be a thing of the past.

“In all kinds of weather, even in the dead of winter, Debbie has been here to support us,” said Tracy Root, animal control officer.

For Gaulin, walking the shelter dogs has been a labor of love.

“I take the dogs on walks around the town buildings so they have a change of scenery,” said Gaulin, adding when her husband has time he also joins in. “I know the dogs feel a lot better about themselves when they can walk and are not looking at four walls all the time.”

Since Gaulin has been an integral part of the animal control facility’s daily schedule for several years – including holidays – more adult dog walkers will be needed to replace the time that Gaulin has spent assisting the staff.

“Walking the dogs gives them a purpose in life,” said Gaulin.

Root is hopeful that other adults may consider becoming a dog walker to ensure that the shelter animals will continue to receive the attention they need.

“Ideally we need two or three adult dog walkers,” said Root, adding that volunteer roles can also include spending time with the kittens and cats, cleaning up the kennel areas or cat room, sweeping and mopping floors, and cleaning cat beds.

Currently, there are three dogs waiting to be adopted at the facility – Legend, a pit bull/lab mix, Max, a shepherd mix, and Diogi, a lab mix, as well as nine felines.

Debbie Gaulin is a longtime volunteer at the Polverari/Southwick Animal Control Facility. Gaulin holds Legend as Tracy Root, animal control officer, looks on.

In addition to Gaulin, there are four women who also volunteer and center their loving care on the cats as well as taking care of the upkeep of the cat room.

While Gaulin has focused most of her attention on the kennel dogs, she also has enjoyed quality time with the cats that also need a home.

“Debbie also loves on all of the cats,” said Root, noting that Gaulin has made regular visits to a local Dunkin Donuts shop, showing pictures of the animals waiting for forever homes. 

Persons interested in volunteering at the shelter can stop in to complete a volunteer application form which is followed by a background check. Shelter hours are weekdays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 – 11 a.m.

“I encourage people to consider donating their time here because it is an outstanding shelter,” said Gaulin, adding, “There is nothing more rewarding than when you see how the animals react when you arrive. They are elated to see you.”

For persons who are unable to volunteer but would like to assist the shelter, tax-deductible donations of clay cat litter as well as dry cat and dog food, are graciously accepted.

“We also welcome monetary donations that help pay for veterinarian visits,” said Root.

For Gaulin, as her time draws near to end her stint with the shelter, she will miss the camaraderie she has shared with the staff and the precious time she has spent with the dogs and cats that have called the shelter home.

“There is a great need here and once you see how the animals light up when they hear your voice, you will be happy you made the decision to volunteer,” said Gaulin.

For more information, call (413) 569-5348 during shelter hours.

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