Long time volunteers, Candi & Nicole, share their volunteer stories
Volunteering at Baypath Brings Joy Helping Animals and Finding Friendship
By Sandra Gittlen
Each Sunday, Candi Abbiuso, of Milford, and Nicole Thomson, of Hopkinton, arrive at Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton, Inc., to walk dogs together. The two women, now friends, met while volunteering at the animal shelter, located at 500 Legacy Farms North.
Abbiuso first came to Baypath after the birth of her second child and the loss of her beloved golden retriever, who was a rescue. “I was looking to get out of the house on Sundays,” Abbiuso says. Baypath provided just that escape and a way to be close to the animals. Thomson volunteered at Baypath during high school and has stayed on through college and the start of her career. She credits her longevity at the shelter to her love of animals and “the really great people” she’s met, including Abbiuso.
Baypath relies heavily on a network of more than 100 volunteers. They support the staff in providing care and enrichment for the dozens of dogs and cats in the shelter each week.
“We have very lean staffing so our volunteers are everything to us,” says Executive Director Elizabeth Jefferis. “We are so lucky they are willing to take on some of the toughest assignments and help the animals in our care better adjust to life here. The efforts of volunteers make all the difference in the success of adoptions. Baypath and the animals are fortunate to have such compassionate people caring for them.”
Abbiuso says she has enjoyed working so closely with the staff, which she finds “knowledgeable and helpful.” For instance, classes, custom-created and led by Baypath’s Director of Dog Programs Jeanine Lorusso, have helped Abbiuso and Thomson, as well as other volunteers, navigate and curb common issues with the dogs such as jumpy behavior.
Seeing harder to adopt dogs and cats finally find their forever homes has been the most rewarding part of volunteering for Thomson, who adopted her own cat Bob after fostering him and realizing she couldn’t give him up. That, in the shelter world, is affectionately called a “foster fail.” “I really had no intention of adopting him but after fostering him for a few months, I knew that life wouldn’t be the same had he been adopted by someone else. Now I absolutely can’t imagine my life without him,” she says.
Abbiuso takes pride in knowing all the lives she has impacted. “It gives me a sense of purpose. Actually seeing the dogs drive off into the sunset with their adopters – especially the trickier-to-adopt ones – is just something I can’t even begin to put into words,” she says.
Volunteering has not been without its challenges, though. Abbiuso says some dogs require a tremendous amount of patience… and hot dogs. General Lee, a handsome hound, is the dog she remembers most fondly. “He was so sweet and so loud,” she laughs, adding she has a soft spot for the senior dogs.
Thomson enjoys the moment when dogs that struggle to adapt to shelter life and suffer with anxiety, poor behavior, or depression let down their guard. “When you’re able to gain their trust, it’s something that is truly amazing,” she says.
Both women say volunteering has changed their lives for the better. “It’s more than just walking dogs and playing with puppies. You are a part of their journey to finding a forever home,” Thomson says.
“Walking the dogs in the gorgeous woods in Hopkinton ain’t too shabby either,” Abbiuso adds.
If you are 18 or older and would like to learn more about volunteering at Baypath, please visit baypathhumane.org