Who Rescues Who?

By: Andrea Young

We’ve all heard the phrase and we all know the answer. Every pet I’ve had has always come when I’ve needed them. Good times and in bad. They have all had a story, and it’s usually a bad one.

People in rescue are like that too.  We are a diverse group with varying upbringings. Some traumatic, some abusive, some neglectful, some spiteful, and some loveless.

I was one of the lucky ones until I wasn’t.

We lost my eldest son to violence. My world imploded. I had been a single parent and I felt my purpose was no more, or so I thought.

I had to start taking care of me. I had a 5-year-old depending on me and a husband desperately trying to mend us all.

I became the Director of Victims of Homicide, a support group in the city of Edmonton. It was there that my true purpose exposed itself. I had to bring my dog into the meeting with me one day as I don’t leave my dogs in the car. We had come from the vet and I had forgotten about the meeting (one of the factors of having PTSD).

Long story short, my beautiful broken boy, Jake (Shepard cross 120lbs) wove some magic and we started to see immense light come back in our members’ eyes.

That experience so inspired me I had found purpose again. I chose to take an animal training course through the Edmonton Humane Society and the lovely, Bilinda Wagner.

I wanted to help those that were as broken as me and that didn’t have a voice.

My family had done fostering when I was young, and I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner. At any rate, 89 dogs later and Zoe’s co-director (who I co-parent newborn litters with) asked if I would like to name our newest litter after my son.

I think I stopped breathing, thinking and computing. After it all sunk in, what an honour and a privilege it was to remember my son and celebrate these precious lives. It was a full circle moment for me as my son was a HUGE animal lover himself.

In just a few short days ten healthy smart, exuberant and joyful puppies will be making their way to their foster homes to start looking for their forever lives with adopters.

Each puppy name means something to my son, a nickname, a favourite character, a treasured family member or friend and a place he frequented.

He is gone and I can’t change that. The universe knows I’ve tried.

Ten beautiful souls will be spread around with my son’s spirit, and I truly believe he’s in every one of them.

Brandon was kind, funny, clumsy, independent, fearless, an observer, comforting and generous of his time.

These puppies are all that and more. I’m a proud co-mama.

The goodbyes will be tough, I feel like I’m grieving his loss all over again. But truly the honour has been all mine. The joy the purpose the strength they have given me is immeasurable.

To my puppy family:

Pokey, Batman, Cuba, Einstein, Dragon, Tina, Wiley, Betty, Goose and Lexus,

May you know nothing but pure joy and happiness (and you better keep in touch with me!). To Kath Oltsher, who made all of this possible and has rode the emotion train with me, I adore you and respect the hell out of you.

Zoe’s is my lifeline. My second family. My people.

Life can be really hard. Pets always make it better, in the moment and far into the future.

Rescuing is hard, sad, maddening, life sucking, joyful, hilarious and comforting.

I hope, universe willing, I will keep being rescued and I can return the favour!

Please note: If you interested in adopting, please check on our website to see when they will be available. Also, please note that we will NOT be accepting applications prior to. Thank you!

Featured Volunteer – Jacqueline Zohar


What kind of rescue would we be without a crazy cat lady???

Not a proper one, that’s for sure!

That’s why we have Jacqueline! She’s crazy in all the right ways, a proud lover of all things feline and an integral member of the Zoe’s family.

Can you tell us a little about your background before you became a volunteer?
I was born and raised in Edmonton and have an undergraduate degree in psychology. I worked for about 20 years in health, administrative and accounting positions and have also been volunteering for a variety of animal charities throughout my life. I now only work casually so I have much more time to devote to doing what I truly love, which is volunteering at Zoe’s with my amazing husband.

How did you first get involved with Zoe’s?
After my cat of 21 years passed away, I decided that I needed to foster, rather than jump into adopting another fur baby. Zoe’s was recommended to me by a friend and after checking out their website, I was hooked.

What roles have you carried out for the society?
I have fostered over 30 cats/kittens, I process cat adoption applications, maintain our animal and volunteer database, help with our SaNeR (spay-neuter-return) program by trapping feral cats and transporting dogs and cats to/from our partner communities, help with medical bookings, co-ordinate our donation box program and help with fundraising events and website support.

How long have you volunteered for Zoe’s?
Just over a year now.

What types of things have you been involved in as a volunteer?
Such a variety of things that it’s really hard to describe! I’m interested in so many areas so it’s been great for me because I get to do a little bit of everything. Building straw dog shelters was an incredible experience for me and helping out at fundraising and adoption events is always so much fun!

What’s been your funniest experience as a volunteer?
I spend a lot of my time with another volunteer, Jan, and we are ALWAYS laughing on our treks around the city. Whether it’s spending 6 hours trying to trap a “feral” cat, only to have a local resident walk right up to the cat and scoop it up with no issues at all, or driving around trying desperately to find a late night dog wash after an incident with explosive diarrhea, we are never bored! I will also never forget the look on one dogs face after I caught her with half of my just-purchased scone hanging out of her mouth!

What do you like most about volunteering?
The difference I feel that we are all making. One animal at a time. The people are pretty awesome too!

What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering for Zoe’s?
Do it! I have NEVER been happier in my life. The support and friendships I’ve made are simply amazing. The best part is that you can commit to volunteering as much or as little as you want. Volunteer to transport an animal or pick up a donation once a month, help make reference calls or home checks whenever you happen to be available. Foster a dog or cat, help out with fundraising and adoption events or help out with social media. There are so many areas where you can help make a difference and it is SO rewarding.

How much time do you spend volunteering?
A lot, lol, but only because I love it so much.

Do you volunteer for any other organizations?
I used to volunteer for the Edmonton Humane Society and I currently volunteer, very casually, for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.

What makes you happy?
Cats, my husband, friends, coffee and naps are what I normally say, but honestly the most incredible feeling in the world for me is helping to save cats and dogs and finding them forever homes. Cuddling with kittens and puppies is a pretty great thing too!

What makes you sad?
When we lose an animal that we have tried so hard to save. But the fact that Zoe’s NEVER gives up without a fight, regardless of the medical costs, makes me so proud at the same time.

Thanks SO much for all that you do, Jacqueline! We are so lucky to have you!

Interested in joining our family? Get more information and apply here.

Featured Volunteer – Nicole Furtak

A regular feature where we get to know a little more about one of our amazing volunteers.  This time round, Nicole Furtak spills the beans…


Can you tell us a little about your background before you became a volunteer?

I’m a PhD student at the U of A; I study socks. I also have 4 cats: Socks, Tess, Tux, and Moo. I’m a crazy cat lady, but I also have a husband.

How did you first get involved with Zoe’s?

I met Kath and another volunteer at the Edmonton International Cat Festival. Some time passed, and I kept thinking about volunteering, so one day I decided to sign up.

What roles have you carried out for the society?

I’m a foster, I rescued 10 cats from an unfortunate barn situation with the help of Kath and Sasha, I’ve helped out at events, organized a couple fundraisers, and now I’m an Official Fundraiser, co-cordinating the Fundraising Team with Maggie Hamilton.

How long have you volunteered for Zoe’s?

5 months… I dove in once I got involved!

What types of things have you been involved in as a volunteer?

I’ve made some items for silent auction, acted as security for Taste of Edmonton, and started a Donation Drive that has already exceeded ten times it’s original goal.

What’s been your funniest experience as a volunteer?

Arranging for a donation of pet food and kitty litter from a large grocery store chain and finding out that the donation was 4 pallets of dog food, 1 pallet of cat food, and 1 pallet of kitty litter. The look on Michelle Kavanagh’s face when my pallet of kitty litter arrived at her house for temporary storage was priceless.

What do you like most about volunteering?

Kitty cuddle time – and seeing all the before and afters of animals that come in that we’ve been able to help. Fundraising, you aren’t always in direct contact with the animals, but without the funds there are animals that we wouldn’t have been able to help. I have a really great graph that shows what Fundraiser Team has done since October, when it was formed.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering for Zoe’s?

Jump in. If there is something you want to do, just start talking to people about it. There might already be someone doing that or something similar, but chances are they’re involved in a number of different activities and wouldn’t mind a hand.

How much time do you spend volunteering?

It varies. Right now it’s been quite a lot with the Donation Drive in full swing, but I think I’ll have a little more down time once mid November rolls around.

Do you volunteer for any other organizations?

No, I’m sort of a one trick pony.

What makes you happy?

Organization, graphs, tracking parameters, kitties, socks, and pie.

What makes you sad?

Turning away animals and not finding enough volunteers for events.


Many thanks for your time and honesty Nicole – we salute you!

Featured Volunteer – Tracy Tingey



Tracy Tingey and family.

Time spent with Zoe’s:

About 2 years.

Specialty (e.g., medical, behavioural, puppies):

Medical dogs/cats and cat/kitten intake.

Why did you get involved with Zoe’s?

I wanted to start fostering kittens as well as dogs, and the rescue I was with didn’t have any.  Jo-Anne Siebert recommended Zoe’s to me.

What kind of background do you have in working with animals?

I’ve always had cats of my own, but never had a dog until I started fostering. I’m an RN so that helps with the medical side of things.

Tell us a bit about your most challenging foster experience. Feel free to name names…of foster critters, that is!

Mickey was by far our most challenging experience – when he came to us he had issues with bowel and bladder incontinence, and mobility issues. It took a while to arrange our lives around that, but with time, help from Zoe’s and lots of love and care, he’s a pup we couldn’t imagine being without.

And what has been your most rewarding experience?

Being able to trap and rehome kittens and their mothers – seeing cats that would have ended up living on the streets and having short lives being cold sick and at risk of being coyote meals, to seeing them settle into forever homes and complete a family is extremely rewarding.

What have you learned from your work with rescue animals?

How to be patient, assertive, how to say no and make tough decisions and own your decisions. how to be a part of a larger entity than just yourself, and have pride in being a rescue ranger. How to teach my kids to have compassion and see the value in volunteering and being selfless.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about fostering?

Do it! It’s hard, there’s no doubt about that…you get an animal and teach them to be good members of society, then you let them go…that’s tough, but I always remember that the better job I make of this, the more animals that can be saved from death or a sad and lonely life.  Being part of a “family” of rescuers is an incredible thing. It’s the best decision I ever made for my family and we can’t imagine life void of these animals.

Thank you very much for taking the time out to share your experience Tracy and and on behalf of Zoe’s, deepest thanks for volunteering.  We salute you and your family!

Featured Volunteer – Maggie Hamilton

Maggie pic

We caught up for a question and answer with one of Zoe’s youngest volunteers, Maggie Hamilton who moved to Edmonton in August 2014.  Here she tells us what motivates her to volunteer…

How did you first get involved with Zoe’s?

My family moved from Ontario in August, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for quite a few years and the one thing that always makes me feel better is animals. I started talking to my parents about ways I could help animals in need – and we came up with fostering. I started researching local rescues in the Edmonton area, and the first one that always came up was Zoe’s. People only ever had nice things to say about Zoe’s and their volunteers, so I looked into it a little bit more. I really liked the adoption process that Zoe’s has in place. I definitely felt like animals would be placed into the right forever homes, and that they would be safe and well taken care of, and of course loved. My family has been fostering for Zoe’s for a few months now, and we are absolutely loving it. The Zoe’s Family is so supportive, kind, helpful, and all around full of amazing people. They were so welcoming and I really look up to Kath and Sasha.

What roles have you carried out for the society?

At Zoe’s, my main focus is fostering. My family fosters both dogs as well as cats (kittens and puppies included!) For a while, I was running the Zoe’s Bakery, where I would take cupcake orders and the money I made was donated to Zoe’s. We raised over $500 for Valentine’s Day! Currently, I am part of the cat team where we review adoption applications, do reference checks, arrange home checks, and make sure that each adoption is the perfect fit for that home and animal. I’m also in charge of the online auction that will be starting April 25th. I have done a few fundraisers, such as the big vendor event and 50% of all my leggings sales from Blissful Buns Leggings Beaumont for the month of February were donated to Zoe’s.

How long have you volunteered for Zoe’s

We started fostering for Zoe’s around the month of October, and it didn’t take me long to get involved in more ways.

You recently organized a vendors market in Beaumont for Zoe’s – what tips would you give to others thinking about organizing a fundraising event?

It takes a lot of work to organize a big event like that – I had to spend several hours each day organizing and finding vendors, collecting table fees, making sure all the rental costs were covered. You definitely have to be very committed to your cause. I had the most trouble with advertising – it can be very expensive but you definitely want to get the event out there. If your cause has a big fan base (for example, Zoe’s facebook page reaches over 6000 people), try to get them to advertise it as well. After all, their supporters will be the biggest supporters of your fundraising event. I also suggest doing a silent auction as well as a baked goods table, everyone loves cookies and cupcakes! The silent auction tables are usually pretty successful at vendor events if you get the vendors to donate something towards the auction.

How much did the market raise?

The vendor market raised $1686.00 for Zoe’s Animal Rescue Society, and I sent it through ATB Cares, so Zoe’s actually ended up receiving over $1900!

What’s been your funniest experience as a volunteer?

Sometimes, the funniest things actually happen at home while fostering. My family was recently the intake for a situation where there was over thirty cats in a house. We ended up having around twelve cats in our garage for a few days before they were sent to their foster homes, stores, or some to the NWTSPCA. My dad’s reaction when we told him about getting 12 cats was priceless.

What do you like most about volunteering?

My favourite thing about volunteering has been the feeling I get when one of my fosters finds their forever home.

How much time do you spend volunteering?

I spend at least 3 hours a day doing something for Zoe’s. I’m often reviewing cat adoption applications, but when it’s not quite as busy I’m doing some kind of fundraising, or sometimes blogging. I like to keep myself busy!

Do you volunteer for any other organizations?

My family is on the foster list for: Heart Prints, Paws in Need, Beagle Paws, and a few others. I’m currently running the instagram for CAWS, but it’s not an every day thing. I definitely spend the most time doing volunteer work for Zoe’s.

What makes you happy?

When I was the one to review an adoption application for a kitten/cat, and the adoptive family couldn’t be any happier to have the new addition. When I foster a dog/cat, and they find their forever home. For example, Sheeran (cat) ended up being a foster fail. About 3 days in as his fosters, we knew he was already at home. Another example was Budley, a border collie pup who found an AMAZING home on the beach in Victoria, BC. Animals in general, along with Zoe’s team of volunteers, are sometimes the only things that make me happy.

What makes you sad?

Letting go. Sometimes you get a foster who is really hard to let go of. There have been times when we thought about foster failing dogs, but we always have to put the dogs first. We had a foster that we wanted to foster fail, but we had to be realistic. He needed a more active home, and if we adopted, we would no longer be able to foster. Sometimes it’s hard, but now we get to help more and more animals that come through our home on their way to find their forever families.

Why do you volunteer?

I started volunteering mainly because I have severe depression and anxiety. Being around animals, or being involved with them, has always been something that makes me feel better, ever since I was little. Volunteering with Zoe’s has been a really big part of keeping me somewhat happy, or at least not depressed. It’s been great to distract myself with, and focus on helping the animals rather than being sad. I want to thank Kath and Tracy for being so supportive, not just when it comes to Zoe’s. Thanks to the rescue, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people like them. Tracy is always someone I feel like I can talk to, about anything. And Kath is so understanding, almost like a second mom. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I talk to Kath, and it usually results in me spending the day with a litter of puppies in her garage. Volunteering with Zoe’s has been really good for me, and there are so many things about volunteering in rescue that make your heart feel so good. Thanks to Zoe’s, I’m actually proud of myself. I’ve learned that I have a talent for fundraising, and organizing events.

But to answer your question, the main reason I volunteer… is to give all these animals a second chance at the life they deserve.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering for Zoe’s?

Honestly, go for it! Zoe’s team of volunteers are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and they will support you 100% and help you along the way.


Thank you very much for your time and honesty Maggie and and on behalf of Zoe’s, deepest thanks for volunteering.  We salute you!

Featured Volunteer – Polly-Anna

Polly-Anna is the kind of foster that every little rescue like Zoe’s needs: experienced, dedicated, and ready to take on the tough cases that many have deemed hopeless. Polly-Anna specializes in rehabilitating cats and dogs with serious behavioural issues. She began rescuing in her early twenties, when her truck-driving husband would bring home strays he found dumped on the road. She would take them in, shine them up, and rehome them, all out of her own pocket. “And here I am, 25 years later, still loving the pure joy of working with animals, and the amazing transformations these animals go through.”

Although Polly-Anna has spent most of her rescue years working solo, when she became aware of all the rescues in Edmonton, she thought that one of them just might be a perfect fit. “I thought, I can foster, do what I love doing, and not worry about the expenses that come with it.” Looking at the variety of rescues, she discovered that each was a little different. Why Zoe’s? “Their beliefs were compatible with my own … and as the year has gone by, I feel really good about my choice.”

When asked what her most challenging rescue experience was, one particular case came to mind. “I get so many people who tell me a dog is aggressive, and most of the time, it’s a case of misunderstanding or lack of training.” Only one rescue, in 25 years, was unable to adjust to life with humans. “I beat myself up when I have to make a logical decision on an animal,” she confesses. But sometimes the logical decision is the right one for the animal’s own health. “I worked on her for the six month period I give aggressive dogs. I sought outside help, I made many efforts with her. But I ended up euthanizing her to give her peace.”

This is the kind of story that would-be fosters fear: the unfixable animal that makes you feel like a failure. Yes, there are downs to rescue. But Polly-Anna would say that the ups far outweigh them. To her, rescuing is a comforting – and even healing – process. “I’ve always had my own dogs who pulled me through some pretty rough times in my life. Now I help rescues pull through their rough times, and help them to become balanced and happy again.” Watching animals let go of their pasts reminds her to keep her own in perspective. “I have to live by it,” she says simply.

To those who still aren’t convinced of the immense benefits of fostering, Polly-Anna has this reminder: “you have the choice to find what works best for your needs. If you don’t have a whole a lot of time, your option could be senior cats or dogs. If you have lots of time, then puppies. If you have the abilities, care for those with medical needs. And with Zoe’s, you have a full team to support you, and no one is left alone. We’re all volunteers doing the best we can do.”