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For the Love of Wiley: Foster Manager Lisa Ballard Knows Firsthand the Importance of the Human-Animal Bond

March 16, 2016

If you’re a volunteer with Phinney’s Friends, then you know Lisa Ballard. She’s the cheery, energetic Foster Manager who sends out emails with pictures of all our beautiful, furry clients in need of foster care. She recently took over the position for Lauren Terry, our former Foster Manager who was recently promoted to Foster Coordinator (congrats, Lauren!).

To call Lisa an “open book” is an understatement. When we interviewed her for this article, she was warm, funny, and 100% willing to share about herself, her love of animals, and what brought her to Phinney’s Friends.

Lisa knows firsthand about the importance of the human-animal bond. When Lisa was living in Oregon, she ended a relationship and moved out of her home with nothing more than her suitcase and Wiley, her beloved Black Lab whom Lisa calls “the best thing to come out of that relationship” (he was a gift from her ex). Lisa was living in a state where she did not know anyone, and Wiley filled the role of best friend, confidant and protector. He made her feel safe and helped her get up and get out of the house even when she was feeling down. No matter what, he was always there for her. Lisa doesn’t think she would have made it through those hard times without Wiley’s love and support.

When Lisa left Oregon and moved back East, Wiley of course came with her. And, as luck would have it, Lisa met a lovely man named Dave who lived in her building and happened to have a Golden Retriever named Luci, who quickly became a dear family member of the doggie kind. The four joined forces and decided to become a family. Sadly, Wiley passed away, but Lisa says she will never forget her best friend and companion. During the grieving process, Lisa developed an even stronger bond with Luci (who, too, has crossed the rainbow bridge), as she was there to help Lisa through that difficult time.

Lisa was still grieving the loss of Wiley and between jobs when she came across a Phinney’s ad in the volunteer section of Craigslist. She was immediately drawn to Phinney’s mission of keeping the human-animal bond in times of crisis, given her own bond with Wiley during hard times. She decided to give volunteering with Phinney’s Friends a chance. The rest, as we say, is Lisa is Phinney’s Foster Manager and Administrative Manager by title, but she describes her duties as “a little bit of everything,” and “whatever Phinney’s needs.” Lisa is working part time, so she has some extra time to step in when needed – to call clients to set up vet checks and see how they are doing, find fosters for animals, coordinate transportation for pets being fostered, and all sorts of clerical work. She loves the flexibility that Phinney’s gives her; and it allows herto do a little bit of everything, which she very much enjoys.

When asked about what she loves most about volunteering with Phinney’s, Lisa says it’s the fact that we take care of people’s pets in order to keep people and their pets together. We don’t try to get the pets adopted out – we find foster care, pay vet bills, and do what we can to honor the bond between the owner and the pet, which is crucial not just for the pets, but for their human.

Lisa loves that she gets to help both people and pets at the same time. The immense relief people get when they know that their pets are going to be well taken care of makes all the hard work worth it. When she puts her head down on her pillow at night, she thinks to herself she may have never met this cat, or that dog, but somehow she just found them a foster home and the vet treatment they needed.

“These pets won’t end up in shelters, and they will be reunited with the humans that love them when the time is right,” she adds. We give these animals a voice, and Lisa says that’s such a gratifying feeling.

Lisa loves that all the volunteers offer a different area of expertise – from marketing to animal care to fundraising. Working with different people has taught Lisa more about admin tasks, database management and other skills that can transfer to other jobs and in life in general, she says.

“Let’s say you want to be an event coordinator and you are right out of school and need experience,” she says. “You can get that experience at Phinney’s, in a really supportive and wonderful environment. The opportunities for gaining useful skills are endless, and you can volunteer as little or as much as you want. You can participate in a few events, take care of animals or work in an administrative role.”

Lisa also feels Phinney’s is a good match for her because there aren’t many levels of bureaucracy to get through before you can talk to someone and share ideas. If she wants to talk to our President, Daniela Caride, she can just send Daniela an email. And, unlike in many other organizations, the President will email you back!

Lisa looks towards the future with excitement as she works on establishing a new bond. She and Dave have just adopted a pit bull mix named Nugget. He is very sweet but very nervous, and Lisa and Dave are working on getting him physically healthy and mentally happy. Lisa explained that Nugget “is turning around.” “He’s a dog who is learning to trust people. It takes a lot of patience, and it is a learning experience for Dave and me.”

Happy tails, Nugget! We know you are in good hands and here’s to many more years of Phinney’s Friends!


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