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Praise for a pooch protector

Community: Castaic resident recently recognized as the L.A. County Animal Control Volunteer of the Y

Posted: June 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Clare Storey, a volunteer at the Castaic Animal Shelter, holds a terrier at the Castaic Animal Shelter in Castaic on Saturday. The dog was recently found in a bag on a trail. Storey was recognized this year as the Los Angeles County Animal Control Volunteer of the Year.

Two or three days a week, you’ll find Clare Storey at Castaic Animal Shelter. A volunteer for three years, Storey will check in with staff, then go off to the kennels to see which animals are new at the shelter, and introduce herself. It could be a week-old kitten that needs socialization or a starved dog that needs fattening up. Last week, it was a horse that needed its hooves done. Storey held the horse while the vet went to work.

Then, when Storey goes home, she posts animals’ photos on Facebook to find them homes, or networks with rescue groups to place some of the harder-luck cases. Two weekends a month, she and a core group of shelter volunteers take adoptable animals to off-site locations, such as PetSmart and PETCO to further their exposure.

Why does she do this? The answer is simple.

“I love animals. When they get out of the shelter, it’s a feeling like no other. It’s like a drug, a high,” Storey said. “This can be hard, emotional, stressful work, and some situations can go on for ages, with lots of phone calls and emails. But it’s always worth it in end.”

Storey’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She recently received the Los Angeles County Animal Control Volunteer of the Year award, beating out nominees from eight other shelters.

Hsiawen Hull, lead volunteer at Castaic Animal Shelter, nominated Storey, whom he noted was a natural for the honor.

“Clare is hands-down one of the hardest-working volunteers we have here. She fosters, she trains, she works from the adoption side, as well as the aftercare side — she follows up on the animal when it goes into a home or rescue,” Hull said.

“She’s really, really involved with educating the public, as far as the importance of adoption, fixing your animals or even veterinary care. Clare’s heavily involved in training process and a mentor for all the new volunteers, and is exceptional with some of our problematic dogs, too.”

Originally from Lincolnshire, England, Storey developed an affinity for animals growing up as a farmer’s daughter.

“It wasn’t unusual for me to find newborn lambs in the warming drawer of our oven. I would bottle-feed them. We didn’t get breakfast until we looked after all the animals,” she said.

“Most kids had summer jobs as lifeguards or working in park, but my holiday jobs were lambing or hay baling for my dad.”

After relocating to the United States in 2005 with her husband, originally to Florida — then to Castaic in 2008 — Storey was looking for a way to meet like-minded people, and decided volunteering with homeless pets was the solution. She found a lifelong passion

“Once I discovered the scale of overpopulation and the number of animals in shelters, it had a huge impact on me. They don’t have a voice,” Storey said. “Most people want to give back and do something and, for me, it was with animals. I had always wanted to work with animals, but wasn’t bright enough to become a vet. I’m no good at science.”

She volunteered at New Leash on Life, a no-kill dog rescue shelter in Newhall, and eventually became an employee of the organization. Because of economic reasons, Storey was laid off in 2009. That was when she gravitated to the Castaic Animal Shelter.

“I decided if I still wanted to be in rescue, that I should be at the core, with animals facing euthanasia. I didn’t know if I would be strong enough to stick out at the shelter, but I have,” Storey said. “It can be hard, but if we save just one, it’s one animal less that died in a shelter.”

One such success story was a black dog chained to the axle of an old tow truck in a junkyard. An animal-control officer was called to the scene and brought the dog back to the shelter.

“This was a no-hope story. The dog was black. She was a chow (chow). She had mange. She had every strike going against her. I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen; that it wasn’t fair for this dog — to pay for what people had done to her,” Storey said.

Storey christened the dog Cinders and posted photos on Facebook with the plea, “Will you help turn Cinders into Cinderella?” Eventually, a rescue group in Sacramento agreed to take Cinders, now Cinderella, into its care.

“Have I shed tears doing this? Oh yes, but then there’s been these incredible ups, too,” Storey said. “When I found out I won the award, oh my God, I was totally shocked. We have so many incredible volunteers here. But it’s wonderful to be recognized for something you enjoy doing.”

For information on volunteering at Castaic Animal Shelter, call (661) 257-3191. Castaic Animal Shelter is located at 31044 N. Charlie Canyon Road, Castaic.


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