Volunteer helps so many animals in New York City.

During a 2014 trip to run a half marathon at southern Utah’s Zion National Park, Hiromi Nobata decided to take a side trip to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Inspired by the dedication of all the staff and volunteers, she returned home to New York City — one more half marathon in the books and with a desire to volunteer with Best Friends.

It’s been five years since Hiromi’s visit, and now she’s a regular volunteer at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in New York, where she helps with just about everything.

Volunteers like Hiromi, who are willing to step up wherever needed (and do an incredible job) are invaluable, says Missy Parker, volunteer programs specialist at the center. “If there is anything you need, Hiromi will do it with such professionalism and poise,” says Missy. “I don’t know what we’d do without her.”

In the following interview, Hiromi tells us what motivates her to help New York City pets.

Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned and has volunteering caused you to see anything differently?

I have had the opportunity to learn a lot of things at Best Friends, most significantly the importance of looking for ways to facilitate an adoption. The biggest take-away I had from my adoption counselor training is that we are looking for reasons to say "yes" when working with a potential adopter. It’s also important to always trust your instincts and ask for help if you need it. We all work as a team and everyone is there to help.

Volunteer Hiromi Nobata wearing an orange and white scarf walking a dog on a yellow Adopt Me leash

With respect to your volunteer work, what are you most proud of and why?

I guess I’m most proud of the fact that the staff trusts me enough to allow me to care for some of their hardest cases, health-wise. I fostered kittens who were “failing to thrive” or saddled with multiple health issues. They needed TLC and careful monitoring until they were healthy and ready for adoption. It is so incredibly rewarding to be able to care for and watch a tiny kitten grow!

What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?

Volunteering means giving back and doing what I can to help make sure that I am helping to take this country to no-kill by 2025. I can only provide a home for a limited number of pets because we have three cats; but, by volunteering I can help so many more.

Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.

I’m not sure I have a favorite moment. There are so many of them, but it’s special when I’m there to watch a cat or dog finally go to a forever home after being with us for a long time. I’ve shed more than a few tears on those occasions.

What inspires you most in your volunteer work?

The hard work and dedication of the staff. They are working every day to save as many lives as possible and I'm happy to be able to play a small part in that mission.

About Best Friends regional programs

Volunteer Hiromi Nobata smiling and holding a toy out for a gray and white cat

What are you doing when you’re not volunteering with animals?

Definitely running. I’m not particularly fast, but I run a fair number of miles every week.

Please tell us about your own pets.

We have three cats: All of them were bottle babies and two were foster fails. I learned how to care for a bottle baby when we found a week-old kitten on our doorstep (thank goodness for the internet), and with that experience under my belt, I answered the call for someone willing to care for a litter of four bottle babies when I was volunteering with another shelter.

Well, when it was time to take them in for spay/neuter surgery, they discovered that one of the kittens had a heart condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and would probably not make it past four months. So we decided to keep her. Then we decided to keep her brother since she was yowling around the apartment looking for her sister and brothers. Despite the diagnosis and prognosis, our kitten with the heart condition is now six years old and still with us, along with her brother and our original bottle baby.

If you have a superpower, what is it?

I think my superpower is being able to figure things out on the fly and adjust to changing circumstances. That’s why I love working the pop-up events for Best Friends, because anything can, and often will happen. And I’m totally up for whatever challenge lies ahead.

Volunteer Hiromi Nobata sitting next to a brown and white pit bull terrier type dog while out on a walk

What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?

Do it! You will feel such a sense of joy helping at an off-site event or at a Best Friends lifesaving center. There is nothing like playing a part in cats and dogs finding their forever homes.

Volunteer near you

Best Friends in New York works collaboratively with city shelters, local animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area. As part of this work, Best Friends has a national lifesaving concept space and pet adoption center in SoHo, hosts adoption and fundraising events, and runs a foster program in partnership with Animal Care Centers of New York City. Together, we will Save Them All.

Photos by Robert Stoetzel