Volunteer spotlight: Erin and Eric Granados
Whether it’s volunteering to help care for the animals on their days off from work, doing laundry, fostering dogs or staying up all night to welcome dogs rescued after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, married volunteers Eric and Erin Granados are always ready to help save lives at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta.
“Erin and Eric serve a major role as a foster family and have helped a couple of the adoption center’s long-term senior dogs find new pep in their step by giving them a temporary home and place to rest until they get adopted,” says Nichole Dandrea, social media community manager at the center.
Read more about this powerhouse couple, described by Nichole as representing “100 percent heart and compassion for animals and people.”
Why did you volunteer at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta?
Erin: I had a cat, Cassie, for 19 years. When Cassie passed, I immediately needed to fill the pet void, but wasn’t ready to adopt another. Instead of adopting, I looked into volunteering locally and the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta is a short commute from my home. After a couple months of getting into the swing of things and meeting the staff and other volunteers, I encouraged Eric to volunteer as well. We’ve been volunteering for more than two and a half years and continue to learn about animal welfare and opportunities to contribute to making the entire country no-kill by 2025.
What inspires you most in the work your volunteer work?
Erin: Our pets, the pet adoption staff and the other volunteers. Our pets are all rescues and they are simply wonderful. We know all rescued animals could give the same love to their humans, so we volunteer to help make that happen. We love being a part of a group with similar passions and are continually inspired and motivated to be more involved because of the people that surround us.
Eric: The staff and volunteers at the adoption center continue to amaze us with their skills, patience and dedication. It’s such an inspiring and touching experience to see a shy, timid or scared animal blossom and show its true colors and loving personality.
What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?
Erin: Do it! If you’re considering it, just try it. If it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to continue, but at least try it out. It’s difficult to think why volunteering wouldn’t suit anyone though, since there are so many different opportunities.
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean interaction with the animals if that’s a concern. There’s paperwork to help with, laundry, building maintenance, dishes, yard work, food prep and even sewing. So many opportunities and every little bit of volunteering helps the animals and the staff a lot.
Eric: We spend lots of time with the animals at the adoption center, but we also try to do a lot of things that don’t involve animals, so that the staff can focus on the animals and run a smooth operation. In addition to (liking) how easy it is to make a big difference, we like meeting the other volunteers. Everyone is there because they share the same passion. Conversation is easy, because we always have at least one thing in common — our love for the animals. We all “get” each other and appreciate the work we all do.
Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned, and do you see anything differently now?
Eric: Best Friends has taught us so much about animal welfare, volunteering and ourselves in general. We’ve both really uncovered this passion we have for animals and their well-being. We had no idea how many animals are killed in shelters across the country and it is a heartbreaking statistic.
We did not understand the importance of spaying and neutering or the negative impacts of buying an animal from a breeder (rather than adopting a rescued pet). Additionally, we’ve learned about types of volunteer opportunities. If you have a skill set that you want to enhance or better utilize, there are unlimited volunteer opportunities to do so and it’s a win-win situation for you and the organization.
In terms of your volunteer work with Best Friends, what are you most proud of?
Erin: We are most proud of our continued commitment to volunteer and contributing to an organization that saves lives on a daily basis. When we first started volunteering, we had a let’s-just-try-this-out mentality. We weren’t sure how often we would be able or want to go to the shelter or help with community events.
After adopting our cats, there was the added challenge of balancing work, volunteering and quality time at home with them. We’ve figured out a schedule that works well and volunteering is part of our routine. If we can’t volunteer regularly, we get antsy to get back. Having home volunteer options like fostering, laundry and sewing trap-neuter-return cat trap liners helps us continue to be engaged, even when we’re not able to spend much time at the pet adoption center each week.
What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?
Erin: Volunteering at Best Friends is being a part of family. We really enjoy seeing and getting to know the staff and other volunteers, in addition to all the rescued animals. The love from the animals is constant and genuine, and it’s such a great feeling to give and receive. Volunteering doesn’t feel like work or a chore. It’s just something we enjoy as a hobby. It’s really a win-win situation for us and the pet adoption center. We go because it’s fun for me, and because having volunteers is part of what makes a successful operation.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
Eric: We each have numerous awesome memories about animals and events, but there’s one moment that comes to mind. We were working a closing shift and Erin was playing with a few dogs. One dog in particular was still coming out of his shell but became very excited to play. He began running furious circles around the pen and then bolted through the doggie door (which was about the same dimensions as his body), over the deck, through the rails and uncomfortably close to the back fence of the pen’s yard. We lost sight of him for a second and both held our breath that this fluffy lightning bolt wasn’t injured. And then he shot back through the doggie door and halted with a giant underbite smile. We laughed hysterically and were relieved he was unharmed and just enjoying some playtime.
This underbite delight, Stanley, ended up getting adopted by Gregory Castle (CEO of Best Friends Animal Society).
Could you please tell us about your pets?
Eric: We are the Granados Party of four at home — with a cat, Smiley, who is 10 and dog Obie, who is nine. Smiley is half of a pair that we rescued in June 2015 and our story with them is one of our favorites. We had started volunteering only a couple months prior, and Erin began looking at other rescue groups online as she became interested in the animal welfare community. In doing so, she ran across two Persian cats named Smiley and Smuffin. Their story explained that Smiley was blind and Smuffin helped to care for him.
Erin showed me their profiles (since it was cute), but we weren’t actually looking to adopt. She continued to run across them online for a few weeks and always hoped to see an “adopted” update. Then, during a road trip one weekend, we stopped in a PetSmart that was hosting pet adoptions. We went in and immediately saw Smuffin and Smiley.
It was one of those meant-to-be moments, and we knew we needed to adopt them. Sadly, Smuffin passed in early February but was the best roommate we could ask for. He really was a friend and roommate more than a pet. He loved conversation and playing with ribbons. Smiley is our first special-needs pet, and he has been absolutely fascinating to watch. He’s too brave for his own good and doesn’t let his lack of vision stop him from anything.
Obie was the very last adoption out of Atlanta Pet Rescue & Adoption (APRA) before it became the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta. He had been at APRA for a couple of months, and we got to know him well as we spent time at the shelter and took him out for walks in the park to help him lose weight.
Erin: I knew Obie was something special the first time I saw him. His eyes spoke to me. It was something I hadn’t experienced with any of the many animals I’d been around. We weren’t looking to adopt a dog, so we didn’t talk about adoption for over a month after meeting Obie. During that time, it became progressively harder for me to leave Obie at the shelter, and the fact that this perfect dog hadn’t been adopted was baffling. Eric knew I really liked Obie and wasn’t surprised when I finally told him how I was actually feeling. Obie came home, met the cats, everyone got along instantly, and they make us laugh and smile every day.
Photos courtesy of Erin and Eric Granados, Molly Wald and Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta