My story: New York volunteer Arlene Dolinko

Interview with retired social worker Arlene Dolinko who volunteers with Best Friends-New York, providing animal adoption counseling.
By Nicole Hamilton

As a social worker in New York City for 25 years, Arlene Dolinko used her skills as a listener and her passion for helping others to make a difference in people’s lives. Today it’s no different, though her clients are much furrier than in the past, and they have four legs.

Arlene is now retired, but she’s not slowing down. Instead she’s combining her love of people with her love of pets by volunteering with Best Friends–New York.

In this Q-and-A, you’ll learn what inspires Arlene to volunteer with Best Friends. Here’s a hint: One inspiration involves a chance meeting with a tiny kitten named Mollie.

Volunteer Arlene Dolinko with a cat

Why did you start volunteering with Best Friends?

I’ve known about Best Friends for many years and have always been excited about its no-kill principles. I wanted to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, but between working and everyday life, I was never able to get there. And in fact, it is still on my bucket list. A couple of years ago when I was thinking about retiring, I heard that Best Friends was in New York City, so I knew it was time for me to get involved doing the work I wanted to do for so many years. I retired in October of 2015 and have been volunteering with Best Friends ever since.

What volunteer jobs have you done with Best Friends?

I’ve cleaned carriers and cages at adoption events, answered voicemails and currently, I’m working as a pet adoption counselor.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Best Friends?

The sense of being of service, giving back to my community and a connection to the earth has always been important to me and volunteering is the perfect way to do that. But my favorite thing about volunteering at Best Friends is the feeling that I have played a part in helping animals find forever homes where they’ll get the love and protection they deserve. I love talking to people about fostering, because I think it is such an important service that people can provide, but often do not know about. Being involved in the adoption process and seeing animals and people fall in love and find forever families is extraordinarily special to me. And I am proud to be part of that.

Learn how you can volunteer too

Do you have any pets of your own at home?

I have a 15 1/2-year-old cat named Mollie, who I just adore. A neighbor found her on the street in the Bronx at seven weeks old and knocked on my door. Ironically, it was the week I decided I was ready for a cat in my life. Mollie was everything I didn’t want in a cat: She was a kitten, a female and an alley cat to name just a few. But the moment I met her — filthy, covered with oil and black grease, and looking up at me with her beautiful green eyes, I knew we were destined to grow old together. And we have.

What is one piece of advice you have for other volunteers?

Stay open to new possibilities and follow your heart, both in the volunteer world and in life in general. Life throws us many twists and turns that seem like obstacles, but can actually be opportunities because we are forced to take an alternate path that we hadn’t considered before. I know for me, if I can stay connected to my heart (sometimes despite what my head tells me) I can find the right path for me. At Best Friends, I’ve been given the opportunity to get involved on many levels — from cleaning cat cages to helping with adoptions. Doing whatever needs to be done whenever I can helps feed my heart so that together, we can Save Them All.

Volunteer with Best Friends

Photos by Shannon Kirkman and courtesy of Arlene Dolinko

New York