November 7, 2013
Rover-Time is inspired and delighted by Pets Are Like Family. Their mission is to help Chicago pet parents have a loving, responsible relationship with their pets by providing education, resources, counseling and referral services; to keep pets with their families and avoid pet relinquishment. Julia and Alicia Obando, it’s founder, sat down for a special interview.
Julia Rohan: How did you get started in animal advocacy?
Alicia Obando: I have loved animals all my life. I’ve always had a dog in my life since I was a small child. I started volunteering at the Anti Cruelty Society about 10 years ago, but what really got me involved in the Chicago animal welfare community was my participation in Camp Dogwood. I’ve been attending twice a year camp sessions since the first session in the fall of 2001. This is where I’ve learned so much about pet care and have made some great lasting relationships with other animal lovers and avid animal advocates. I began the Canine Clubhouse online social club in 2004, was the president of the Associate Board of Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control for 2009, 2010 and 2011 and then started Pets Are Like Family in 2012.
JR: When did you launch PALF and what was the need in the community you wanted to address?
AO: I began some brainstorming sessions with community leaders at the end of 2011 and then became incorporated in the State of Illinois in March of 2012. I had been involved in social services for many years working with children and families. I have always worked to help families get the resources and services they need to help them be safe, healthy and happy. I was running the Leclaire Kids Block Club from 2007 – 2011. Most of the kids in the club had pets at home and I realized that these were family members that needed help too. With my past career in social services and my present involvement in animal welfare, I felt that helping pet families in need was my way to merge my two passions. Helping families, and ultimately communities, be safe, healthy and happy is what PALF is all about.
JR: What are the different types of services you provide and who should use them?
AO: PALF has a pet pantry, a hotline, and a website full of resources. We hold Pet Care 101 workshops in the park district buildings throughout the summer, work education and information tables at community events throughout the year, and do home based counseling with clients to assess their needs first hand and provide them with the necessary supplies and services. We currently target the Humbold Park, Logan Square, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin communities with plans to expand to other communities over time. Any pet family in need of information, resources or supplies is welcome to contact PALF for assistance.
JR: You have an upcoming fundraiser on November 16th. What is that all about?
AO: We have a big annual fundraiser each year that celebrates the bond that people have with their pets. This year the event is called Pamper Yourself and Your Pooch. We encourage pet parents to come out to Chicago Party Animals on November 16th with their dogs and take advantage of massages, nail trims, hair trims, hand massages, make up tips, dog training tips, party photos and much more. There will also be a food buffet, a cocktail bar, fun vendors and an awesome raffle! Tickets are only $25 in advance and $35 at the door, which includes 2 service tickets and 2 drink tickets.
JR: What has been your greatest accomplishment with PALF so far? OR What impact have you seen since you started PALF?
AO: Every time we help a pet parent get the supplies or services they need but didn’t have the resources to get, we feel good about what we do. I’ve had clients cry and hug me in gratitude because they love their pets so much and want to do what’s right by them, but just weren’t able to do it until they reached out to us for help. Our Healthy Start Program, that pays for pets to get fixed, vaccinated and microchipped is one of our main programs. We just received our first big name grant from the Petco Foundation for this program.
JR: What is the most rewarding part of your day?
AO: When I work one on one with our clients, I feel I’m engaging in the core of what we do. Reaching out to people in their communities, in their homes, to let them know that we are there to meet them where they’re at, to help them get what they need, is what makes us unique and valuable.
JR: Tell us more about the organizations that you partner with most frequently.
AO: Our biggest partner is the Tree House Humane Society because it’s their Spay and Neuter Clinic in Bucktown where we send all of our clients to get their pets fixed, vaccinated and microchipped. Tree House is a great organization to work with and is a big supporter of what we do. We also have lots of other organizations and businesses that have partnered with us and supported us in some way including Chicago Canine Concierge, Chicago Pet Video, Chicago Party Animals, Alive Rescue, Krisers, Animal Sense, CanineLink, Fetch Portraits and the Chicago Veterinary Specialty Group.
JR: What is your vision for PALF in the future?
AO: I would like to see PALF grow to be the go to social service organization for families with pets. I’d like to see human social service organizations refer their families to us to for help with their pet needs. I’d like to see PALF partner with rescue organizations to help them with follow up services to adoptive families to help ensure successful adoptions and decrease returns.
JR: When you’re not working on forwarding PALF’s goals, how do you spend your time?
AO: I work a full time job at a veterinary hospital, work on PALF evenings and weekends, while taking care of a house and 10 pets all by myself, so spare time isn’t in abundance. But I do love taking my pets to pet friendly events, working in my backyard, renting and going to movies, scrap-booking and having my friends over for dinner, drinks and lots of laughs.
From Julia: Andrea, our Logan Square/Humboldt Park walker, and myself are heading out to PALF’s big event November 16th. Rover-Timer’s you should come with! Let me know if you have interest in meeting up that night! I’d love to spend some time with you!