In the early part of the pandemic, the Hinsdale Humane Society and its then-business development director Jacki Rossi took extreme measures to meet the spiking demand for rescue pets from homebound residents.
"I was literally, on the weekends, driving to Kentucky to meet our partners in the south to get animals," Rossi said.
Finding forever families for so many animals was rewarding. But with veterinarian offices closed or limited during lockdown, the rate of spaying and neutering plummeted.
"So a lot of animals reproduced," she said.
As a result, instead of the usual influx of kittens from April to October, for example, it's now become a year-round stream. COVID effects like that have put pressure on the society's ability to stock adequate supplies and keep pace with the medical care animals receive.
To help shore up the resources needed to carry out its mission, the humane society will hold its Unleashed virtual fundraiser from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26 (see Page 18 for details).
"(The virtual format) allow us to connect with our supporters across the country," Rossi remarked. "I see that continuing."
Rossi started as a humane educator in 2017 and was recently named the society's executive director. She studied mythology, literature and economics in college and entered the workforce as a marketing staffer .
"My first job out of school was with the Girl Scouts. That started my love of nonprofits," she said.
Helping critters has always been her heart's assignment.
"I've just always loved animals," she said. "I was the one in the neighborhood bringing the (stray) animals home to my parents."
Before joining the Hinsdale Humane Society staff, Rossi got involved in farm life.
"I was in general farm animal welfare where I worked with family farmers on humane husbandry systems," she said. "Animal welfare and youth programming are kind of my passion."
Other passions include biking, playing volleyball and writing.
"I still have on my bucket list to write a children's novel based on (my humane society experience)," Rossi revealed. "If I can just could get it out of my head onto paper."
Naturally her household is a pet-friendly one.
"I have foster dogs, I have two cats and a snail," Rossi said. "I had a pet therapy rat named Neville, but he passed away last year."
2022 is off to a busy start, with already 246 adoptions as of Monday. And it's not just dogs and cats.
"We just got two rabbits, and in two weeks they both got adopted," she related. "It hasn't slowed down at all, which is a good thing."
The Tuthill Family Pet Rescue & Resource Center has weclcomed a goat, sugar gliders - even roosters, hearkening back to Rossi's farm days.
"We put them in a dog kennel, but we have to scatter the food so they can go around and eat," she said. "And they let us know when it's morning."
Rossi loves enriching lives, whether they're four-legged or two.
"Giving back and helping people are just kind of ingrained of who I am as a person," she said. "I'm very fortunate to be able to do that as a professional, too."
- story by Ken Knutson,
photo by Jim Slonoff