By Amanda Matwie

Dione Zurburg first learned about Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) in 2014, but her decision to volunteer for the rescue came later.

At the end of 2022, Dione took an early retirement, spurred by realizations she made in 2021 when she lost her beloved sister to cancer. Her sister Christine had been involved in volunteer work since her teen years, constantly inspiring Dione and even being the catalyst to Dione learning about SCARS in the first place. “Even though she was two years younger than me,” Dione says, “I always said ‘I want to be like her when I grow up’.” The way that Christine lived her life and the way that she passed made Dione realize how short our lives are. “We are only given one life,” she points out, “and it’s important to make the best of what time we do have here.”

Dione had already decided that she’d volunteer with SCARS, but she thought she might like to take a year off first. A few short months later, though, she ended up on the SCARS events page, signing up for the next volunteer orientation session. Not long after that she signed up for her first volunteer shift, painting dog houses for the Walls for Winter program. Five months and over 218 hours of volunteering later, Dione says she has “replaced the routine of going to work with the routine of volunteering.”

Dione’s main volunteer role is going in to the Morinville Rescue Center twice a week to clean. In addition to cleaning kennels, feeding cats, and trying to keep up with the “sometimes overwhelming” amount of laundry that the rescue facility produces, she tries to spend at least forty-five minutes of her shift cuddling cats. The significant amount of time that she spends on site at the Morinville facility allows Dione to observe the distinct personalities of the cats there, so she especially loves being able to volunteer at adoption events. Between setting up the kennels and taking them back down again, she can tell potential adopters all about the cats, many of whom she has had the pleasure of interacting with. Dione has also been involved with puppy yoga. “Who am I joking?” she admits, “I’m there to snuggle the puppies.”

Dione couldn’t pick one memorable volunteer experience to tell me about, since she considers them all to be memorable. “While it is sometimes heartbreaking and I will sometimes break down and cry over a particular animal while I’m at the shelter,” she assures me, “volunteering has been more rewarding and fulfilling than any job I could possibly have.” She describes how wonderful it is to see cats come into care “completely scared and ‘spicy’” and watching the change that can happen in a short time. “Having them be completely untrusting to now purring and rubbing up against you,” she tells me, “Now THAT is the power of love.”

Back in 2014, when she learned about Second Chance Animal Rescue Society from her sister, Dione already had two cats at home, adopted from the Edmonton Humane Society, but she knew if she ever adopted again, it would be from SCARS. In June 2023, when she had to say goodbye to her eighteen-year-old cat, Dione revisited the idea of adoption. Devastated and unsure of when she would be ready to open her “heart and home” again, she filled out a general application to be kept on file in case she met the perfect match for herself and her remaining cat. Five weeks later, after she had begun volunteering for SCARS, Dione came across the adoption profile for a cat named Olive (now Daisy) and knew that she was ready. Within days, “as fate would have it,” she went to an adoption event that Olive was attending and brought her home that very afternoon. In August, Dione arrived at an adoption event to help set up, spotted Jodi (now Luna) and immediately claimed her. Dione says that (Crazy) Daisy and Luna (the Lunatic) are “in their teen years” and testing their limits and her patience, but her “heart is full of love for them” and she can’t imagine her life without them.

As with many SCARS volunteers, Dione’s journey as a volunteer ended up including an adoption (or two), but there are many other ways to help. Adopting or fostering animal are magnificent things, but so are cuddling cats, doing laundry, washing floors, transporting animals and donations, and generally opening your heart. “It doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of animals,” Dione assures me. She encourages people to check out a volunteer orientation session, no commitment required, and see if they might find themselves asking “How can I help?”

Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS), like most animal rescues here in Alberta, operates primarily through the efforts of volunteers. These volunteers do everything from walking dogs and cuddling kittens to opening their homes to provide temporary placements for animals. There are a multitude of volunteer roles that help the rescue run. Learn more about volunteering for SCARS.

Pictured: Dione and her two SCARS cats, Daisy and Luna.