Amber Freiwald earned her Marketing and Sociology degree from Tulane University. She has worked with several organizations in various roles & joined Maddies Fund in 2013 as a research contractor. It was there that she found her passion and drive for helping animals, joining their team 1 year later as a full-time employee. Amber works on all things MPA (Maddies Pet Assistant) and she’s extremely proud of what she’s been able to accomplish and looks forward to the future and what it holds. More great things to come from Maddies Fund…stay tuned!
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Amber join Maddie’s fund as a research contractor in 2013 becoming a full time employee. A year later, she earned her marketing and sociology degree from Tulane University. Her interest in shelter medicine continue to peek not only with the special love of an angel Kitty friend named Posey, but also during her assistant ship in the oncology Department of Produce, Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Time Spend as an adoptions counselor in program manager at Almost Home Humane Society in Lafayette, Indiana, Amber is extremely proud to be able to use her research, training and management skills to professionalize and advance the movement to eliminate euthanization of healthy and treatable companion animals. Hey, Amber, Thanks for coming on. Hey, thank you for having me. So you get to start us off tell us about you. Tell us about your story. How did you become to be the person that’s in charge of everything at Maddie’s pet assistant? You know, sometimes things just kind of fall in your lap, but don’t necessarily expect your life to go that way, But you’re happy when it does. I’m happy. Coincidences, right. I graduated from Tulane with an undergrad degree and marketing and sociology, and I had an internship at a marketing firm and I thought I would be an account executive or something along those lines. And then immediately after school decided that I wanted to be politically active instead, Eh? So I started working for a group called The Perks. Just Public Interest research group. Um, canvassing, uh, door to door and also on the street, uh, for political campaigns like Sierra Club and let’s see an environment. Colorado. I’m like thinking of them as I go because it’s been quite a while. Um, it was really doing kind of a granola saying for a while, uh, but realizing that I I had a little fire let under me in terms of advocacy and social justice and also working for human rights campaign as well. That was actually during all the federal marriage. And then that worked. I was taking place in Colorado, which is also home of focus on the family. So, you know, if anybody is listening and they know about that steer of work Um, yeah, pretty interesting. Pretty interesting stuff there, But so I lived all over the United States, but, um I guess it was kind of, let’s see, I was in New York and I was working for a nonprofit, but it was not for animal welfare, and I thought the mission was really, really important. But it wasn’t my mission. It wasn’t the thing that moved me to read more about it on my own or get me up in the morning. I knew that it was something that needed Thio happen, and I was so glad that other people were wholly invested. But I don’t know, I kind of woke up one day after actually having a dream about being in animal welfare, specifically in shelter medicine, except, you know what dreams are worth. But I had a dream. And then the next morning I was, you know, I had a conversation with my partner uh, then and you know, we’re like, huh? Maybe we should look into this and think about this more. Um, and I did. And so it was kind of like one thing led to another. Um, I’ve always been an animal lover. I’ve always been a cat freak. I love you. Don’t have to be a cat lover or a dog lover. That’s totally ridiculous. But I’m a dog lover and a cat freak. That’s how I always kind of talk about, You know, I kind of volunteered here and there. Um, I would go to that clinics and kind of see what kind of service is they need help with and had the opportunity to go to private clinics a couple of times to see what veterinarians were doing behind those doors and see some surgeries and things like that and realize that no other things goes to me out. And I actually loved it s Oh, yeah. Give me all of your gross Cory thing. I’m kind of into it from a biological perspective. Yeah, And so, like parasitology Lovett. Who knew? But yes. So I, um, I was in New York, started volunteering for really underground rescue and then decided Thio move to leave my job in New York. Leave New York City as an urbanite completely. And I moved Thio basically Westhoff yet around produced campus basically was just like, Hi, I’m gonna I was thinking about going to vet school. That was kind of how I put it out there and, um, took an assistant ship with Dr Annette Lister, who was the shelter. Uh, medicine program director at Purdue on her position was funded through Maddie’s fund. That’s how I figured out who. Maddie’s Fund. Waas Madison is a very small family foundation, but they are very big contributors. The number one contributor thio this movement to end the euthanasia of treatable or healthy conditions to kind of INGE the euthanasia of cats and dogs that are healthy, untreatable in United States shelters and rescues. So really leading a charging what we would call a no kill nation working thio increase the value that we see in our pets, really elevating kind of the power that they have in our lives and recognizing the power that they have in our lives. About who? Maddie’s Fund Waas. Yeah, we’re contemplating going to vet school. Yeah, while I’m contemplating going to that school while I’m taking post back classes so that I can actually apply. Um and so I started assisting at, produced that school in the oncology department. I started assisting for Dr Lister with her F i D. Research with felines, obviously. And, um, let’s see what else I was doing. And then I started working as an adoptions counselor at almost whom Humane Society, which is the municipal shelter there, and left. Yet I saw a lot of things changing very quickly there, which is really exciting. Um, let’s see, what else is I’m doing? I was just really kind of digging my toes in as many ways as possible and taking classes literally with 17 and 18 holes, like retaking chemistry classes and biology classes and, um, going and doing like field trips to farms. And, uh, one day I was doing in vitro fertilization of dear. It was just really putting myself out there in seeing what is this landscape looked like? And what am I really interested in? Um, and then became, ah, summer scholar for Maddie’s Fund. And so I Summer Skeletor do. Yeah, so it’s, um, it’s essentially like this $5000 scholarship that’s given to pre vet students or vet students or PhD students in a shelter, medicine or shelter management. And, um, because I had such a great connection with Dr Lister, she let me know that it was available and she was so supportive, encouraging that I was able to, uh, get that scholarship. And so what I did is I used my social science background. I don’t have that hard science background, but when it comes to, you know, marketing, sociology, putting together, um, social surveys, doing focus groups, that sort of thing, like, I feel really comfortable in that room and I, you know, taking all the statistics classes around that icky things. So So what I was looking at were what are the standards of care that’s acceptable allowable the ones that want to be done by, uh, pet owners in Chicago. So I don’t know if anyone is familiar with, like, the a C Lamar Records. I think they’ve had their time, um, an animal welfare, and I think they’ve done great work. We’re ready to move on in terms of, I think, data collection. At least I would love to see us move on. You know, for what it’s worth, I think it was really important to look at what is the matrix of standard of care? Uh, from pet owners. Like, what are people willing to D’oh! You know, like, what? What is a treatable condition for a pet owner? How much would a person do you willing to spend? Or, you know, Are they willing to give injections twice a day? They willing to pill there? Cat once a day, etcetera. So just, you know, it helps us. No, I think in the sheltering and rescue community because we are part of the community, we may be actually underestimating what people are willing to dio, Um and we may be calling something unhealthier untreatable when it’s actually manageable. Thio in a doctor or foster caregiver. And so how can we save more lives by knowing what it is that the community would be cool doing? Does that make sense? Yeah, does So. So you were doing this This an internship? This What did you call this with Maddie’s Fund for scholarship programs? Basically, I did research over summer, um, and was in Chicago and then by the end of it, I published my work. Um, so it’s out there Never. Yeah, out there. And so I was just telling my friends, like, Do I get to be a doctor? You know, it doesn’t work. Things published one thing, and that’s it. It’s that easy. But as my parents said, they were very proud of me because I’m the only author on the family. You can add that to resume now. So how did you go from that to now? Working at Maddie’s Fund? Yeah. So, um, after that summer was over, I kept a good connection with Dr Lister and folks that Maddie’s Fund and actually Dr Lori Peak, wonderful executive leadership at Maddie’s Fund. She gave me a call and she said, Hey, we actually have some social science work that we would love to dio some surveys that we love to put together around. Actually, there was an employee engagement and then around foster care retention and some other things that were along the lines of, you know, kind of the softer sciences. And so really along the lines of professionalizing our industry, which I like really sink my teeth into. So I contacted with them doing these bits of work for about a year. And then after that they put me on staff and I’ve been with Maddie’s for about five years now, wearing many, many different hats. Then that’s such a fascinating story. And it sounds like now you’ve found your true calling. I think so. I mean, I get pretty steak and passionate about things, so, you know, it gets me fired up, and I enjoyed that. So So tell us. I want to ask a little bit more about the Maddie’s Pegasus, and I say, I know what it is, but for people that are listening that I don’t know what it is. I mean, maybe give us the quick story. How did this come about? Yeah, So researchers indicating that, um, we needed Thio better connect shelters and rescues with a doctors, and it really started off as a nap to follow up with the doctors so that organizations better knew what was going on with animals when pets were placed in homes. And then we said, Oh, actually, this works really well for foster care programs, too. So we tact that in on, and so essentially the, you know, they come in. The elevator pitch is that it’s a free I said, Free. Yeah, Free school is a free app for organizations to follow up with her A doctors and or foster caregivers. Just see how pets were doing once they’re placed into a home and they’re the heart and soul of it, I would say, Are these health and behavioral surveys that folks are prompted to submit? Um, and it will ask them, you know, is your you know, are you seeing sneezing or lethargy or coughing or some of these kind of diagnostics? And then, depending upon what a caregiver would select, they get an automatic immediate piece of advice that will let them know if that’s normal or if they should be worried on how Thio, you know, kind of monitor that situation. A couple of tips that they could do to see if it gets better or worse before they reach out to somebody. If it’s not something that it is an emergency situation in, send them hopefully in the right direction and let them know that they’re supported, says that that’s really about the heart and soul it is. Let’s make this less scary then let’s really incredible information about how pets are doing, because most times we really don’t know. And I think what’s amazing about this app is, you know, for those that are running a foster program, having to help manage the Fosters, answer their questions all that it’s a lot of work, and it limits your ability to take on more Foster’s because you need more foster managers. And one of things I think is really cool is that you you guys have brought technology now to take a lot of just, you know, bottle feeding kittens. And you know what kittens need and how are they doing today and missing that. Like you said, it’s such a simple survey thing that gives the foster people know it’s fine here. This is normal, right? This is normal. That’s not normal. And then on the back and the shelters, they will actually view all this data and start to look for trends as well. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s empower people who might be a little bit curious, you know, Let’s not put up that barrier of you need to know exactly what you’re doing at this exact moment. Probably have never been in that situation before we knew exactly what we were doing at that exact moment s Oh, yeah, I think that what we really learned since it launched almost two years ago in May. So what we’ve really learned is that we can answer some common questions so that staff persons or volunteers can reallocate their time to deal with you. No more complex cases, maybe some of the more harder to place pets. Or they can spend their time getting more foster caregivers in their program. Right? Center Like what you’re saying? No. And it’s amazing that this has been out now for two years. How many years was it in development? I think we did about a solid year of beta testing, actually. Yeah. And so he went through lots and lots of it. Orations with are pretty amazing Development team. When wire, I’ll just give them a shout. Yeah, and so way did a lot of testing. Nevada Humane Society was with us for the long haul. We were, like asking so many questions and they were asking so many questions of us. Yeah, yeah. So I’m just curious. Does this fill your sociology? Nida’s well does it kind of satisfy that craving? Um, yes. So what? I really wanted Thio. I’m not sure, like we’re in strategic planning for Maddie’s fund right now. And so what? I would love to see and you know, we’ll figure it out as we go, but I’d love to see researched on on all the data that we’ve accumulated And maybe maybe it’s all obvious information, but I would love to be able to answer questions like, what are the three big behavioral issues for large dogs? Age range Gino Lake. You know, 3 to 8 for you. So just let’s start to answer some of these questions that we haven’t had national data for. Uh, let’s see if we can use that data to implement programs that our community really needs, even on micro level. Because, of course, things may be different from one region to the next in terms of, you know, the prevalence of conditions, etcetera. So, yeah, I really want I want to dive into the data. Yeah, No, I think the data I love your thinking on that because I’m always a big fan of objective data. Right. Let the media tell us what we don’t know. So what? What are you guys planning, then what? I know you’re so building out management system. What? What’s what’s up? Incoming. Yeah, So I would say what’s up? Incoming is, uh, we’ll have a big unveiling. Some kind of Ah, surprise. We’re looking to take some things in a little bit different direction. And, of course, with everything that we do it, Maddy, son, we’re tryingto innovate things, test things out, see if they work, see if they don’t work. And, uh, yeah, and then kind of left that evaluation phase, Move us forward. So I’ll just leave. Everybody insist steps. Okay. All right. But hopefully really hearing something this year? Yes. Okay, good. I just can’t win another year. That’s what I’m saying. No, that’s really neat. And so now you said you’ve been there at Maddie’s fund for five years now? Yeah. Yeah, I just have my five year anniversary or whatever. April 1st. Cool. Congratulations. Yeah, just realize what a full state. That’s kind of a coincidence, isn’t it? So So no desire now to go back Thio veterinary school? No, I have one of those Ah ha moments. Right where I discovered that I love the biology. I love the hard science, but I’m much better at the soft science. And why not employ this? The skills and the tools that I already have Because there’s lots of room for growth in animal welfare and specifically and shelter management and shelter. Medicine? So, yeah, like, uh, I felt like the need was great and the need was immediate, and I wanted to start acting on that now. Yeah. No, I love that. I love your background and your story Really, Like you said had nothing to do with animal welfare. Right? But then you kind of you really stumbled upon your passion for animals and you realize that this is where you belong and the industry is better off because of it. So we’re glad to have you. I certainly hope so. No, I think it’s really exciting for me to see somebody with your background and then now, knowing that you’re working on this Maddie’s pet assistant and you’re laying out the future and the innovation and all these other things, and it’s just that’s the kind of stuff that we need and welfare’s. We need some war people that just bring their skills. I absolutely agree that we need to diversify our portfolio if you will, Um, people from all different backgrounds bring all different types of perspectives. And, you know, we’ve got a lot to learn. We have a lot of opportunities. Yeah, definitely. A lot of opportunities. So So what’s next for you? Anything that you controlled, that’s next for you. It sounds like you’ve got your hands full with Maddie’s pet assistant for a while. I definitely have my hands full. Um, I just like, is it as an aside, I have I feel like I’m passionate about so many different things, and it’s kind of like, What do we think? It what we hone in on you actually, like, continue to do as, like, a sidebar? If you know, if we don’t have the time and are 9 to 5, though, Chris, you are a machine. Yeah, like your you know, your 9 to 5. And then you have your additional 15 hours and another additional 20 after somebody ours after that, and it never stops, but, um, I love foster care. I’m a huge Africa for foster care. I think that’s one of the ways that we’re gonna get there in terms of, um, no kill. I know a lot of people don’t like that terminology. No kill. And I may be turning some people off, but I just want to call it, like, basically not ending life for reasons of space. How about that? Describe. It s o a huge fan of foster care. I think it’s part of the cornerstones of getting there. And, um, every chance that I can I try to get a little kittens upstairs. In my I have a dedicated foster room in my teeny tiny place in Washington D c. On. And I actually just had an f i v positive cat, um, up there, um, and was able thio get kitty Re homed. So okay, it’s a matter of giving, um, animals time to get to where we need them to be in order to find creative resolutions. To me, animal welfare is so closely throated to social justice, and I think that what we could be doing so much better, uh, is serving underserved communities. I think it’s really difficult because, you know, a lot of times and I’ve been there as a staff person, you can deal with people as they’re coming through your doors. But what are some of these invisible communities like, How can we better reach those that we don’t see? Maybe those in our communities that, um, have been scared too shelter or arrest you or reach out for whatever reason, maybe because of, you know, thinking of us as the pound still, or maybe because they’ve had bad experiences with, You know, animal service is in the past, but we know that all of this is changing, and we need to, you know, change the face of that and make more of like a. It’s just like a more publicly facing entity. But I think all of our I think everything that we need is out there. It’s just a matter of implementing in utilizing the tools that have been created. And so I see it with Maddie’s fund all the time where we have apprenticeships that are happening and those air on site, and we also have online apprenticeships. So, like if your organization wants to learn how to do a short term foster care, which you should absolutely d’oh, especially for large dogs, it is life changing the tools are all there. It’s just a matter of being able to change the minds, um, and the perceptions and doing it, you know, implementing it. And so, yeah, I guess I really kind of wrap my head around all these things about, you know, it’s social justice. It’s sustainability. It’s, um they’re also they’re all interwoven. And I like the fact that you brought that around right. I mean, the animal welfare feels like it’s over here, but as you said, it’s really not that far from when you look at these other causes, it’s not actually, I s Oh, I had the chance to go Thio American Packs Lad Conference in Austin And I was so excited to see that during one of the lunchtime sessions they brought in someone to talk about food waste. And I just thought that was so cool because yes, like Food Face is a socioeconomic issue. It’s, uh it’s Ah, yeah, I mean, it’s all threaded together. Everything has started together, and that’s that’s that that you know, that’s where I come in. I’m like, yeah, sociology thing. This is why I think you’re just such a great fit for this and the work that you’re doing at Maddie’s fund and just your perspective on this and recognizing the impact than how old these things come together is really it’s really inspiring. And I’m excited to see where we as a movement, are going to go, Uh, and there’s so much opportunity, and that’s what’s kind of fun toe fun to think about. So I think we have no place to go but up in this movement because the American public is not gonna let us go back. That’s what I just I’m, you know, holding tight to that idea. Whatever. It’s been so great to have you on today to to share what you’ve done and where you’re going. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before wrap things up? Um, I guess You know, any time I’m talking about this sort of thing, I just I think the people who are working out in the field every single day, um, it can do, you know, they’re they’re times of heartbreak, and there are times of feeling exasperated. But there are so many wonderful, amazing people doing good work. Um, every single second of every day, there’s so many people. Uh, Who are you? Retired, who are like putting in all of their extra hours who are doing this great work. There are people who have started organizations on the side when they, you know, have full time jobs. And, yeah, I just It’s always incredibly inspiring to meet it, to meet people who do this, work in the field, day in and day out to keep their head up. Absolutely thank you. I’m glad that you’re making a shadow because I couldn’t agree more. There’s somebody passionate people, and that’s what’s exciting. To be a part of such a very dedicated and passionate group of people working to save animals, absolutely whatever. Thanks for coming on today was great to talk to you. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. 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