Bridges of Pawsibility

April 23, 2019

Porter County native Jami Heying has devoted her life to animals – she grew up on a farm, works at the Independent Cat Society in Westville, works at All Creature Features Animal Hospital in La Porte, volunteers at the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter in La Porte, and cares for a family of critters of her own at home. Jami graduated from Purdue Northwest in Westville in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies. She began her own nonprofit, Friends of La Porte County Animal Shelters, Inc., launched in March. In addition to assisting the public, Jami wants to help more shelter animals find their furever homes. She is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in shelter medicine at University of Florida and also hopes to help develop an enrichment program for shelter animals that engages their senses, keeps stress levels down, and increases their adoptability.

Beth Rudnick: Why did you start this nonprofit?

Jami Heying: After volunteering at the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter for several years, and working at the Independent Cat Society, I saw that there was a need to develop a safety net type of program to fill the gap between pet owners and shelters. Also, I can definitely see that there is a need for more low cost spay/neuter options in this area.

BR: What services will you provide?

JH: Right now, some of our goals are to provide spay/neuter assistance along with assisting with the cost of other veterinary care (vaccinations, surgeries, etc.) for those in need. Also, I’m hoping we can help with reclaim fees for people whose pets end up at shelters as well as hosting some low cost microchip events. Additionally, I’d love to be able to help implement some enrichment activities for animals at the shelters who don’t already have enrichment programs.

BR: Are you partnered with any other organization?

JH: At this point, we’re independent. We plan on reaching out to the shelters and rescue groups within La Porte County and finding out how we can help.

BR: What brought you to this work?

JH: I grew up on a 48 acre hobby farm in Porter County (Jackson Township), and was surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, chickens, etc. It was amazing! As an adult, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with 10 dogs and 5 cats (so far). I’ve been a volunteer at La Porte County Animal Shelter for over 5 years now, where I spend about an hour nearly every weekday walking, playing, and exercising the dogs in their care. Last year, I started working at the Independent Cat Society in Westville as a medicator. In this position, I feed, administer medications as needed, and give minor medical care to cats. Also last year, I started working part time as a veterinary/tech assistant at All Creature Features Animal Hospital in La Porte.

BR: You graduated with a BLS. How did the addition of your IDIS courses impact your education?

JH: The IDIS courses at PNW brought a different facet to my education. These courses enhanced my sociological perspective by providing a wide range of current and historical information that served as a foundation to help me better understand not only the beliefs and ideals of others around me, but why they have those beliefs and ideals. I find that this type of knowledge is indispensable when working and communicating with a diverse group of people.

BR: Your BLS meant you could pursue Veterinary studies through Purdue, but what did those courses add?

JH: Whereas many of the other college courses involved in my degree were focused on sociology and leadership to develop people skills, the veterinary technology courses provided the much needed animal aspect. Since my goal is to attain a leadership role within an animal sheltering organization, it seemed natural to pursue the knowledge that veterinary technology courses provide.

BR: How did it make you think about what you were doing and why?
Initially, I had anticipated completing the AAS in Veterinary Technology through Purdue’s Distance Learning program. However, after determining that a Vet Tech career would not be a good fit for my lifestyle, I worked with my advisor [Beth Rudnick] to develop a different career plan and pursue a BLS degree to go in a different direction to help animals. I believe that the Veterinary Technology courses have contributed to a well-rounded education obtained at PNW that will make me stand out in the animal sheltering field, and that your feedback, guidance, and encouragement have proved invaluable.

BR: How should the public contact you?

JH: We don’t have a physical facility/location, so the best way to reach us is via email or on our Facebook page, Friends of La Porte County Animal Shelters.

Bridges of Pawsibility: A Conversation with Alumna, Jami Heying
By Beth Rudnick, Academic Counselor/Advisor II, College of Humanities, Education & Social Sciences

Photo credit goes to Sara Kessler Photography.

The IDIS courses at PNW brought a different facet to my education.