SMART Volunteer Spotlight: Sharon O’Keefe

When and why did you first join SMART?
I went to the first SMART Summit in 2005 in Marlborough. I was very interested in what they had to say so I joined right then and there. I was always interested in helping animals in any way I can and thought this was a perfect way. I have been volunteering ever since — with just about all the teams in SMART.

What is your regular job?
I am a Certified Veterinary Technician and also the Veterinary Services Coordinator (in simple terms hospital manager) in the vet hospital at Zoo New England, based at the Franklin Park Zoo.

What is your most heartwarming memory about deploying with SMART?
I have many great memories of my deployments with SMART but I would probably say the most heartwarming was Munson, MA after the tornado in 2011. We were brought a baby rabbit (I would say just a week or so old) and it was very cold and lethargic. We really didn’t think it would survive but I still got up every couple of hours to change the hot water bottles and see how it was doing. Finally in the middle of the night it started to come around and became more aware. I offered it a small amount of formula and it finally ate. The next morning it was taken to a rabbit rehab place and she nursed it back until it could be released. It is the “little” things that make this job great. If you go to the SMART website the first picture that pops up is me holding the bunny the morning after we received it just before it went to the rabbit rehab.

Is there anything unusual that you keep in your Go Kit???
I don’t think there is anything unusual, but some important things that I have found out about by being deployed are definitely kept in there. One item is a set of kneepads for kneeling on the cement floors while cleaning cages. Another is a pair of shoe inserts that give extra comfort for my feet when I am standing 12 hours or more on a cement floor. The third most helpful thing that I have is my Leatherman (pocket tool kit) — it has come in handy many times. And above all — I do not go anywhere with out my Aleve and several snacks!!

What’s the first thing you do after a deployment to take care of yourself?
I guess the first thing I do is go home and take a long hot shower. :) Then I play with my cats that are usually unhappy that I have not been home. I usually have to go back to work the next day but sometimes just telling friends and family about my experiences help me to forget about some of the bad times and just relive the happy times and the good that I have helped with.

What would you tell other people about joining SMART?

I would encourage anyone to join. I would tell anyone that the board and the operational team leaders are great people and work very hard to keep this organization working in an organized fashion. The volunteers are a huge help and without them we could not help in as many places as we have been able to. If you love and care for animals and want to help them, then joining SMART is definitely a good start! The trainings are very helpful and even though I have been working in the animal world for 25 plus years I always learn something new in the trainings and deployments. I have met many people by joining SMART that have become great friends and I know when I work and train with them I can count on them to help me learn and stay safe.

SMART would like to thank Sharon for all of her efforts on behalf of animals, both as a volunteer and in her work as a Veterinary Technician.