SHARING A LOVE FOR ANIMALS
Some people have a natural talent for
connecting with animals, but when you
grow up on a farm with 120 horses, that
skill comes by necessity.
Renee King, a long-time administrative
assistant in the Department of Applied
and Engineering Physics, learned to
interact with animals as a child growing
up on her family’s Dryden, N. Y., farm.
She remembers one particular instance
training a former race horse named
Swizzlestick. “He was a dynamite. You
couldn’t walk into the stall. There were
so many things you just couldn’t do with
him. Well, after six months of working
with him, it just clicked,” said King.
Today, King shares her love and
knowledge of animals with the
community through various programs run
by 4-H and the SPCA. And it’s the kind
of patience she learned by working with
Swizzlestick that she now exhibits when
working with children and rescue dogs.
King is an active member of the 4-H
Youth Fair Board and the Consumer and
Family Science Program Development
Committee. She also works with low-
4-H programs like Kids in Charge of the
Kitchen and Sew Fun.
“These students present many
challenges, and it takes a very special
volunteer to work with this audience,”
said Brenda Carpenter, extension
community educator with 4-H Youth
Development. “Renee is one of those
special volunteers. She seems to have
an endless supply of patience and
understanding when working with the
King also works with youth through
the 4-H Animals and Medicine program,
which invites teenagers to learn about
different animals at Cornell’s College of
Veterinary Medicine. Students have the
opportunity to get hands-on with horses,
cows, reptiles, dogs and cats. They learn to
check pulses, temperature and other vital
signs, and use a stethoscope to listen to
animal hearts and digestive systems.
King says it’s rewarding to watch some
of the teens come out of their shells when
they see an animal they find interesting.
“We had one young man who put his
hood up and listened to his iPod when
we went through the horses. But when we
got to the birds, that hood came down, he
was talking to us and asking questions.
It was just so exciting to see him interact
with other people and have a focus that he
really enjoyed,” said King.
King’s ability to bring people and
animals together has also been valuable to
the SPCA of Tompkins County—a no-kill
shelter for unwanted and rescued animals.
Among her volunteer activities, King
trains new volunteers and helped revise
the organization’s training guidelines.
“For instance, if you’re a ‘green’ dog
walker, you can’t walk a ‘purple’ dog
because a ‘green’ person can only visit and
talk to the dogs,” said King, who added
that the purple classification means a dog
has special needs, such as it’s unusually
timid or aggressive. Volunteers can
attain new classification levels by taking
advantage of training sessions offered by
King says pairing the right person with
the right dog is also important when it
comes to adoptions. She says dogs can
sometimes live at the shelter for more than
a year before that special person comes
along. “We had a German shepherd and
we could not get that dog to stop barking.
And very few people could go in there
with her, she wasn’t being responsive,”
recalled King. “Eventually there was a
German shepherd person who came in
and said ‘I want her.’ They just clicked.
They walked out with her and now that
dog is viewing the country.”
King felt the same bond with Nala, a
rescued Rottweiler she adopted after
meeting her during an event hosted by the
SPCA of Cortland County.
“I wish we had an army of Renees,”
exclaimed Lynne Conway, volunteer and
philanthropic programs manager at the
SPCA of Tompkins County. “Her calm,
pleasant demeanor is very helpful when
working with our dogs—many of whom
come from less than ideal circumstances.
She’s a treasure.”
When asked what drives her to share
her passion for animals, King answered
“I don’t know. I just feel the most
comfortable there. It’s unfortunate that
some people don’t realize how much
animals have to offer.”
Renee King and an SPCA rescue dog skijoring, a sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a
dog or horse.
Renee King with her rescue dog Teddy, who has
since passed away.