Photo: Pasadena Humane Society
“The first time I went to the Humane Society was October 7, 1948,” said Joen Mitchell, now 87 years young. “It was my one month wedding anniversary. I remember the day clearly. On Tuesdays, I used to walk to my parents’ house to wash and iron our clothing since we didn’t get an iron as a wedding gift. That day, I detoured into the shelter just to look. It was a small, old building with kennels stacked on top of one another. Cats everywhere. My eyes locked with a mom and her kittens. Knowing I needed to help, I left with one of the babies. I smuggled the kitten into the Veteran’s Unit at Pomona College where we lived. The kitten, that we named Squeaky, ended up living with us for 17 years, 5 months and 13 days. From that day, I did everything I could to help the animals that had no one else to help them.”
Joen has been volunteering at the Pasadena Humane Society for over 60 years, dedicating her time to promoting the positive relationship between people and animals. She recognized early on that emotionally she couldn’t handle working directly with animals at the shelter, so she has lent her hand in other programs. In the 1960s and 1970s, she focused on community outreach and responsible pet ownership. In the 1980s, she found Pet Therapy, which continues to live in her heart today. She loved the idea of taking pets to seniors. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to grow old without a pet and I wanted to do what I could to ensure people continued to interact, enjoy and love pets,” she said.
The 1990s were difficult for Joen as she lost her mother and her dad had dementia. Receiving the governor’s award for her volunteer work and her 30 years of service pin helped her get through this devastating period in her life. “People would recognize me and my dog and holler across the street, ‘I know you, you’re that volunteer lady,’” she added. “My dog must have motivated a lot of people to adopt and to volunteer.”
In the 2000s and through today, Joen focused her energies on the Society’s ambassador program, doing presentations all over the community about pets, adoption and the programs of the Pasadena Humane Society. She jokes that she has done so many presentations that she has a huge collection of coffee mugs from every service organization in the community. She also takes her dog Spencer, her 8th Basset Hound, to the San Marino Crowell Public Library the 2nd Tuesday of every month as part of the Barks and Books program. Barks and Books allows children to explore reading by choosing a book and reading it to a dog.
Seniors and pets are still her passion, however. She encourages seniors to adopt a pet whenever she can. “So many seniors are alone and can be so much happier having a fur friend with them. It gives people someone to talk to. It helps you feel loved,” she said.
Now, well into her octogenarian years, Joen is still going strong with her volunteerism. Maybe she needs to sit down a little bit longer, but she is still incredibly devoted. “I saw the Pasadena Humane Society grow from one building to a beautiful, national model of humane animal care.” said Joen. “There is still a lot more to be done, however. I have been given a gift, an opportunity to contribute to something, and I take advantage of that. Life would be terribly boring otherwise. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished at the Humane Society. I have been there for all the groundbreakings, and it’s been so incredible to share in the growth. I am thrilled that I can say I saw it all happen.”
On behalf of the staff and animals at the Pasadena Humane Society, I would like to thank Joen for her unbridled commitment and support to the animals. Here’s to the many more years to come!
Love animals and want to help? Learn more about becoming a Pasadena Humane Society volunteer at pasadenahumane.org/volunteer.