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Maria Carofano, an Animal Haven volunteer and board member, is one of the organizers of Dogtoberfest, an event to be held on the North Haven Green on Sunday, Oct. 6. (Photo courtesy of Maria Carofano )
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Until very recently, Maria Carofano was afraid of dogs. Now she is one of the key organizers of Dogtoberfest, a fundraiser for The Animal Haven that will be held on Sunday, Oct. 6 from noon to 3 p.m. on the North Haven Green.
The change of heart occurred after Maria found herself entrenched in volunteering at The Animal Haven, not only helping at the shelter, but also serving on the board. Maria came to The Animal Haven with a broken heart after her 22-year-old cat, Kit, passed away just before the holidays in 2017.
“I was really, really sad and I started going to The Animal Haven because I knew I’d want another cat,” says Maria. “I started hanging out there and was so impressed with how hard the staff and volunteers were working and I thought, ‘I like this organization.’ I found my new cat, Tessa, who is now the love of my life.”
Even after Maria brought Tessa home, Maria was drawn back to The Animal Haven. She would bring donations and visit with the animals. She eventually told the manager, Michelle DeRosa, that she wanted to help more. DeRosa told Maria there was an opening on the board and connected her with Board President Linda Marino.
Maria explained her past civic involvement to Marino during the interview. She explained that over the years she had volunteered with the Connecticut Trails Council of Girl Scouts. Maria was one of the first female members of the North Haven Rotary Club and the club’s first female president. She was very involved in the club until her career changed paths, making it difficult to attend the weekly meetings.
Maria also explained her background in banking and management. She spent 20 years working for American National Bank, now TD bank, and has now worked for Pharmaceutical Data Services doing software design and data analysis for pharmaceutical companies for 22 years.
Maria joined the Animal Haven board in August 2018, helping with bookkeeping and fund development. She pays the shelter’s bills and takes minutes at the meetings. Her latest task is organizing Dogtoberfest with Marino.
In the past, the shelter has held a dog-walk-a-thon, but the board discussed mixing it up this year. Owners can register their dogs to participate in Dogtoberfest for $25. Registered dogs can then participate in the activities throughout the day, including costume contests, a photo booth, and other activities and contests.
There will also be two dozen vendors, offering a variety of products and information on services. Food trucks will be on the green and there will be entertainment throughout the day. For families, there will be face-painting, caramel apples, and more.
“We thought we’d switch it up and have a fall festival for dogs and their humans,” says Maria. “Dog owners love having a place to go with their dog where their dog will be catered to. It will be family friendly and a beautiful fall day on the North Haven Green.”
Maria notes that there will be contests of all kinds, including dog tricks and talent contests and costume contests with categories including best dressed dog, biggest smile, and best dressed dog and human. Registration forms are available at theanimalhavenct.org and the cost is $25 until Tuesday, Oct. 1 when it goes up to $30.
Going to the Dogs
Maria admits that she is the “cat person in the group” and that she was afraid of dogs before she began visiting The Animal Haven. Now having volunteered at The Animal Haven for more than a year and a half, she has gotten to know the many dogs at the shelter.
“There are dogs now that I just adore,” says Maria. “I’m happy because it’s opened a new set of emotions in me. I didn’t know I could feel that way because I was afraid.”
Though Maria has Tessa at home, she still spends a lot of time at The Animal Haven where she gets her “dog and cat fix.” She extends credit to the dozens of volunteers who also spend much of their time there.
“Everyone helps in their own way,” says Maria. “We have a working board so we all do something to contribute so the seven staff members can focus on running the shelter and rescuing the animals.”
While there are dozens of volunteers, Maria says more are always welcome. Volunteers can do anything from walk dogs to clean kennels and litter boxes to carpentry work to weeding or planing the garden beds. She also points out that almost all of the food is donated.
“Last week when a cupboard of cat food was looking bare, a post went up and by the next day, we couldn’t keep up with the deliveries from Amazon and chewy.com—the place was flooded with food,” says Maria. “It’s wonderful to know we’re in a community that supports us that way.”
Maria has lived in North Haven for her whole life, still living in the house in which she grew up. She has always loved living in North Haven, where she enjoys spending time with friends, going to the movies, making wine, and helping at her church, the Church of the Resurrection in Wallingford.
“There’s nothing about North Haven I don’t love,” says Maria. “I love the services we have, I love the quietness of the town, but the proximity to anything I want, and growing up I loved the schools.”
Right now, though, Maria’s biggest passion is helping the animals at the shelter. She has seen dozens and dozens of animals adopted through her time there and loves the excitement when an animal is picked up.
“With us, they’re safe where they are, so we want to find a better place for them and all of the applications are reviewed,” says Maria. “When you see the family come in to pick them up, especially when kids are involved, they’re so excited. They stay in touch with us and we share stories on our Facebook page and newsletter.”
Maria not only enjoys spending time with the animals, but with the other volunteers, staff, and board members as well. She sees the love that everyone has for the animals firsthand.
“I love seeing how well taken care of the animals are and knowing that whatever I bring to the table is helping that,” says Maria. “The volunteers and staff know every animal by name and know their traits. It’s a nice place for them to live until they find their forever home. Knowing that what I contribute is a part of it is very rewarding.”
For more information, visit theanimalhavenct.org or like The Animal Haven on Facebook.
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