Doris Lipetz is in her 12th year as a volunteer at the Connecticut Humane Society. Twice a week, and on most holidays, the 80-year-old Plantsville resident walks dogs for four hours. She’s a part of CHS’s Behavior Mod Squad, a group that works with dogs that need extra training to prepare them for adoption. Her volunteer efforts extend to humans as well. Along with a group from her church, she knits prosthetic implants for breast cancer survivors through Knitted Knockers. Lipetz also knits scarves, hats, mittens and socks, some of which she’s found buried in her backyard.
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What first gave you the idea to volunteer?
I always knew I wanted to do this when I retired, but it took me almost four years to sign up because I was afraid I’d come home with a puppy every day.
What did you retire from?
Medical technologist. I worked for 40 years at New Britain General Hospital in the lab.
Did you deal with patients at all, or was it just lab work?
Yeah, occasionally. But mostly it was blood and … stuff.
So that’s grosser than anything you come across walking a dog.
Some of it was, yes.
You have to pick up the poop every time the dogs go outside?
Yup. It’s better than some of the things I’ve had to do with poop. Sometimes [at the lab] we had to put it in a blender for certain tests. But then one time the blender disappeared and we always wondered who took it and what they did with it.
When there’s a big dog that’s not acting the way it should, a lot of people would feel fear or be nervous. Why do you stay calm and handle those situations?
Because of the challenge, I guess. I just love the dogs. The bigger and the badder sometimes. [laughs] And I seem to be able to calm them down pretty quickly.
Do you think that’s a skill or is that just something that’s in you?
Just in me. I got my first dog for my fourth birthday, and I’ve had dogs ever since. Most of the time I’ve had two dogs. I have two now, both of whom are alumni of Connecticut Humane Society.
Are either of them recent additions?
Yeah, I just got one in August. It was Laverne. There was Laverne and Shirley. Shirley got adopted [by someone else]. They’re a black lab mix. They were both shy. Laverne was and still is very shy. But her name is not Laverne anymore. Part of the reason I adopted her was for the challenge, because she was shy. But also, 60 years ago I had a big, black dog named Charcoal. And she looks like a smaller version of him. So her name is Briquette.
Could you name every dog you’ve had?
My first dog was Happy. It was actually Happy Birthday. And then Sammy, Nipper, Fido, Charcoal, Butterscotch. Thumper was a dog. My kids asked for a rabbit and I gave them a puppy instead. So that dog’s name was Thumper. Then Wags and Bailey, Nugget. Jack actually belonged to my daughter’s family and they moved to Korea so I offered to foster him. Then I adopted Briquette.
What is your typical 8 a.m.-to-noon shift? How many dogs do you walk?
Depends on how many we got. I could walk 8-10 sometimes. I came in Easter afternoon and I ended up walking every dog. There’s four kinds of walks. There’s short walks, regular walks, long walks and Doris walks. I give them as long of a walk as I can. The big dogs, I’ll give them a longer walk. The little dogs, I figure if they’ve gotta make 10 steps to my one, they don’t need quite so much.
So that takes care of your exercise too. You don’t have to leave here and go to the gym.
I like being outside. And I’ll take dogs over people any day. After my second or third dog died, my mother said, “No more dogs, it’s too much heartache.” About two weeks later she said, “I can’t live with you if you don’t have a dog.” Cats are OK, but dogs …
The heartache part, does it really hit you? You don’t get used to it, but it happens to you a lot if you’ve had that many dogs.
Yeah, it does. You just gotta tell yourself they’re going to a good place. I say I’m not worried about going to heaven. I just want to go to the Rainbow Bridge and meet all my dogs.