Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Dudley

by Lee Chambers


Mary Dudley is a dedicated volunteer at Dakin Humane Society, nursing vulnerable kittens back to health in Nick’s Nursery, providing positive reinforcement training for adult cats through Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Pawsitive Pro program, and opening up her heart and home to foster cats in need. But, Mary did not grow up in a household full of cats, or dogs. Rather, her family opted to remain pet-free, but for a good reason. Mary was quite allergic to both furry companions!

It wasn’t until later in life when Mary met her husband, Jim, that she had her first cat named Onyx. Onyx was a sweet black cat that Jim had adopted before meeting Mary. And, as Jim put it, they came as a “package deal.” As soon as Mary moved in, though, Onyx was enamored. More often than not, he chose snuggle time with her over Jim. Fortunately, Mary’s allergies seemed to have subsided over the years so that life with Onyx was (mostly) sniffle-free.

Onyx left a lasting impression on Mary. Not only did he make it apparent that it was possible to live with a cat, but he had introduced her to the sweet, comforting companionship that cats provide. In 2009 Mary adopted an adorable bundle of kitten joy from Dakin, whom she named Samantha. Mary had spent her career commuting from Springfield to Hartford. However, shortly after adopting Samantha, she was fortunate to work from her home office. With Samantha habitually by her side during video conferences she was declared the unofficial office cat by colleagues. And, during each conference call, Samantha would join Mary to help “take notes”, or at least supervise from the comfort of a warm lap.

When her husband passed away, Mary began looking for volunteer opportunities; and with her beautiful Samantha in mind, she reached out to Dakin. Mary began her volunteer work three years ago, caring for cats on the adoption floor. Mary warmly acknowledges that for the cats in Dakin’s care the simple comforts of a clean space, food and love is one of the greatest gifts a volunteer can give. And, caring for the adoptable cats is close to her heart.

With enthusiasm and ambition, Mary participates in many of Dakin’s volunteer programs; expanding her wealth of knowledge and keeping herself engaged in a variety of ways to enrich lives. One of the programs that she speaks fondly of is volunteering for Nick’s Nursery. It is here that she watches orphaned kittens with rough, thin fur blossom into fluffy, plump eight-week-olds ready for adoption. It is here that she affectionately nurtures frail kittens back to health looking forward to the day she can’t recognize them as they bound around playfully on the adoption floor.

Most recently, Mary joined a new enrichment opportunity, Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Pawsitive Pro program. Along with other staff and volunteers, she provides positive reinforcement clicker-training for the adult cats. She jokes when kitten season is in full swing, and adult cats are out-of-fashion, the Cat Pawsitive cats will be given an advantage. Mary cheerfully adds, “Well, this adult cat can give you a high five!”

When Mary is not at Dakin she is loving and enjoying her own two cats, Samantha and Murphy. She also enjoys reading, scrapbooking and lunchtime visits with friends and family. She points out that while her lifestyle adheres more to the feline variety, she does also love dogs. Mary is a valuable member of Dakin’s team and has certainly made an immeasurable impact on the animals she’s cared for at the shelter.


Many thanks to Kaitlyn Holloway who contributed this story.



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