Volunteer Spotlight: Nick Rossi
by Lee Chambers
September is back to school time, and Dakin Volunteer Nick Rossi is hitting the books and still finding time to tend to our small animals.
A resident of Feeding Hills, Nick is taking courses at Holyoke Community College to earn his degree in Foundations of Health. The program is designed for students pursuing a career in a health-related field.
Nick began volunteering as a foster caregiver last March. Two months later, when Dakin received a record-breaking 59 guinea pigs in one day, Nick jumped in and offered foster help. Around that time he became an on-site volunteer, and now devotes two mornings a week to feeding and cleaning cages for Dakin’s “smalls,” including rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, mice, rats and, yes, guinea pigs.
The fostering experience was rewarding because, as he says, “You get to improve the animal’s life through fostering. Especially if they’re young and sick, there’s the satisfaction of seeing them progress and get well.”
Ten years ago, just before his high school graduation, Nick suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell onto rocks while rope swinging. The accident left him in a coma for three days, and when he awoke, his doctors were “pretty amazed,” he says. “They told me several times how close I came to dying.”
A six month hospital stay was predicted, but Nick worked hard with his physical therapy team and was home less than two weeks later. “The recovery was slow” he says. It also derailed some earlier career considerations. “I lost my sense of smell and taste for a long time, and I had been thinking about becoming a chef, so that was out.”
Mindful of his own brush with death, Nick considers all lives equally valuable, whether human, companion pet or insect. Volunteering, he says, makes him feel connected to these other lives.
He shares his home with a rabbit and a snapping turtle. Nick's favorite Dakin pets to tend to? “The potty trained ones,” he laughs.