I am 225: Catherine O’Brien

Catherine O’Brien’s rescue dog, Riley, might not man the mic, but she is probably the only four-legged associate producer of a podcast. The title is honorary, but her contribution to Friends of the Animals’ (FOTA) weekly Pawcast—in morale boosts and belly rubs—is very real.

O’Brien’s been an avid consumer of podcasts for years, and when she first began volunteering with FOTA’s pet adoption program a few years ago, she knew there was a way for the dogs to reach more ears and eyes in the Capital City. She launched the Pawcast in early 2015, featuring profiles on two adoptable “Dogs of the Week.” She talks about each dog’s backstory and interviews volunteers and fosters who know the dogs best. Pawcast updates weekly on the FOTA website.

“One of the things I love about podcasts is that they are real relationship-builders,” O’Brien says. “Anybody who listens to a podcast, they will know that you start to feel that you are friends with the person you’re listening to. They’re really based on connection.”

On the Pawcast, those connections aren’t just person-to-person—they’re also person-to-dog. With dog enthusiasts across the Capital Area tuning in, O’Brien says it’s now common for people to come into the adoption house and ask to see a dog they heard about on the Pawcast. friendsoftheanimalsbr.org

“Early in the history of the podcast, there was a dog named Jaak Paul. He was a senior dog and … ended up in the shelter [because] his owner actually passed away, and they didn’t have a plan in place for where Jaak Paul was going to go.

So here’s this dog; he’s 10 years old. Older dogs have an additional challenge because most people aren’t looking for an older dog to adopt. … He’s such a sweet dog. He’s a Catahoula mix. So we profiled him on the Pawcast, and then this whole family came in just to meet him.

I’ll tell you, I burst into tears when I heard that, because that was one of the first times that I heard that somebody came in just based on the Pawcast. They heard about him, they heard his story, they could really tell how much [we] all loved him, and they came in to meet him based on the Pawcast interview.

And so any time that I start thinking, ‘Oh, my time is so scarce,’ or if I start feeling stumped about things to do on the Pawcast, I always think back to Jaak Paul.”

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.