Humane Society of Sonoma County’s secret weapon: pet bios
“Blue-Eyed Mountain Man Seeks Civilized Adventurer for True Love. My quest for companionship has led me from the desolate wilderness of bachelorhood to the bountiful wine country. I’m eager to put down stakes, but living off the grid has left me with little in the way of manners. My ideal soul mate will be adventurous enough to keep me from getting bored, yet patient enough to help me navigate the uncharted waters of modern society… you know, like when to shake hands and when to lift a leg. I’m Yukon, a 2-year-old Siberian husky.”
Signe Ross-Villemaire, adoption description for a Siberian husky
Much like people, every animal has a story, and no one believes this more than Signe Ross-Villemaire, whose job as content and grant writer at the Humane Society of Sonoma County includes writing adoptable pet descriptions.
“In the ads, I might touch on some back story for context, but I try to get to the essence of what makes each pet unique,” Ross-Villemaire, 53, said. “Every pet has certain qualities that blossom when you spend some time with them, so I like to draw on these relationships to illustrate how easily and joyfully a pet could fit into the potential adopter’s heart and home.”
Prior to accepting her position at the Humane Society, the Sonoma County native had worked as a goldsmith for 13 years.
Midway through her jewelry career, Ross-Villemaire went back to school to get her art degree. She credits the art history classes with helping develop her descriptive writing skills.
While she enjoyed jewelry making, she dreamed of one day transitioning to the nonprofit sector.
“I’d done some volunteer work, but wasn’t sure how it could translate to a career,” she said. “I began branching out and trying to hone in on what I wanted to do. Animals have always occupied a giant part of my heart, and when I examined what made me feel most impassioned in life, the answer was working for their welfare.”
Pets played a major role in her family’s life during her childhood. There were always an assortment of dogs, cats and, for several years, even goats, all of which were usually “hand-me-downs” from family friends. Even the classroom guinea pigs found a home with her family during school breaks.
After taking grant writing and nonprofit management classes through both Santa Rosa Junior College and the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, Ross-Villemaire put her newly acquired skills to use volunteering at a local art therapy nonprofit.
Knowing how much she loved animals, a friend encouraged her to do an interview with the Humane Society, and she met Cindy Roach, who is now the executive director.
“I remember asking her if it was hard to deal with sad situations, such as seeing the suffering, abandonment and neglect,” Ross-Villemaire said. “She told me there were definitely some tears involved, but the positive outcomes keep you moving forward and striving to do even more. I knew I wanted to work with this compassionate team who was literally saving animals’ lives, and replacing the uncertainty and hardship in those lives with stability and love.”
Until meeting with Roach, Ross-Villemaire had never set foot inside a shelter before because she was afraid they would be sad, depressing places to visit. Instead, she discovered they’re full of kind, caring people working hard to help animals, a realization, she said, inspires her daily.