Sidelines: Simoni is the cat’s meow

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and as an animal lover, I was honored to meet Lesley Simoni, who has been with ESPN for almost nine years and is a Staff Accountant in the Controller’s Department.

As a volunteer at the East Haven Animal Shelter, Simoni has devoted over 13 years to caring for shelter animals, rehabilitating them, finding forever homes for them, raising awareness, and organizing events and fundraisers.

In recognition of  her selflessness and devotion to these animals, the East Haven Animal Shelter was renamed the Lesley E. Simoni Animal Shelter a year ago today.  Because of her dedication, many animals have had the fortune to find loving homes in which they are able to live their lives surrounded by love and affection.  As a result, Simoni’s efforts have also helped greatly reduce the number of animals put to sleep due to lack of space, sickness or behavioral issues.

Below Simoni talks to Front Row about her work at the animal shelter and why she is so passionate about this cause:

FR: What brought you to the East Haven Animal Shelter?

LS: My husband and I had adopted our first dog as a puppy from a rescue group, and after about a year we decided to get another dog to keep him company. While visiting several shelters, people would show us dogs and tell us that they were going to be put to sleep within a week or so if they were not adopted. I realized there was a problem and I wanted to do something to help. I read in the local paper that this shelter was looking for volunteers and that’s how I started.

FR: What is most rewarding for you about volunteering at the shelter?

LS: Getting an animal into a fantastic home, knowing that they are safe and that you made a difference in that animal’s life. When we get updates and people send us pictures, we get to see how they have become part of the family.  We have a lot of people who come back and tell us, “we adopted an animal from you five years ago, and we are looking for another one,” so we get a lot of people who come back after having had a good experience.

FR: What did you think when you learned the shelter was being named in your honor?

LS: My reaction was “I’m not dead!”  I feel honored, it was unexpected, I feel non-deserving and very humbled.

FR: How many cats do you have?

LS: We currently have two cats, and they were both adopted from this shelter, as well five of our dogs.

FR: Have you always been a cat person?

LS: I was never a cat person, and the first cat we had was from here, his name was Wolfe.  He was a kitten only six weeks old, and he was sick with a respiratory infection. I brought him home and got attached to him, so we ended up keeping him. My husband used to say that he was not really attached to the cat, so the cat started really gravitating towards him.  When the cat passed away at the age of five, my husband was inconsolable. He loved that cat so much. So they have a way of getting into your heart.

FR: Do you foster as well?

LS: Well, all of our pets started as foster. I would bring them home because they were sick and needed medication, and it was easier to just bring them home, or the shelter was too crowded. So, we pretty much fail foster 101.

FR: Do you share your passion with your family?

LS: My siblings and their kids, we all have pets.

FR: Having been with ESPN for almost nine years, how do you feel about your job and have you found a lot of animal lovers here?

LS: I love my job. I work with great people. I love the company, and I want to retire from here. There are a lot of animal lovers at ESPN, and it’s really, really nice.

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