Meet the Team: Margot Foley

Margot Foley is a passionate veterinary technician who has dedicated her career to helping animals. She has worked in several veterinary clinics throughout her career, but her time with DAWS, which began over twenty years ago, holds a special place in her heart.

Margot started her career as a veterinary technician in the late 1990s at Bethel Veterinary Hospital. During this time, she worked on spay and neuter surgeries for DAWS as their own clinic at the shelter wasn’t operating yet. She also worked with renowned veterinarians Dr. Tom Nero and Dr. Larry Pazzullo.

Margot loves the opportunity she gets to work alongside Dr. Cary Brenner and the rest of the staff at DAWS. In addition, she takes great pleasure in seeing the variety of dogs and cats that come into the clinic and helping them have a healthy, happy life with their new family. She says, “Working at DAWS has made her life more meaningful; it gives me the satisfaction of knowing I have helped make a difference.”

She recalls one particular memory of a dog named Olive, who was rescued by DAWS while very pregnant! The puppies were bottle-fed by several people every few hours, and Margot and her husband adopted two puppies, Oliver and Olivia, who are now 12 years old and doing well.

“Margot’s passion and dedication to all the animals show great compassion.  Besides working in the DAWS clinic, she has fostered puppies and assisted at many events.  Her empathy for animals is evident in how she treats and cares for our patients.  We are so grateful to have Margot with us at DAWS,” explains Veronica Bickelhaupt, Clinic Manager.

Margot is excited about the renovated facility that DAWS will return to, as it will be better for staff, volunteers, and, most importantly, the rescue animals. She is proud to have been involved with DAWS on and off for many years, despite moving to England in 2006 and returning in 2009. She worked at Noah’s Ark Animal Hospital from 2016 to 2018, after which she returned to DAWS in 2019!

Margot Foley is a dedicated veterinary technician with a passion for animal rescue. Her time at DAWS has been both fulfilling and memorable, and she looks forward to continuing to make a difference in the lives of animals in need.

Meet the Team: Joanne Genadio

This month, meet Joanne G, who has been a part of the DAWS community for 16 years! She tells us about her experiences fostering kittens and cats and why she continues to help spread our mission! Take it away, Joanne!

I adopted two kittens from DAWS in 2007 and started fostering shortly after. I find joy in making a difference by teaching kittens how to play, interact with people, and, most importantly, how to love.

I have two cats, Sir Podrick and Domani, who roll their eyes whenever they see me coming into the house with a new pet carrier! Fortunately, they are both mellow. When the kittens are ready to explore the house, they run away from them for a week or two. After that, they join in the fun, and I have free entertainment every evening! My grandchildren often visit, and it’s an excellent way for the kittens to get used to young children. My cats and kids provide a well-rounded education for the kittens I foster.

When people ask me, “I don’t know how you can do it,” I respond with, “I don’t know how I couldn’t.” Though I get a tear or two on adoption day, it’s always rewarding when adopters contact me and send pictures of their happy and healthy pets. Each cat or kitten that passes through my home on its way to a great life holds a special place in my heart. Michelle Messemer, the DAWS Foster Manager, is an excellent asset to DAWS. She responds to my texts at any time of the day and is always there to answer my questions and concerns. Fostering with DAWS wouldn’t be the same without her.

Michelle M. also speaks highly of Joanne!  She says, “Joanne is an invaluable asset to the DAWS foster program! She jumps in to help without hesitation, often fostering multiple litters in a row. Joanne has transformed frightened kittens into loving, adoptable kittens ready for their forever homes. Whether it be kittens without a mom or nursing moms and kittens, Joanne is always willing to help. Our foster program wouldn’t be the same without her!”

When I’m not herding cats, I’m the Marketing Manager and Magazine Editor of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, a not-for-profit association that promotes the life-and property-saving benefits of fire sprinklers.

DAWS has transformed my life! My primary bathroom has now become the kitten room, and applying eyeliner with a kitten crawling up your leg requires a lot of skill. But on a more serious note, I’m proud to volunteer for DAWS, knowing that I’m helping many beautiful cats and kittens find their way to their forever homes.


Meet the Team: Payton Garcia

All the dogs that come through DAWS have one thing in common; they have all spent time with Payton. Payton Garcia is one of the newest members of the DAWS team the Animal Behaviorist. She officially joined the team at the beginning of December 2022 but was first introduced to DAWS as an emergency foster for one of our canine friends. Payton declares, “DAWS has changed my life in many positive ways. It’s helped me continue growing in my personal life and career as an Animal Behaviorist. The experience of becoming a foster for DAWS was a new one for me that unlocked an opportunity to have a large impact in the community.”

Payton knew she was meant to work with animals at a very young age. She has always been “in tune” with the animals she has come across in her life. She has an English bulldog named Dozer and two rescue cats, a rescued rabbit, eight tarantulas (one is named Squidward), and a snake!

Payton studied Animal Science at UCONN while starting her career in the animal field. She spent two years as a Veterinary Technician before moving into the animal behavior world, where she has spent over six years. Not only does she assist the animals at DAWS, but she also works with many other animals in her community.

As Animal Behaviorist for DAWS, Payton conducts evaluations on all incoming dogs, helps our fosters with anything they need, assist the kennel staff to create a behavioral modification to improve the adoptability of our dogs, and helps to find the home that is the best fit for the animals in our care. Payton’s compassion and love for the animals is astonishing. Shelter Director Katie Mothersele adds, “Peyton truly sets our animals up for success!”

Payton is honored to be a part of the organization. She states, “What I love most about working for DAWS is the community that surrounds it. Working with other like-minded individuals like the DAWS staff members, volunteers and our amazing fosters towards the single goal of helping animals find their forever home is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience.”

Payton is so excited to be a part of the DAWS during such an important time. She is looking forward to the future and is ready to bring her passion to support the organization’s growth.


Meet the Team: MJ Schwebler

If you have ever called us, you have talked with our wonderful Office Administrator, Mary Jane (MJ) Schwebler! MJ began her journey with DAWS by volunteering in the Cattery in 2019. She often drove by the shelter and knew she had extra love to give our animals. “I was amazed at the care, attention, and love each animal received,” she remarks, reflecting on her first shift. After that, she continued volunteering more, growing her skills, and caring for the challenging feral cats, and she felt fulfilled with their unconditional love.

Before volunteering at DAWS, MJ was an assistant ESL teacher in the Danbury Public Schools for 25 years. When she retired, she continued to spend her time helping others by volunteering at Danbury Hospital, Bethel Social Services, the Bethel Community Food Pantry, and the Community Action Food Pantry. She enjoyed listening to people’s stories around the community and hoped her kind ear put people at ease.

MJ and her husband Ralph’s home is bursting with love from their four rescue animals, two from DAWS! Tess is a boxer-pit mix, and Sadie is an unknown breed but an adorable puppy who loves to give kisses and cuddle! They also have Abby, a golden mix, and Lexi, a four-year-old cat who is the Queen of the household! They are also the proud grandparents of their sons’ two dogs, Callie and Gemma!

As the Office Manager, MJ witnesses the journey of a DAWS rescue. She says, “I feel fortunate to be part of the journey with our rescue dogs and cats from the beginning. I remember terrified cats hiding under bedding; within no time, they were snuggling and seeking your attention. In the shelter, many animals come off from transports being frightened and untrusting. But, seeing how much they decompressed and trusted the staff and volunteers is amazing.”

MJ is proud to be part of our organization, and we are fortunate to have her. Director of Development Alice Meenan says, “MJ has been such a delight to work alongside in the various roles she has held at DAWS. She shows true compassion for everyone she engages with, especially the animals she has cared for. MJ supports many programs, especially Paw It Forward, helping fulfill requests from pet owners in need of assistance. We are fortunate to have MJ on our team; she is a true asset to DAWS!”

MJ is looking forward to returning to the newly renovated shelter and interacting with the animals, staff, volunteers, and adopters – listening to their stories and watching each animal fall in love with their new families.


Volunteer Spotlight: Pat Van Buren

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is on Pat Van Buren! Pat is a long-time Dog Program Volunteer and a member of the Renovation Committee for DAWS. Her family, Kevin Hickey, Emily, Erin, Kathleen, and Pat herself, adore animals.

New Shelter Director: Katie Mothersele

Please join us in welcoming Katie Mothersele, the new Shelter Director for DAWS.

Volunteer Spotlight: The Muller Family

The Muller Family, consisting of Joey, Barb, and Joe, joined DAWS in February 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Jennifer Zinzi

Jennifer Zinzi is a dedicated volunteer in her community and has been supporting the fundraising efforts at DAWS for almost two years.

Volunteer Spotlight: Carla Castro

Carla Castro currently volunteers with our TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program, in addition to being a vital part of our foster team.

Volunteer Spotlight: John Madaus

John Madus first got involved with DAWS over a decade ago while he was managing Pet Supplies Plus in Danbury.