DeKALB – After years in the corporate world, Michelle Groeper feels at home surrounded by the chitter chatter of the animals at Tails Humane Society.
Groeper, 40, became the executive director for the DeKalb-based nonprofit a little more than a month ago, leaving behind a job as a corporate buyer for Aldi Corp. This isn’t her fist time with Tails, though. Groeper was the assistant director from 2010 to 2011.
A Peoria native, Groeper earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration from Eureka College. A cat lover, she has volunteered at animal shelters for a decade, falling in love with the notion that she was giving animals a voice.
Groeper recently sat down with reporter Katie Dahlstrom to talk about life at Tails.
Dahlstrom: So what is it about animals that you like?
Groeper: I’ve always loved animals. Both of my grandparents have farms. They had a dairy farm on my mom’s side and a chicken farm on my dad’s side. There were always just animals running around all the time. I’ve always had an affinity for cats. I like dogs, but I prefer cats. I’ve actually got a big cat in my office, her name is Francis. She’s my assistant.
Something has always clicked with me with animals. They don’t have anybody else. We need to do what we can for them to make sure they’re safe, make sure they get homes. And until that happens we’re happy to be a temporary home for them.
Dahlstrom: Do you have any animals of your own?
Groeper: I do, actually. We have a 14½-year-old cat named Kaya. She is my shadow. If I’m sitting down, she’s on my lap. If I’m going upstairs, she’s following me there. We lost her sister a couple of months ago, unfortunately.
Right now Kaya loves to be around me, which is great. I’m not sure we’ll be adding any pets at this point in time. She definitely rules the roost in our home. I joke that I go home and she smells the other pets on me and just gives me that look of “oh gosh. Come on mom.”
Dahlstrom: How do you come here everyday and not want to take every animal home?
Groeper: You know, at the end of the day you really just can’t take everybody home. I know that the best thing I can do for the animals is to find the best home for them. Should that right animal come along in the shelter here and I know I’m the best home for it, that’s great. But it’s better that we use the resources to find the best home for them or else you may see me on a popular show that features people with way too many pets.
Dahlstrom: If someone wants to adopt a cat or a dog, what’s the best piece of advice you could give them?
Groeper: Take a look at what their lifestyle is. For the most part every home is a good place. But do you have a very active household? Are you running and chasing a lot? Do you have kids coming in and out? Well then a really outgoing dog or puppy or even an outgoing cat or kitten is perfect. Probably not the so-shy one or maybe not a senior. But if you’re a quiet person and you like to read the newspaper or read a book and watch TV a lot, well then we’ve got the more quiet or more senior animal for you. I guess, be honest about what your lifestyle is like and then come in and let us know.