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HSWC spokesperson: 'It's work, but it's such a good feeling'

October 03, 2008|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's been a journey through higher education, career changes and long-distance moves that finally led Katherine Cooker back to Washington County and a job that combines her love of animals with her experience.

Cooker, 49, has been the manager of development and public relations for the Humane Society of Washington County for two years.

"I love animals, always have. It's work, but it's such a good feeling," Cooker said of her full-time job.

An only child, she was born in England and lived there until she was 9 or 10. Her father, who was in the U.S. Navy, took a job at Patuxent River Naval Station and the family settled in Hagerstown.

Cooker graduated from North Hagerstown High School in 1977 and earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Shippensburg (Pa.) University. After working for National Geographic in Gaithersburg, Md., and Washington, D.C., she worked for FedEx for 13 years in Gaithersburg and Arizona.

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She met her husband, John Cooker, a FedEx courier, while working in the Gaithersburg office. They have been married almost 20 years.

"He's so supportive," she said. "He knows I love animals and he loves animals."

The Cookers returned to Maryland, and Katherine went back to Shippensburg to get her master's degree. She studied history and took courses in museum study, which led her to a part-time position with the Shippensburg University Fashion Archives Museum.

In that job, she did a lot of writing for newsletters and catalogs, as well as event planning and outreach to the community - all skills she uses at the Humane Society.

The Cookers live in Fairplay, where their large family of Spinone Italiauos, Italian gun dogs, have room to run. Cooker said she spends much of her free time playing, grooming and working with her dogs and shows several of them.

Cooker said Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society is "an amazing mentor." Within months of starting in her current position, Cooker said they had a large horse rescue, and every day was a learning experience.

Working with abandoned and neglected animals "can be very difficult," she said. "You have to keep an eye on the prize - getting animals adopted and raising money. You do it for the cause."

Cooker plans about five big fundraising events per year, with numerous smaller outreach projects always in the works. She said her job is made easier by the caring residents and businesses of Washington County.

"You just can't say 'thank you' enough," she said.

Cooker also maintains the organization's Web site, which she tries to update three times per week. She said she's grateful for the help of a new assistant who helps her keep on top of things.

Part of the reward is "just knowing that what I'm doing is making a difference for the animals, not just here, but in the community. And to promote these amazing programs because they help," Cooker said.

More information on the Humane Society can be found at www.hswcmd.org.

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