Allyson Dotson’s journey with Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue (ROAR) wasn’t supposed to last this long.

A decade ago, she began volunteering for the shelter on South Street before eventually taking what was meant to be a temporary job as the adoption coordinator.

Her quick ascent up the non-profit ladder ended in 2010 when she hit the top of the totem pole and was promoted as shelter director.

“The animals and the experience changed me,” said Dotson in August after stepping down from the director position earlier in the summer to move to South Carolina.

Over the last seven years, Dotson’s work at the shelter spanned from pairing animals with loving families to expanding the use of comfort dogs to the elementary and high school students during exams. She also paired dogs with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through ROAR’s Pets for Vets program.

The nonprofit’s mission was always something that drew Dotson to working there.

“It’s about helping animals and in turn, helping the people,” she told The Press.

A decade of change

In the beginning of Dotson’s work, the shelter had no veterinary technician to help treat sick animals they received, but they soon began to work with Cornell University’s Veterinary Hospital once one of their hospital managers joined the ROAR Board of Directors.

By starting this care for the animals the moment they were received, ROAR began expanding their care throughout the other parts of the adoption process.

“What sets ROAR apart from other shelters is that we created this aspect of care throughout the entire process,” Dotson said.

When asked about Dotson and all of the work she did while she worked for the nonprofit, ROAR board member Brad Marcus said, “Allyson always made the animals her number one priority.

“She transformed the shelter and helped the care of the animals expand,” Marcus said. “She did so much for ROAR.”

Dotson, who is now working as the shelter director in her new town, said leaving ROAR and Ridgefield behind wasn’t easy.

“Saying goodbye to the people who have become my family and to all of those animals I love was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a while,” she said.

A new ROAR shelter director has yet to be chosen.