Sometimes when you follow your heart, you land a job that allows you to use your skills to pursue your passions. Alana Grelyak had been volunteering with the Tree House Humane Society since 2005. Knowing that she’d love to work for them, she kept checking their job listings until one opened up that she felt would fit. Tree House Humane Society agreed with and hired her in January 2019 as their Manager of Marketing.
ALLISON: Tell me about your background with animals.
ALANA: I have always had pets. I initially wanted to be a vet, but someone in high school told me he didn’t think I had the temperament for it and I stupidly believed him. However, looking back and having been around the clinic a lot lately, I really think I landed in the right place. I have volunteered for years with Tree House and other pet organizations, starting in 2001 with Dane County Humane Society in Wisconsin. I’ve fostered bottle babies, older cats, and have worked with a variety of animals, including rodents. I really love them all. My life wouldn’t be my life without animals. My parents nurtured that relationship in me by giving me my very own hamster at age two. Of course they helped me care for her, but I’ve always felt responsible for animals.
ALLISON: Tell me about your background in marketing.
ALANA: I certainly don’t have a typical one. I went to school for music, but over the years after graduation, I started writing for various outlets because I knew I was a good writer. Then I got into photography. At the same time, I was lucky enough to score an internship at a music production company called Sonixphere where they taught me a lot about the commercial industry and I got some good connections that allowed me to freelance in various capacities on films sets. I started a blog that won a bunch of awards, and then started a cat web series, which really put all of my skills to the test, including script writing, music composition, social media growth, public relations, giving speeches, etc. It’s not any training that I’d expect anyone to be able to copy, but it’s something someone can do for themselves to a certtain extent. I found something I loved, which is content creation and cats, and just kept working at it. And that parlayed into a full-time position a few years later.
ALLISON: What other ways do you use your talents for animals?
ALANA: I just started a new web series called CatInTheFridgeFilms! The previous one that most people who know me know about, the CATastrophes Web Series, has been on indefinite hiatus for the last four years. We’ve been donating 20% of the proceeds from YouTube to charity every year since we stopped production. Before that, we often featured adoptable animals and always used rescues as our actors. In my spare time, I still occasionally foster. When I was in Albania last year, I used some of my time to help with a town’s first TNR with a project called Trash Cats & Dumpster Dogs, and then I did a short promotional video for them when I returned home to use in their fundraising. I do pet portraits for charity once in awhile and will write materials if rescues ask for help. I rarely ever say no if I’m able.
ALLISON: What is your best success story?
ALANA: It’s hard to pick one. I feel like they’ve all culminated into a big story that I’m still writing, but it’s always the most fulfilling for me when my work directly gets a pet a home or support of some kind.
ALLISON: What is your worst failure story?
ALANA: Honestly? Being unable to continue the web series due to inner strife. Its still good and still has legs, but it’s just not the time and that’s a big disappointment for me, so I have to start over. If you’re asking for a specific thing that has failed, I feel like sometimes my ideas don’t explode in popularity the way I want them to, but it’s not a huge “failure” per se but an opportunity to refine things.
ALLISON: How have you grown in your abilities?
ALANA: Since I’ve been working at Tree House, I’ve been able to focus a lot of my time on creation. I’ve re-opened my creative door that was closed for a bit when I was working a non-creative job. I’ve gotten much better at editing and filming video and at searching for story lines in creative ways. Also, with COVID-19 happening, it’s been an interesting time to see how we can create content without access to our cats. I appreciate challenges for giving me opportunities to be more creative rather than less.
ALLISON: How has your work changed your relationship with your cats?
ALANA: I know a lot more now about how to properly care for them with diet and enrichment. I also work harder to train them and encourage behaviors that are entertaining and fun but also keep them engaged, like learning how to high five or sit still or wear sunglasses. It’s deepened my awareness of their needs and that has deepened our bond because they appreciate that.
ALLISON: What have you learned about pet owners from your work?
ALANA: I think pet owners love their animals but can often put their own personal biases onto them. We (me included) need to think more from the cats’ perspective rather than from our own to try to find the keys to their behavior. I also love how many people I have come across who are willing and even insistent on bringing special needs pets into their lives. It makes me happy.
ALLISON: Give a tip to others who aspire to help animals in creative ways.
ALANA: Write a list of all the things that you’ve ever done, then narrow it down to the things you LOVE to do. That’s how you can help them. Do what you love and just keep improving on it, then ask around and see how you can put it to work raising awareness and money for the animals who need it. And it helps to make time for creativity every day. Creativity isn’t like a faucet that goes on or off. It’s more like a waterfall that requires rainfall regularly to keep it running.
Alana’s YouTube Series