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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Season for Giving, and Receiving, Guest Post by Kevin Hattori

Moosey
“It’s better to give than to receive.”  Wise words indeed, especially during the holiday season. But the everyday example set by the volunteers at PAWS has me convinced that the phrase could be improved by changing it to read, “It’s better to give, because what you’ll receive is even better.”

I’m talking specifically about the amazing rewards that come from volunteering with homeless pet animals.  And believe me, the rewards – for the animals AND the volunteers – ARE amazing.

When Tracey and I asked some of our volunteer friends (and ourselves) some questions about working with shelter animals, the responses painted a wonderful picture of why this small band of animal lovers is part of a group that continues to spend time with the PAWS cats week after week, month after month, and year after year.  We hope this sampling of answers gives everyone a little holiday cheer, and inspires folks to know that even the smallest kindness does make a difference.

Q: Why do you volunteer with animals?  What do you get out of it?

Karyn:  I was raised to have great love and respect for animals of all kinds. I would rescue every abandoned pet if I could, but since I am already at full capacity … this is the way I help bring some comfort and happiness to those without homes.

Maggie: I get an immediate good feeling when I touch a cat and he or she purrs or rubs on my hand. I know I've made that cat's day a little better. And the love that I get from them – even cats I've never met before – is so sweet.  Many of the cats are such good role models, too. They've been abandoned, kicked out of their homes, left at the shelter (and those are the lucky ones) … and yet so many of them still look to us for love.  How can we turn away?  (NOTE: Maggie also blogs about the PAWS cats at the always wonderful “Sundays at the Shelter.”

Susan: I love animals.  They never cease to amaze me and I marvel at their beauty, personality, and behavior.  Working with them takes me out of myself and I forget about my small world and problems.

Tracey and Kevin: The time we spend caring for the PAWS provides us with an outward focus, and with lessons about the power of love. When life gets tough, caring for shelter animals brings a welcome respite from troubles.  And when life is good, it has a way of keeping us grounded in reality.  It’s become an inextricable part of our lives, and we feel “out of sync” if we miss even one of our regular days.  We’ve also found kindred spirits: many of our closest friends are our fellow volunteers.  And it was at the shelter that we re-connected after so many years, fell in love, and eventually married. J  

Ginny: I started volunteering because of my love for animals, and an awareness that there was a great need for help with homeless, lost, and abandoned animals that end up in shelters.  I thought I would be doing something good for the animals, but never did I realize how much they would do for me.  Since I started volunteering, there is no doubt that working with the wonderful cats at PAWS helped me through the most difficult and stressful times.
Diamond

Q. What keeps you coming back to the shelter?

Maggie: Knowing I can bring comfort to a frightened or sad cat keeps me coming back.

Karyn: Every animal pulls at your heart, and some more than others, but you simply accept that you are doing the best you can for them until they do find a home.

Ginny: I keep coming back because I know I am truly making a difference in the lives of these cats by being there. Providing a lap, a good brushing, some time out of their cage, an interesting toy, or just some much-appreciated attention … the cats let us know they are happy we are there.

Kevin and Tracey: We love these cats, and want them to find forever homes.  But until they do, PAWS volunteers and staff are caretakers, nurturers and most importantly, friends, to them. And who doesn’t want the very best for their friends?  In order to help socialize these kitties (so that they have the best chances of being adopted), we really have to know them. And since each has its own personality, likes and dislikes, the process requires time, consistency and patience.  So we keep coming back, as good friends do.
Ian
Q: What are some of the high points of volunteering?


Maggie: There are so many from which to choose … Getting Milo to purr … Nemo getting a forever home … so many adoptions (though still not nearly enough).

Karyn: The animals give so much love in response to the attention and care you give them, and there is nothing quite as wonderful as hearing the follow-up stories on the cats and dogs lucky enough to be adopted into great homes.

Susan: I love when a cat that was afraid, unfriendly, or even hostile becomes more comfortable with people.  It’s often a slow process, but there are always little victories along the way.

Ginny: One of the high points for me is seeing cats who enter the shelter shy, afraid and timid or angry and aggressive slowly but surely come out of their shell or calm down as they realize they are in a place where they are loved and safe. Any adoptions and all of the successful follow up tales are definitely also high points.  And I love that PAWS never gives up on a cat, and that euthanasia is not an option unless a cat is terminally ill and in pain that cannot be helped.

Kevin and Tracey: To see a cat that cowered in fear when it first arrived transformed by patience and love into a lap cat is amazing.  To see cats who wait for YEARS finally get forever homes is the best ever.  We love those happy follow up stories, too.  And to know that every adoption means that TWO animals’ lives (the one being adopted, and the one taking its place at PAWS) are being saved is a great feeling.
Meeting Room
Q. What can other people do to help out at a small, local animal shelter?

Susan: Besides actually working with the animals, people can donate needed items or money, transport animals to and from the vet, and help clean.  They can raise money, think of ways to raise money, pass along a good word about the shelter and animals that need adopting, and write summaries about the animals to be posted on line.

Karyn: Every little bit makes a difference. On weeks when I cannot get to the shelter, I am out collecting newspapers or picking up needed items when I see them on sale. There is much that people can do … giving just a couple of hours a week, or dropping off paper towels, cleaning supplies, towels, or blankets.  (Ed. note: Many shelters have lists of ways people can help, like  this one from PAWS.)  On a more general level, I talk with others about the importance of spaying and neutering; and when I hear of a friend looking for a pet, I strongly encourage adopting from a shelter.


Ginny: The best thing anybody can do is just show up and give the animals some love and personal attention. 

Thank you to all who work or volunteer with shelter animals, or otherwise work in animal rescue.  You are true heroes.  As for us, we’re on our way to do a little Christmas Day giving and receiving with the PAWS cats.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Kevin (aka "meowmeowmans") and Tracey's blog, "Animal Shelter Volunteer Life," is about cats who pass through the doors of PAWS, a privately funded non-profit, no-kill shelter located in Norwalk, CT.  Since 1962, PAWS has rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed thousands of stray, neglected and abused animals.

8 comments:

Brian said...

Thank you Kevin for all that you do to help those in need. You are a true blessing and I am so glad you are out there making such a positive difference. Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us at Brian's Home!

meowmeowmans said...

Thank you for your kind words, Brian. They mean so much to me, especially coming from you (because YOU do so much for those in need)! :)

I'm proud to be a part of the amazing team of volunteers at PAWS. I'm also proud to be your friend!

Merry Christmas to you, your sisters, and your whole family!

meowmeowmans said...

Hi Pam and Oskar! Thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity to share the spotlight with a few of our awesome volunteer pals. :)

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Finn said...

Wonderful interview! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Mr Puddy said...

You Rock , Kevin : )
and Oskar !!!! Merry Christmas to you and your family
Have a purrfect one ! Ho Ho Ho !

Allis said...

Merry Christmas to all.

Fine Interaction.

Max the Quilt Cat said...

Merry Christmas and we hope you have a wonderful day.

pawhugs, Max, Bugsy, Knuckles and HH

Tamago said...

I enjoyed reading this post! Kevin aka meowmeowmans and PAWS are so wonderful and true friends of these fur babies. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!

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