Volunteering with Kitties – Again!

Months ago, I stopped volunteering at a pet store and put in an application to volunteer at a large organization. I wanted to be among other volunteers, work in a large shelter, and get to be around kitties and doggies. After learning about a drop-in event, I attended, talked to a staff member, and put in a new application. A few days later, I got invited to volunteer.

I had already been mulling going back to the pet store. My gym is near there, and I have been dropping in occasionally to see the kitties there. As I felt more comfortable there, I wondered if I wanted to go back. When I really thought about the requirements at the large shelter, I would have to drive at least half an hour away in all kinds of weather and then work a four-hour shift. That would mean a 6+ hour day. I realized I would be exhausted, and the shelter requires a one-year commitment. I wrote them back and politely declined, and then I immediately emailed the manager of the rescue organization that I worked with earlier this year and asked to come back.

Last Friday, I went and cleaned two cages that held three male kittens: a grey boy named Jason, and two brothers, Drake and Scorpio, both tiger cats with white chest and paws. They are so adorable! I picked up Scorpio, who has more white on his chest, and he was immediately all about the purring and snuggling. Drake wasn’t sure what to make of me, but I did get a two-handed kitty snuggle in with the two of them. Jason has been there for a few weeks, so he let me hold him. I think he prefers the safety of the cage, tho.

Maybe I don’t get to volunteer with one of my best friends like I used to, but getting to help out kitties in transition is my calling.

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Near and Dear: Courageous Cats of Valley Stream

When I lived in Boston, I volunteered every week with my friend Alicia. On Sunday mornings, we would take care of and play with cats and kittens for a couple of hours.  After moving to NY, I knew I had to continue with volunteer work helping animals.

In NY, pet stores like PetCo and PetSmart sponsor feline animal rescue organizations. I happened to drive by a new PetSmart that was opening up in New Hyde Park. After they opened, I asked for the contact information for the rescue group, Courageous Cats.

Every Monday night since December 23rd, I have been going in for a couple of hours to clean cages, wash dishes, and feed and play with the cats. I even received a year-end thank you gift from Maria who runs the rescue group. Now that’s graciousness.

Today I was feeling a bit adrift and having trouble staying focused on what needed to get done. After a couple of hours with the cats, I felt a renewed sense of happiness and focus. Getting lost in the joy of caring for animals reminds me that my purpose in life isn’t about me; it’s about what I can do for those around me, humans and animals.

2 Ways Volunteering Changed My Life

For two years, I volunteered with a friend at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Care and Adoption Center in Jamaica Plain, MA. Our official title was Cat Cuddler and Condo Cleaner. I would still be volunteering there if I had not decided to move home to NY in September 2013 to be closer to and help out my elderly parents. Volunteering was such a personally fulfilling decision that I thought I would share and encourage you to do the same.

Life Changer #1:  I nurtured relationships with those who shared my values

The best relationship that I cultivated during this period by far was the relationship I had with my friend Alicia, who had suggested we volunteer together. Every week, Alicia would drive to my house and pick me up. We would volunteer for 2-3 hours, and then she would drive me home. We started looking for places to have brunch together, and, after a few weeks, ate and Veggie Galaxy, a vegan/vegetarian diner which quickly became the only place we went to lunch.

We listened to each other, offered each other support, and made each other laugh. We shared a love of kitties, a love of our husbands and our families, and of volunteering. When she became pregnant with her daughter Claudia, I did all the cleaning and the litter for nine months so she could still volunteer. We seemed to have similar outlooks, philosophies, concerns, and ethics. I stayed with her for five days after Claudia was born to help them out. Now that I am in NY, we Skype so that I can get to know my niece and keep in touch with two of my best friends. From one close coworker, I’ve added another best friend and one niece to those I deeply care about.

Life Changer #2: I gave love, care, and medicine to countless homeless animals, which helped me, too

Caring for animals is a topic dear to my heart. Even so, I can only adopt so many. I live with three cats in a small space: Hunter, who is 17.5 years old; Gwendolyn, 2 yrs 3 mo; and Norman, 2 yrs 8 mo. Because so many animals need help to go from crisis to their forever home, I felt like I could do my part by volunteering. The more often I went and the more animals I helped, the happier I became. I was living out my values in ways that benefitted the animals first and myself second. Or maybe at the same time. It doesn’t really matter. I was able to give and receive joy and affection that lasted well beyond the few hours I was there.

No matter what your values are, I am sure there is an organization that could use your help. Don’t wait! Do it now. Your life will change for the better.