I am so excited! Today and tomorrow I have TWO special guests that volunteer at PAWS of Norwalk Connecticut! Today we’re talking with Kevin, AKA Meowmeowmans. He volunteers with the cats. Tomorrow we’ll have a volunteer that works with dogs. Kevin responded to a request I made at Animal Shelter Volunteer Life blog.
I’ve asked them to each share with you a little about their experience as volunteers working for animals. I confess that I have an ulterior motive- I want to answer questions that some humans have about volunteering. So dogs and cats (and humans), give a warm welcome to Kevin!!!!!
Rumpy: Thanks so much for being my guest today Kevin. Let’s start out with you telling us what prompted you to volunteer at a shelter!
Kevin: I grew up with pets (dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and fish … not all at the same time, though), and have always had a great love of animals. I first began volunteering at PAWS at a time when I had just moved back to the area following a short job stint in another city.
I was living in an apartment that did not allow pets (happily, my landlords later relented), and figured I could get an “animal fix” every week by volunteering, while doing something good and productive. It wasn’t long before I was hooked, and discovered that I was getting far more BACK from these animals and my experiences at the shelter than I could ever give. And here I am, still volunteering more than 14 years later.
Rumpy: Talk about commitment! So what exactly do you do there?
Kevin: My wife Tracey and I volunteer six to seven hours per week as “cat socializers.” This entails getting to know the kitties that come into the shelter, learning their personalities and behaviors, and helping them adjust to their new environment. This increases the chances that the cats will “show” well to potential adopters. And observations we and other volunteers make while spending time with the cats are noted so that the adoption counselors can help match them up with the best possible forever homes.
Rumpy: And that means they are less likely to return to shelter care!
Kevin: The adjustment to life at the shelter can be quite difficult for many cats, and many become depressed, fearful and withdrawn. We volunteers (and the staff, too) try to provide the cats with lots of affection, attention, and stimulation – whatever it takes, really – to help their true personalities emerge. Oh, and we also do a lot of the “less glamorous” stuff, like cleaning cages, rooms and litter boxes, filling water bowls, too.
Rumpy: I guess it must be sad to be uprooted like that. I know moving WITH my family was tough; moving without them must be awful!! So people like you are very important!
Our other main activity for the shelter is writing our blog, “Animal Shelter Volunteer Life,” which Tracey started to help raise awareness about the wonderful PAWS cats, and to help demonstrate the amazing human/animal bond that takes place during the time we spend at the shelter. We also help PAWS occasionally with pro bono marketing, writing and public relations.
Rumpy: Those skills are badly needed for rescue groups, especially in today’s world. So tell us, what other types of volunteer opportunities are there?
Kevin: There are so many different opportunities! At PAWS, you must be at least 18 to work hands-on with the animals, but there are a myriad of ways to volunteer even if you’re not. The shelter is always in need of supplies, food, and donations. Other ways to help include fundraising, helping write pet animal bios, making needed building repairs, transporting animals for vet appointments, cleaning, writing thank you letters, collecting and redeeming cans and bottles, fostering animals, and so on. And don’t forget … PAWS has cats AND dogs, so there are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for people who are more dog-oriented.
Rumpy: Great! Now how do you deal with the emotional issues?
Kevin: In order to socialize the cats, we really have to extend ourselves emotionally, which allows us to be open to even the smallest communications from these wonderful creatures. It’s heartbreaking to see a new animal cower, withdraw emotionally, or lash out in fear when it is approached. But so often, we are amazed and inspired to see love and care help the same animal learn to trust people again. And there’s no better feeling than when that animal finds its forever home.
So the emotions work both ways, and the happy ones outpace the sad ones BY FAR. I will say that we are fortunate PAWS is a no-kill shelter. The animals can – and do – live here for however long it takes them to find homes of their very own. And they will be loved and cared for until they do. We wish all shelters were no-kill, but sadly, that is not the case. Tracey and I have huge admiration for people with the fortitude and constitution to volunteer with animals at kill-shelters … they are truly heroic in our eyes.
Rumpy: Now is there any preconceived notions you had about animal rescue that have been challenged since you began to volunteer?
Kevin: That these animals that end up in shelters are somehow “broken.” It’s just not true, and we’ve found there’s pretty much a good home for every cat and dog that comes through PAWS.
Rumpy: YAY!!! I’m so glad to hear you say that. Bad circumstances, bad mistakes do not equal bad animals. So what advice do you have for anyone thinking of volunteering at a shelter or rescue?
Kevin: Just take that first step, and try it. The time and love you give has the power to change the animals’ lives. And yours, too.
Rumpy: Awesome! Thanks so much Kevin, and thanks to you and Tracey for volunteering! Now if you want to check out PAWS on Facebook, click here.
The cats pictured above are available for adoption, so if you’re interested, contact PAWS. And be sure to come back tomorrow when we talk to a volunteer from PAWS that works with dogs! woo woo woo!!!