“So far, we’ve done 72 cats and kittens and we still have 20 to 30 more to go,” explained the woman who sat across the table from me.
We shared coffee and conversation during my recent visit to Oregon for a family reunion. I learned about the all-volunteer pet rescue organization Hope 4 Paws – Grant County from two different people while visiting relatives in Prairie City, Oregon, and after garnering a contact phone number, I was now learning more about the group. With so many feral, unaltered cats in the community of John Day, this group had secured a grant as well as local donations and was working with an area veterinarian to spay and neuter cats in a mobile home park. Most of the felines were being fixed under a Trap-Neuter-Return program, while many kittens were being vaccinated and altered then adopted to loving families. This small group of people (less than 12 volunteers) made a commitment to their community and to the animals of that community to help animals in need. I left a small donation to help toward the next round of vaccinations and spay/neuter as well as two of my books to use as part of a future fundraising endeavor.
Commitment is critical to pet rescue. For the past 10 years in my state of residence, Wyoming, a pet rescue organization has committed to not just helping pets in need, but to saving lives of animals in the state’s kill-shelters. Black Dog Animal Rescue (BDAR) began saving dogs’ lives throughout the state, fostering them in volunteers’ homes, and adopting them to new loving families. During the past decade, the organization has grown, now also taking in cats, and instituting a partnership with a medium correctional facility to implement a program preparing dogs for adoption behavior and training program called P.A.C.K. – inmates work with the dogs on obedience and some agility training. A recent program graduate named Niffy, now christened Tiffy, was adopted by one of my friends.
Barb began looking for a dog a few months ago and asked me for advice on where to adopt. I gave her several suggestions, including BDAR. She was familiar with the organization from a family member living in Cheyenne, the community where BDAR is located, about a 3-hour drive from our town of Casper. Barb and her husband took a day to drive down after putting in an adoption application for this 2-year-old border collie cross they had seen on BDAR’s website. Barb was looking for a dog which would hike, run, and bike with her, and Niffy appealed to her due to the border collie’s nature of being energetic. She also considered putting the dog into an agility program, another activity for which border collies are skilled. Barb was impressed with both the dog and the organization.
“They were very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions,” she told me after adopting from BDAR. “It’s been a long time since I’ve adopted a dog. It was a pleasant and positive experience, and I’d recommend BDAR and do it again. And Tiffy – I just love her! She was shy the first few days but now she has learned the routine of the house. She is smart, she is affectionate, and she learns quickly. I’m excited to see how she does with agility.”
Why do I support animal rescue? For several reasons, including the fact pet rescue is necessary. With nearly seven million animals going into shelters across the country every year, and the many strays and community cat colonies with little to no medical needs met, rescues are critical to the health and welfare of both community animals and humans. All this takes commitment. Many times, as in the case of Oregon’s Hope 4 Paws, it’s a group of volunteers who make that commitment. BDAR began as an all-volunteer organization, but saving the lives of dogs and cats across an entire state is a huge, fulltime job. Therefore, the group now provides a small staff; but, they continue to rely upon volunteers to help, as most non-profit organizations do. The commitment of people to help animals in need inspires and awes me; therefore, I suppport these organizations who do this work.
Without commitment from staff members and volunteers, where would the animals, and the communities, be? I’m so grateful to these and all the animal rescue organizations for what they do, and I will continue supporting pet rescue groups in various ways as long as I live.
How about you? What can you do to help pet rescue groups in your area? For ideas, visit these websites:
June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, a time to bring to light the millions of cats who are in need of homes. Because spring and early summer are considered “kitten season,” a time when thousands more cats and kittens need care and new homes, animal shelters and rescues across the country designate June as Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month.
Here is a short list of things you can do to help, whether or not you can adopt:
By helping organizations that help cats, whether it’s through actual adoption, by volunteering, through community education, or by donating funds and supplies, you are helping cats in need during this special time of year.
April is known as Volunteer Appreciation Month. Animal welfare organizations, from local shelters and rescues to larger, nation-wide groups depend upon volunteers. In fact, many rescue organizations are strictly volunteer-based. If not for the dedication of volunteers and their love for pets, most companion animal groups would not function well or even exist.
Volunteers help pets in need in many ways. Whether walking dogs, brushing and socializing cats, or assisting with transports and fundraisers, volunteers are vital to the health, welfare, and adoption of pets. Most rescue organizations, like Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, depend on volunteers to foster animals in their care as these pets await adoptive families. Other groups, like MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws rely upon people to transport dogs either into rescue or to their adoptive families, as oftentimes the distance the animal needs to travel is quite long. This is a role I enjoy fulfilling – transporting a dog into rescue or to its new adoptive family. Several times a year I’m called upon to help transport dogs through my state, usually up or down Interstate 25. Wyoming is a large state and there are great distances between towns; there aren’t a lot of people in the state (at least in the area where I live) who transport. Therefore, whenever I’m available during a time of need, I heed the call. I’ve transported Boston Terriers, Great Danes, English Springer Spaniels, even a Newfoundland for rescue groups in my region. I love every trip, for I know I’m helping a pet in need – it’s an amazing, humbling feeling!
I’ve also traveled to Utah’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where I volunteered with the cats. Spending time in their enclosures, playing with them, petting them, as well as taking them outdoors on leashes and in baby buggies, my heart has been filled by knowing I’ve assisted those kitties be more social and therefore, more adoptable. I’m hoping to return to that marvelous place again this year to once again volunteer.
There are many ways a person can volunteer with local, regional, even national animal welfare groups. Some of the endeavors take time, others just a few hours a week, and some just a few hours every few months (like transporting). Here are 10 ways in which you can help animal rescue organizations as a volunteer:
You’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of pets who need help by volunteering. Take this special time of Volunteer Appreciation Month and consider how you might be helpful to organizations that help pets in need – your service is greatly needed and will be genuinely appreciated!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.