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How do you volunteers do it?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I was considering volunteering at a shelter, but now I'm glad the Denver Dumb Friends' League didn't call me back; All I have to do is look at their website, at all of the older, sweet kitties that no longer resemble kittens and it just breaks my heart. Tears come to my eyes just from the website!

How do you go in every day without losing it? I still want to volunteer with the kitties, but.. I don't know if I'm strong enough.
post #2 of 26
There is stuff that just motivates you, for me (I work with the 'special' kitties) it is when they learn to trust. The first time they let you touch them etc. But even with the regular kitties the little things matter. Like the other day I was taking photos for the website and updating some for our longer term residents. I noticed how healthy one of our seniors was looking and how much more she wanted to play than when I first met her.

I love spending time with the cats, I can spend hours at the shelter and not notice the time - I just wish I had more time to just spend with the kitties like I used to, since getting involved at the board level I spend more time doing admin stuff than cuddling
post #3 of 26
Please tell me it's not really called the "Dumb Friends League"...

I have no problem volunteering - they cats are still going to be there if I don't volunteer, and at least this way I know I'm helping make their lives happier.

It can be sad but it's also very rewarding.
post #4 of 26
Fortunately the shelter I volunteer for now is strictly no-kill but the one I volunteered for in NC wasn't. You'd see a dog or cat one week and come back a week later and they were gone...and you were afraid to ask what happened. I just assumed they all got adopted or reclaimed by their owner....
post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
Please tell me it's not really called the "Dumb Friends League"...
Yes - it has been around for a very long time. http://www.ddfl.org/

Edit: This where their name came from http://www.ddfl.org/whoweare.htm#dumb
post #6 of 26
I volunteer for a not no-kill. Meaning, 3 years ago I chose those 4 kitties to die because we ran out of room. I've taken cats in to be euthanized because they developed behavioral issues from a declaw, because they needed surgery we couldn't afford, or a variety of other stupid reasons.

I vaccinate cats, I worm, I bathe, I clean cages, I bush, I pet, I play with them. I bring some home (yes, I've brought home several including Molly, Squishy, & Margo who were scheduled to be euthanized). I foster kittens & "special" kitties (like Bea, who is a declaw gone horribly wrong).

I keep going back, because through the good & the bad of it all, we're so strapped for volunteers that the animals end up suffering. So we all stretch ourselves to our limits so they get as best of care as we can provide.
post #7 of 26
I have thought of helping at the pound. I used to save ferals before and find them homes.
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiery View Post

How do you go in every day without losing it? I still want to volunteer with the kitties, but.. I don't know if I'm strong enough.
For me the rewards outweigh the disappointments and the heartaches. Like Eithne (icklemiss21) the feeling one gets when a cat or dog says thank you by way of trusting you makes everything worthwhile.
However, my opinion about the human race does not improve.
post #9 of 26
You definitely get more cynical about the human race every day!
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by yayi View Post
For me the rewards outweigh the disappointments and the heartaches. Like Eithne (icklemiss21) the feeling one gets when a cat or dog says thank you by way of trusting you makes everything worthwhile.
However, my opinion about the human race does not improve.
I honestly can’t say anything better then this. I know some of the cats and dogs at our SPCA sometimes wont get played with for weeks because there are so little volunteers. I always check to see who hasn’t had any attention the longest. How appreciative they are, and how loving just makes it worth it to go back.
post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
Please tell me it's not really called the "Dumb Friends League"...

I have no problem volunteering - they cats are still going to be there if I don't volunteer, and at least this way I know I'm helping make their lives happier.

It can be sad but it's also very rewarding.
Sarah... it's not dumb as in stupid ... but dumb as in can't speak for themselves, you know, like "deaf, dumb and blind." So it is not an insult to the animals.

As for volunteering, its' a real push/pull feeling. I know personally that I get very attached and that makes it hard, but I enjoy interacting with the cats and helping along those that are shy or traumatized. My boyfriend helps, too. You just tell yourself that you are doing the right thing... and when an animal gets a good home, yes it is bittersweet... but this is the purpose of our work.
post #12 of 26
Fiery,

I do it because the cats need me. Its that simple. You can't always assume that someone else will step in and help, because they might not. Every week we walk away from the kill shelter with far, far less kitties than we would like to rescue, but we just have nowhere to put them. If you can't handle being at the shelter, maybe you could foster?

Just fostering one kitty at a time is a huge help.
post #13 of 26
There is also stuff you can do for shelters that does not involve working directly with the kitties - office work and fundraising etc that the shelter can not function without.
post #14 of 26
I always find it very difficult to go to the shelter, because at ours, I know most of those lovelies will not leave alive. It's heartbreaking, but that's why I do what I do. If I see pain, I have to do something, even if not much. I can't stand an animal so full of love dying without ever knowing love in return! Even those that don't appreciate it at the time.

As of last night, I got my very first fosters ever. I'm sure I will have a huge hole in my chest when they leave and take my heart with them!! And before that, I have worked with dogs in the shelter and rescues. It can be utterly heartbreaking, but I think I'd be more heartbroken knowing I did nothing! That's probably why I'm in search and rescue, too. Most times there's nothing we can do to save a life, but it's that effort that matters to me.

But definitely if you want to volunteer in a way just as important but not as potentially painful, do some admin stuff! The foster group I just started working with also has a volunteer form for staff / admin, and I considered that, too. Sometimes I think it's MORE important and more helpful if you do staff work, because from what I can tell, more people want to work with the animals! I decided I'm one of those that wanted to work with the animals instead.
post #15 of 26
I do everything - work with the animals and admin / staffing.

Sometimes I find I get more 'quality' time with the animals and make more of a difference when I am helping in the office with adoptions than when I am doing the daily feeding / cleaning of the animals
post #16 of 26
So far, all I do is just spend a little time with each of the kitties available for adoption. I don't go in the back where the sick or injured cats are. Once a cat is brought out front, they are rarely euthanized, although kitten season is the worst.

I don't know for a fact that any of the cats I've worked with have been put to sleep. The one guy I haven't been able to find out about probably went to the barn rescue group. They take adult cats that may not be as adoptable as some, but who are in good health. Our area is partially rural, and a lot of people have horse barns, etc., where they want to have rodent control, but they also want cats who are friendly.

I stopped by the shelter this afternoon to say goodbye to the cats, since we're going on vacation for a week. While I was there, a family came in looking for some kittens, and I steered them toward Chapman and Lucy, a brother/sister duo who are just fantastic cats. Friendly, playful, gentle, and cuddly.

By the way, I grew up in Denver, and I always heard about the Dumb Friends League. That's where my mother ended up taking a lot of kittens, over the years.
post #17 of 26
We have a program similiar to that here. Last summer I trapped a mother and four kittens from my brothers yard....sadly the beautiful long-haired torti died but the other three kittens were adopted out. The mom, a calico, was too wild to be adopted so this farmer took her...he has like 15 cats in his barn that were unadoptable. My shelter doesn't euthanize any cats no matter how wild they are, they just relocate them to a farm or whatever.

My shelter tried to get me involved with the animal rescue unit but I declined. I couldn't take it. I have low.....make that NO...tolerance for animal abusers. I'm afraid I'd lose my temper and end up in jail or something....
post #18 of 26
Also, I feel like what I do CAN help the cats get adopted. For example, Monday they had a little calico kitten (maybe 12-14 weeks old) who was just a lover, but looked "rough." She had long hair, and she looked dirty. It didn't help that she had a lot of burrs in her coat. I spent about half an hour combing and brushing her out, and she was adopted the next day.

I used to be a teacher, and my wife still teaches at a trucking school. We have both learned that you can't save all the students, especially from themselves.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
Also, I feel like what I do CAN help the cats get adopted. For example, Monday they had a little calico kitten (maybe 12-14 weeks old) who was just a lover, but looked "rough." She had long hair, and she looked dirty. It didn't help that she had a lot of burrs in her coat. I spent about half an hour combing and brushing her out, and she was adopted the next day.

I used to be a teacher, and my wife still teaches at a trucking school. We have both learned that you can't save all the students, especially from themselves.
Yeah, I'm with you on that. I also brush out the cats and trim their nails, etc... and try to interact with them as much as possible so they are more adoption-friendly.
post #20 of 26
I do it because cats have to count on us to advocate for them. I would do it for dogs too and any animal but my focus is on felines. We have to be their voice. Most of the cats that die everyday in kill shelters are because of people. People who didn't spay or neuter, people who abused them or people who neglected them...etc. So I want to be a positive person in their lives.
With my strays I do it because of the above reasons. They didn't do anything to deserve their fate.
Every cat that gets a good home brings so much joy into someone's life. I just checked my shelter's website and 3 of my favorite adults have been adopted. Absolutely fantastic lovable cats who I knew would bring joy into someone's home.
For senior citizens having the love of a pet and being loved enhances their lives. For children they often grow up to be future animal lovers.
I had one woman whose husband left her and took the cat. She was still raw and hurting. She got matched up with a big bundle of love. She called him the new man in her life and now she would have a man around the house again. She came back and adopted a companion for him.
I had helped out sporadically before but now I am devoted to it.
post #21 of 26
Thread Starter 
I *really* want to volunteer, but so far no one seems to want me there! I've called the DDFL three times and left three separate messages, no response. Then I called a no-kill cat shelter here, and again, nothing. Maybe they look at me and think "Oh, irreponsible barely-out-of-her-teens *****" or something.. Hmm. I will keep trying.

I even offered to foster kittens, since my cat, Trina, is so darned maternal that every time she hears kittens crying on Animal Planet, she runs into the room and stares at the TV for half an hour. But again, nothing. Are they really hurting for volunteers that badly?

I just hope that I can have the strength to see it through. =(
post #22 of 26
Sometimes they are not as organized as they could be. Keep calling or even stop by. They could be busy since it is kitten season.
post #23 of 26
Most places are run by volunteers and it can take a while to get the message to the right person - if you call the shelter you get an office volunteer who may or may not give the message to anyone.

As bad as it sounds, sometimes shelters are a little wary of people who call asking about fostering before getting involved elsewhere, kittens occasionally go missing and not all places do homechecks even for fosters.

Have you filled out their online volunteer app?
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiery View Post
I just hope that I can have the strength to see it through. =(
I started fostering last fall and have found it to be very rewarding but also stressful at times.

If you find it too difficult to work with the animals themselves, there are many other ways to help as icklemiss21 said. What really bothered me when I looked at the pictures at the shelter was the fact that the cats are lying on newspaper in cages, so I asked if they would use beds or mats if I made them. So I make beds, padded mats and catnip toys for the cats (I love to sew). Even some old towels from Value Village can make a difference. It makes my day when I get an email from one of the shelter workers who tells me that they watched the cats playing with their catnip toys for an hour and seemed so happy. She also sends me pictures of them sleeping in the beds I made instead of on a cage floor. I know I can't save many, it's a high-kill shelter, but I try to make their lives a little more comfortable
post #25 of 26
Please keep calling, many of these places (Especially the no-kill) are run by all volunteers and they are trying their best to keep up with the kitties needs, and all of the administrative work.

As far as why I do it, the list of names is too long to put here. The two names that say it best are Baron and Baggehra. Baron is a big sweet guy, that came to us in a live trap. He was feral and terrified. He was agressive, but now he feels safe. He is our masscot and is the only cat allowed out of his cage during open house hours. He sits very nicely on a cat tree and lets all the visitors pet him. He is a great example of a rehabed feral cat. Baggehra is my current love/project. He is a big sweet siamese 9 years old, left in a carrier at our door. He is sweet but terrified. I can just see the heart break in his eyes. I wrote a poem a couple years ago that says it best of all:

A Rescuer’s Love Poem

Don't ask how many cats I've loved.
The number can’t be counted.
My heart grows daily with each one I meet.

Some tiny babies, some slowed from age.
The spoiled, the forgotten, the feral.
Those turned aggressive from a lifetime of abuse.
Even a pedigree or two.

I've been angry, cried tears of joy.
I rejoice for each new home.
I will miss some forever, but can never forget even one.

Some say I'm crazy, most just smile and laugh.
They don't understand why I should give so much.
None of that matters.

Each tear,
Each shout of joy has purpose.
Each furry little face will look upon love at least once in a life.
post #26 of 26
The Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance is another organization you might consider helping. http://www.rmaca.org/

I like that they do heavy Spay/neuter which is what is going to keep the future shelter population down.

It is something that may not expose you to all the shelter kitties, but I have to say street kitties can tear your heart just as deeply.

The bottom like is like everyone said, you are making a difference.
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