What’s that you say?
Volunteer Appreciation Week — and its guest posts from our phenomenal vols — didn’t last long enough for you?
Far, far be it from Tabby’s Place not to give the people what they want. Given the grandeur of our volunteers, seven skinny days simply ain’t enough. So we’re extending this extravaganza to give you two more guest posts from two more stellar souls.
Take it away, splendorous Sarah:
“I can only imagine — though I hesitate to put words in anyone’s mouth — that there are common themes that would arise if we polled the universe of Tabby’s Place volunteers about what volunteering means to them. The deep satisfaction of caretaking, whether it be fostering the babies, keeping the aging cats company, gaining the trust of the most tentative, having 20+ cats waiting (not-so-patiently) outside the door as you prep their food, or even cleaning the innumerable (and tangible, and often smelly) messes that arise in the day to day life of the place. Maybe it’s the desire to contribute to an organization that you admire, whether that means bringing in all the yummy wet food and treats that you can or sealing and stamping envelopes. Maybe it’s just not being able to ever get quite enough kitty time, when our families or housemates or landlords put a hard cap on just how many we can have at home. Or maybe it’s the days that we ourselves get even more comfort from these cats than we give to them.
“This may seem like an odd thing to say when reflecting on what it means to volunteer at Tabby’s Place. But I have to say, sometimes I wonder. I know these cats are well taken care of. I know the staff go beyond above and beyond to keep them healthy and comfortable and safe. I know there’s a veritable fleet of volunteers who come in each day to meet all the cats’ needs, right down to kids reading to them on the weekends. I know this is a sanctuary, committed to helping even the most complicated and sick live out their days. There are so many shelters out there that are understaffed and overcrowded and underfunded, producing the very conditions from which Tabby’s Place often rescues cats from hopeless situations. Might my time be better spent elsewhere?
“This isn’t to say that many of us don’t, in fact, spread the love around when it comes to volunteering, perhaps extending it to other walks of life as well. But for me, when I think about Tabby’s Place, and why I’m drawn to spending time there, I think about what it means to be volunteering at a sanctuary in particular. Yes, these are cats who will be provided the very best conditions to life out their lives (if they don’t find a permanent home). And when you take it on those terms, the question changes a bit: what is necessary for giving the best life possible to these cats? We are committed to helping them have days that they might not otherwise have; what does it take, then, to make those days the best they can be?
“Well, if you happen to participate in or simply witness a cleaning shift, obviously it includes some very concrete (and tangible, and often smelly) labor. In contemplating this, my dad — who does have a soul, notwithstanding the following comment — simply shakes his head and says, “there is no way I’d choose to spend my retirement cleaning litter boxes!” (This is coming from a man currently caring beautifully for seven cats, including three geriatrics, three with special needs, three different types of prescription/non-prescription foods, one who won’t use the litter box, one prone to go on hunger strikes if there’s a change in condition that doesn’t suit her tastes, two who require meds, one that’s painfully shy, and one that’s down to one functional kidney. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.)
“But most of all — and we know this to be true for people and animals alike — I think what it requires is comfort. And company. This can take on any number of forms. It can mean all the petting and cuddling that you can serve up in two hours’ time, or primarily serving as a lap (Boots); an ongoing stream of baby food (Lucille); petting a kitty while she eats (Divya); or simply being in the vicinity — close, but not too close (here I think of the late Queen). It can mean waiting to be approached instead of approaching. It can mean simply sitting quietly with the most shy. It can mean squirting Hank in order to even get into the suite. It can mean knowing and finding your favorites who insist upon spending their afternoons in the solarium, even in the heart of winter. It can mean fostering young kitties from the outdoors even as they appear to hate you.
“What these things require, in many ways, is time. Time to know these cats in order to learn how to love them best. I don’t need to tell anyone here that this isn’t always a fast and easy process. It can be slow, even uncomfortable. But when I think of what it means to me to be a volunteer, it’s about devoting time to these kitties. I never ever feel like it’s enough time. Sometimes I even feel selfish, because it’s a labor of love that works both ways; I get so much from being there, from being in the company of the cats themselves, the caring staff and fellow volunteers, that at times it doesn’t even feel like volunteering at all. I am just so grateful to be part of that time spent, and to contribute to it in some way.”
Sarah, your time has become the cats’ treasure. Thank you for loving them across time, with all your heart. We love you.