I’m so excited to bring another interview with a volunteer from an animal shelter! This time, fairly far from home! Please give a warm welcome to our new friend Inge!
Hey Inge, thank you so much for joining us on Supawcute! Can you start off by letting our readers know a little bit about you?
Thanks for having me, Johnny. As with all animal lovers (cats in particular in my case), rescuing those lost, tossed and abandoned critters is close to my heart. So, when I finally retired from my job in San Diego, I tossed out (no, not my cat) but my high heels and business suits and drove to my new home in Arkansas. There, I started volunteering at our small Animal Shelter here in Fairfield Bay.
I know you’ve been running a shelter for years, how long have you been doing that?
Sorry, can’t take credit for running things; actually, the Shelter Manager “ran” me and other volunteers – very successfully, I might add. For about five years, I was only hands-on at least three days a week, then I became a board member and the membership-chair – which meant, drumming up money from the community; whose response, I may say, was very generous.
What got you into volunteering at the shelter?
My innocence. I only went there to “maybe” adopt a cat; seems their live trap was set for me as well.
What is the most difficult thing about running a shelter?
Especially with small shelters, it is most getting enough funding. Vet bills (spaying/neutering, shots, meds, etc.), food, supplies, even the meager salaries of a couple of staff run high no matter how carefully managed. Most people have no idea what goes into running a shelter. People may blithely drop off their unwanted animals without leaving the slightest contribution. thank goodness for benefactors who are willing to step in when the need arises.
What does a shelter need most?
Involvement from its community is vital. Be that via volunteering and/or membership-contributions. Then come the adoptions. I think, we filled almost every household with one or more of our lovely animals.
Also, a good relationship with area veterinarians (and their willingness to discount for their spay/neuter services). In our case, we further were most fortunate to have the PetsMart shop in Conway (through their Charitable Foundation) take many of our cats to adopt them out. Their managers and facilities were exceptional. Not only did we get the adoption fee, but they paid us a small amount on top. I remember making the one-hour trip with two or three yowling cats crated in the backseat– sometimes it necessitated a smelly emergency stop! You did what you had to…
How does one begin working for a shelter?
By simply saying “Yes.”
What kind of tasks are volunteers required to do?
Large well-funded shelters often ask their volunteers only to socialize their cats/dogs, or watch the phones during staff lunchbreaks. Easy, clean stuff, you know.
At our small shelter, it was pretty much anything. From walking the dogs, bathing & defleaing new arrivals, ear-cleaning, and yes, even the malodorous scrubbing of cages.
What is the biggest thing you learned from volunteering at a shelter?
Joy as well as Sadness. The first (joy), when we found great homes for our animals (we kept records where they went and often encountered and admired the dogs walking their humans in town). The second (sadness), when animals came in sick from deplorable situations – whether abuse by man, or hardship from being a stray – and we could not save them.
The best thing I came to realize was that not every dog was out to mangle me (from childhood on, I had a deathly fear of dogs – no reason, really). Until the shelter manager made me walk the pit bull – okay, so he weighed all of thirteen pounds! Everyone has to start somewhere. As I grew braver, they even named a beautiful white shepherd after me – honest.
Is there one story you never forget that happened while working for the shelter?
There are many lovely stories, many of which I wrote about in my book “Pasha, from Animal Shelter to a Sheltered Life”. Ah, talking about Pasha. That cat never took his eyes off me. I kept saying, “No way. I already have two cats.” But he got his way – and adopted me.
Have you always been a pet lover?
As a child, I never had a pet. As a young adult, I worked all over Europe, finally being transferred to the US. But in 1972, I fell in love with a friend’s cuddly Himalayan and when I wanted one too, she sat me down with a stern lecture about commitment, etc.
I got Bombo (an 8-week old Himi) from my friend’s breeder for a minimal fee – flown from Denver to Boston (hey, I was new at this). The kitten wasn’t show-material – but he was much loved and lived to be 18.
How many pets have you had in your lifetime?
Let me count [extends fingers]:
There was Puang Bombo (my first mischievous bug named aptly after an Indonesian Postergeist) who joined me in San Diego (yes, he flew there from Boston). I got him another Himi, Tiffany. Then I found starved pier-cat Sammy (Oh ye of Little Feet). Tiffany and I drove to Arkansas (she was already over 17 and sick). There I adopted Turkish Van NickNack and tiger Lilliput. That’s when Pasha weaseled his way into my heart as well.
How many do you currently have and what are their names?
Sadly, Tiffany, NickNack and Pasha are gone. I have sworn when Lilliput is gone, that is it. Wait! I just admitted on my critter blog “Never EVER say Never.” 8-year old Tinker is now practicing synchronized sleeping with Lilliput. How did that happen?
What are their favourite toys?
No matter what I buy them, they only play with crunchy envelopes attached to a string (which, in turn, is attached to me galloping through the house – and I am neither a spring- nor a string-chicken).
When they are home alone, what are they doing?
How do I know? Luckily or sadly, as the case may be, as a retiree and writer, I am almost always home. So, any mischief they have in mind is quickly squelched. Although, being of a certain age and weight (I mean, the cats), they are pretty calm and mostly floor-bound (still talking about the cats).
What advice can you give someone who is interested in adopting a pet?
Take a hard look at your life-style, accommodations, age, health and possible allergies. Don’t adopt on an impulse (or buy from puppy-mills). And, hopefully: Adopt. Don’t Shop.
How about multiple pets?
Absolutely – IF you have the room, time, and financial resources. You may be getting a free kitten or puppy, but vet visits are costly. Trust me.
Anything you want to leave our readers off with?
While we may hear about animal abuse and shudder, we learn less about the many unsung animal lovers, volunteers, vets and dedicated shelter workers. While your new “babies” many not have pedigree papers, they’ll make up for it with their unconditional love.