Sunday, November 22, 2009

Volunteering for a Cageless Shelter

By Ruthie Bently

I had a wonderful experience and found many new friends, both two and four-legged, when I volunteered for a cageless shelter. I had a client in Illinois who came into the pet shop I managed looking harried and a bit rattled. I found out she was the founder of a cageless shelter. I had never heard of one before, so I asked her what made a cageless shelter different from a regular animal shelter. She explained that the animals stayed with volunteers in their homes rather than in cages. The reason she was so harried was that she was taking care of three litters of newborn kittens, and was looking for volunteers to place other animals that had come in. I offered to help with the kittens, but she asked if I would consider helping her with a cat instead. The cat needed a safe, quiet place to stay, as it looked like she had been bullied and was a bit timid. I said “yes” and began to learn about cageless shelters, and what wonderful places they can be.

A cageless shelter is much like a regular shelter in that each person coming in to adopt must go through a screening process. There is an adoption fee and all the animals have been to a vet for a full check up, worming (if needed), vaccinations, spaying or neutering, checking for fleas, ticks and ear mites, and a bath and nail clipping (if needed); cats are usually also tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia.

A cageless shelter can be a large facility that houses dogs and cats in large common areas as opposed to separate cages, or it can be a smaller facility with volunteers that keep the adoptable pets with them in their homes until they find a home. As a pet is adopted out from a volunteer’s home, another soon takes it place.

One nice aspect of the second kind of shelter is that each pet gets one-on-one attention from the volunteer they live with. If a dog needs training, the shelter may have the volunteer take it to a class. Depending on the availability of funds, the supplies and food for the pet may be provided for the volunteer. Each cageless shelter has different rules and regulations, but most request that if the pet is no longer wanted by their adoptive family, that they be returned to the shelter. The cageless shelter I worked with even issued each adopted pet a tag with the shelter’s name and phone number, in case it ever got lost.

I liked the idea of interacting with a cat that was in need of tender loving care. I didn’t own a cat at the time and was happy for the companionship. I was responsible for getting Gwen to the vet to be spayed and two weeks later, taking her back to have her stitches out. After that, she came back home with me to await a call which would unite her with a family of her own. It was then that my life took a turn in a different direction.

A young couple wanted to come see Gwen, who had been living with me for about twelve weeks. Although I was happy for Gwen, I was a bit sad that I would lose her companionship. I greeted the two warmly and went to get Gwen, who greeted them as if they were old friends. Gwen was a beautiful calico with a coat of orange, black and white, and the most beautiful green eyes I’d ever seen.

Upon seeing Gwen the young woman said “Oh no, she just won’t do.” I was flabbergasted and tried to hold back my surprise. I asked if it was her age or her gender. The woman replied that Gwen was the wrong color. “The wrong color?” I asked. The woman told me she wanted a white cat because all her furniture was white and Gwen’s hair would get all over the furniture. I thanked her for her candor, and saw them out.

The car had not even left the driveway before I was on the phone with the shelter letting my supervisor know how the interview had gone, what they felt was wrong with Gwen, and that I had decided to adopt her myself. I kept thinking about muddy feet prancing across that white furniture if they ever let a white cat outside.

The time I spent working as a volunteer with a cageless shelter was a very rewarding experience. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to volunteer their time to work with animals for a good cause. The interaction and time you spend with a pet in your care can help the pet become more socialized, and gives them a better chance of finding their own forever home.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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