Tuesday morning, Eli and I spent about an hour in a windowless room with a concrete floor that was filled with the smell of cat litter and bleach.
It was our first day of volunteering at the Cedar Valley Humane Society and we were cleaning cat cages in the back room of the facility.
I got the idea to volunteer 'round about May when I was starting my annual fret about what I was going to do with the boys in the summer. When they were little, I was their social planner. I decided which days we'd go to the pool, which days we'd go to the playground, who we'd see, when we'd run errands, etc.
Now, of course, they go to the pool on their own . . . but also tend to slide into way too much screen time if not nagged.
So I decided we'd try some volunteering. I offered CVHS and also the Art Museum's junior docent program for Eli. That second one sounded interesting--I could just see Eli leading tours at the Grant Wood studio downtown . . . but he went for the kitties.
(As of now, Robbie's "not in" on the volunteering, but I bet we can get him to come with us sometime.)
Our official assignments are: Tuesday--clean cages 10:30-11:30 Thursday--socialize cats 9:30-10:30.
Most of the other volunteers seemed to want to walk dogs, so they were grateful to have some cat folks. And of course Eli is great with cats. On cage-cleaning day, he located one who'd escaped and caught him. His friend Chris joined us, and he did a great job, too.
Cleaning cages seemed like the least we could do for these homeless cats. The shelter keeps things very tidy (cages cleaned every day), and the staff seemed kind and knowledgeable (especially Kathy, the person in charge of cats, who knew every cat's name and had a kind word for each). But still, it was hard to be there, especially in the back room where cats were first put when they arrived at the shelter. Between the piteous meowing, the realization that many of the cats would probably live the rest of their lives there . . . and the smell, I was pretty much exhausted by the end of our stint.
I told Bruce that I think people who do social work--for people or animals--must need to harden their hearts a bit or their hearts would always be broken.
Today's visit--to "socialize" (read: play with) cats was more uplifting. First of all, we were in one of the front rooms, where they put cats who've had all their shots and are ready to be adopted. We brushed and petted cats and let them roam around. Eli especially liked a huge pale tomcat named Himmy (aka Hemmi). He must have been about 20 pounds!
(A professional photographer takes pictures of all the adoptable animals for the website.)
We also enjoyed playing with a couple of teenage kittens named Abner and McDreamy. Kathy told us that they were given up by a woman who'd had 18 cats! Crazy cat woman indeed! But some of the others had already been adopted, so we were hopeful for those two.
The center's front rooms are great--huge two-story cat cages in one room, fairly large ones in the other, and big windows for the cats to look out of. It's really a good place. They do important work. I was happy to see a bunch of photos up on the window under the sign "adopted this month."