My Volunteer Journal: Episode 7 – Popsicles and Coconuts at a No Kill Animal Shelter

atoka-and-scattersThe problem with Popsicle is he is really small.  So small that he fits in the palm of my hand.  This is why his toys keep getting stolen by the big adolescents in his room. Today I am volunteering at the Lange Foundation, which is a no kill animal shelter in Los Angeles.  I am required to brush, pet, and play.  It’s kind of like dating, but you get more love in return for your services here.

Popsicle is a tiny orange tabby kitten and he is stuck with three solid black “teenage” kittens and one lazy spotted 6 month old.  The black cats are gorgeous as they dive and weave for the catnip mice I am pitching around the room.  Unfortunately Popsicle has found himself underfoot once or twice.  I give Popsicle an encouraging scratch by the ear, which results in a grateful little purr.

The only thing cuter than Popsicle trying to outrun his playmates is Coconut.  Coconut is the fluff ball puppy in the other room waiting for pickup by his new family.  He’s only a couple of weeks old, but already knows his name so when you approach the cage and say, “How’s ya doin Coconuts?!?!” he stands up on the bars (he’s less than a foot high at this point) and wags his little stubby brown tail.

Popsicle and Coconut are babies and will be adopted fast, but they are the exceptions.  The majority of the animals are older and were rescued by the Lange Foundation from euthanasia at city shelters.  A staff member tells me that even baby Coconut was scheduled to be put down because he was sick and city shelters do not have the money or time to deal with sick animals. Luckily the Lange Foundation acted as Coconut’s angel and saved him from destruction at the last moment.

After visiting with Popsicle I step into a room with 15+ cats to brush and play.  I am swarmed like Angelina in the middle of the Paparazzi.  They love me or are starved for attention.  Probably the later. 

The unfiltered love and admiration is why I would recommend volunteering with animals to anyone, even those who are painfully shy. Remember: If you do anything wrong the animals still think you are the greatest being ever created. You can never dress inappropriately for a cat or dog.  You don’t have to make small talk, or try to impress someone, you can be completely quiet and will be treated the same as the most out going socialite. Cats and dogs love, it’s what they do, they know no other way.

Because animals have offered me so much love over the years I would like to say a few things on their behalf before I finish this blog. I have worked with many different animal groups over the years and unfortunately there are sad truths that never change.

1) Animals are not accessories, but people frequently treat them that way. You may think that I am being unduly harsh saying this but I have volunteered at adoption events and watched pretty women hold cats up to themselves while their friends tell them if they look good with various animals.  It makes me nauseous.  I have also had the misfortune of adopting out animals to people only to call years later to check on the animal and find it was given away due to an inconvenience. My belief is that when you adopt an animal it is your responsibility forever. End of story.

2) Harsh truth: If you buy a pet from a pet store or off the internet you are signing the death certificate for at least one shelter animal and possibly hundreds of dogs and cats born into puppy mills and cat breeding farms. If you want to learn more about puppy mills Oprah “The Queen of all Media” did an excellent documentary style show on the subject.  You can watch part of the video here: Oprah Puppy Mill Special

3) Domesticated animals suffer tremendously in the wild. We bred cats and (to more of an extreme) dogs to have features we liked and complimented our lifestyle.  We never asked if we were making them slower or less powerful.  Imposing our will for thousands of years resulted in domesticated animals being shadows of their agile hunter ancestors. They starve in the wild – slowly and painfully – being torn apart by various diseases that attack a weakened immune system.  Anyone who thinks it’s okay to leave an animal in an abandoned building or dump an animal on the side of a road, in the woods, or on a beach needs to understand what an animal in the last minutes of starving to death looks like – I guarantee you won’t sleep for a while.

Sorry things got so dark.  I feel it’s important to press the point that we created these animals so we have a responsibility towards them. If you are looking to adopt a new friend go to http://www.petfinder.com - it pools the resources of hundreds of rescue organizations so you can search by type of animal, age, and even specific breed.

Okay I’ll get off my soapbox.  Here’s hoping we all act more responsibly in the coming year.  

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

-Gandhi