Tuesday: tend rescued animals.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A staff member walks Sparky, a rambunctious terrier mix, on a doggie treadmill. In front of another volunteer, a 5-month-old orange and white tabby named Sylvester lies on his back and wraps a leopard-print piece of fabric around his neck like a posing diva. Meanwhile, another volunteer rolls a small ball across the floor – and Buchanan, a 5-month-old kitten with black and white fur resembling a tuxedo, pounces.
In short, it’s already a lively scene at the purple Animal Friends Rescue Project Main Adoption Center in Pacific Grove when Marty, a 2-year-old poodle/Shih Tzu mix, parades dramatically through the room after a grooming. His shaved tail sticks up stiffly in the air like a marsh cattail.
“Marty, what happened to your hair?” adoption center manager Ingrid Drexler asks. “He was [recently] hit by a car,” she tells me.
“Looks like he was hit by a hairdryer,” AFRP intern Abby Ross says.
This showering of attention on the dogs and cats is one of the ways this local nonprofit champions its compassionate mission. Founded in 1998, the AFRP takes in cats and dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized or are less adoptable because of age, injuries or shyness. The organization then tries to find the animals new loving homes, or keeps the dogs and cats at their facility rather than putting them to sleep.
“They make a lifelong commitment to the animals here,” Ross says.
Having only two full-time employees tending to a brood that hovers around the 260 cats and 72 dogs total currently there, AFRP looks outside for assistance in a multitude of areas. “We are pretty much dependent on our volunteers and the community,” says AFRP Executive Director Alexandra McCabe.
People who want to donate their time have a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from: Interested individuals can provide temporary foster care for pets, assist in transporting animals that need to be moved, wash cat beds, clean kitty condos and do basic office work like data entry and filing.
For my afternoon of service, I worked as an adoption counselor in the cat enclosure. This meant familiarizing myself with each kitty resumé so that I could help people interested in finding the perfect pet. “It’s almost like a dating service,” Ross says.
The resumés provide basic information on each cat, including name, breed, gender and compatibility with dogs, children and other cats. Also, they usually have a tidbit about an animal’s personality. A brown tabby named Reggie is labeled as “Mr. Outgoing,” while a black roly-poly cat called Cash is described as “18 pounds of love.”
A total of 12,409 animals have been adopted from Animal Friends Rescue Project during the past decade, but no cat finds a new home during my watch. Nevertheless, Ross, new volunteer Doreen Ammerman, future adoption center manager Mike Kirch and I are kept plenty busy entertaining the cats and kittens. It’s an easy workday, but as McCabe points out, socializing the animals is essential for both pre-owned pets accustomed to attention and feral animals needing to learn how to live with people. Without it, their chances at successful adoption plummet.
“It’s really a positive thing,” she says, “to have that interaction between companion animals and people.”