In the midst of traveling around the state on site visits with Laura, our Program Manager, one way I maintain my sanity is to take time to stop and pet cats. While this occasionally involves a cat sitting on my lap at a site visit or a random roadside encounter with a friendly stray cat, I also take the time to pet cats on a weekly basis. No, I’m not a crazy cat lady (though I once aspired to be), this cat petting
obsession hobby is actually part of my direct service commitment. Since August of 2009, I’ve been volunteering with Animal Rescue, Inc. at their adoption center at the Bel Air PetSmart. Although Animal Rescue houses cats (and dogs) at their shelter on the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, they also partner with PetSmart to house cats in a more easily accessible location, where customers who are looking for a furry friend can see some of the many lovely potential pets that are out there, waiting for somebody to take them home and love them. As a volunteer, I help to care for the cats, clean their cages, feed them, play with (and pet) them, and, maybe most importantly, talk to potential adopters about the benefits (and process) of adopting from Animal Rescue.
Working in the nonprofit world, we don’t often get to see the fruits of our labors. We may start a tutoring program that will help kids learn to read at grade level, which will eventually help them to graduate from high school, graduate from college, get a job, and raise themselves (and maybe even their family) from poverty; we may plant a rain garden that reduces runoff, removes pollution from the watershed, increases water quality, and restores the health of the Chesapeake Bay; we may provide hot meals and job training to individuals experiencing homelessness that helps them find and keep a job and one day buy a new home; but we often only see the first step, the tutoring, planting, feeding, and training. I have spent many hours this service year volunteering with some of the VMCs I support and I know the importance of the work I do with them, but with Animal Rescue, I am often gratified to see the fruits of my labor in days, weeks, or (sometimes, but not often) months. I do not volunteer with them to get a quick service fix, because I know that those cats will eventually get adopted. I volunteer with them because I love cats (judge me if you will!) and I believe that all animals deserve a safe, loving home and a chance at a good, comfortable life and I know that, by maintaining the appearance of the adoption center, caring for and socializing (read: petting) the cats, and talking to potential adopters, I am an essential piece of the puzzle.
Sometimes site visits can be stressful (we’ve never tried to hide the fact that an AmeriCorps yearis a challenge and sometimes things don’t go as planned, besides, traveling for an entire week can also be stressful), but when stress threatens to overwhelm, I know that I only have to wait until Thursday evening to get a reprieve and go pet some cats. While cats may not be your thing, if you’re feeling stressed, I encourage you to go find something cute and fluffy and pet it until you are not longer stressed, it will do you both good!