One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Monday, July 9, 2012

nine lives

I get such joy from volunteering that I am engaged in several different volunteer activities that impact my available free time. While the work is fun, rewarding, and helpful to others, I can't deny that sometimes, just like a job, I don't feel like going in for the day. I'd be lying if I said I've never feigned sickness when I wasn't up to volunteering. What an awful feeling to admit this in writing! A huge reason people need volunteers is because they can't afford to pay enough staff people for the work that needs to be done. Churches, therapeutic horse riding centers, women's shelters, homeless shelters, animal shelters (heck, any kind of "shelter") all depend on people who deeply care about the organization's mission to help make a much-needed difference in the world. So for me to publicly admit that I've played hooky from good causes that truly need a helping hand makes me feel like a schmuck.

Guilty feelings set aside, I do feel satisfaction (and a little pride, I admit) in the fact that I do volunteer at all. And on those days when my cup overflows with joy and happiness to see the difference I'm making, I am reminded why I do it at all. Today I was volunteering at a local animal shelter. My job (if you can call it a job) is to play with the cats. I literally pet them till they purr and love them with all my heart so they can gain the confidence, social skills, and attention-seeking behavior so that hopefully they will be adopted more quickly. More than anything, I just want to make them feel loved. Some are abandoned, some are sadly given up by owners who would keep them if they could, some are feral kittens, and some are taken from their owners.

The shelter is a very nice, very clean, and very popular one. I feel like these animals get more attention than some at other shelters, perhaps also because the city is extremely pet-friendly. Despite this blessed fortune, the animals are still caged, with little room for movement. They are surrounded by other animals--sometimes extremely difficult for those that are more independent and don't like the company of multiple animals around them. I love kids--I do!!--but put a group of very young, very loud, jumpy children in a contained space with lots of poking and prodding of cats with little room to hide, and I'm just as on edge as the cats are. I'm always surprised more kitties don't snap at me than they do. I don't know how many of their nine lives they've seen come and go by the time they enter the shelter, but I do know that they need love just like any other creature. In spite of the odds, most of them are willing to trust again, to form bonds of friendship with volunteers and potential owners, and to put behind them a far from ideal past. Take Monkey, for example.
This charmer will sit in the window of his room watching the people outside, hoping one will come in to say hello. He talks back with sweet meows when I ask him how he's doing, and when he's not rubbing against my legs and caressing my hands with his face, he's trying to get in my lap where he'll sit and purr forever. What you should know about sweet Monkey is that he was burned by cigarettes on his back, by a previous owner.
In the photo above, you can see a white patch on his lower back; the hair will not grow back here, and the scar and discolored fur is a reminder of the ugliness that can be found in some of humanity. The friendliness, open heart, willingness to be affectionate again, and courageous spirit of Monkey inspires me. I might not have nine lives in which to spend changing the world (cue Eric Clapton, please), but if I can change the life of this cat during my one short life, then that one short life is all the more fulfilled. Some may call me silly, sappy, naive, or childish to use shelter animals as a way to promote forgiveness; however, I've seen animals that have been abused not turn into snarling, ferocious creatures but remain gentle creatures and in turn help change their owners' lives for the better. If you're ever in need of a great book on human and animal relationships, check out Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond by Meg Daley Olmert.

Below are a few more photographs from the shelter today. Peace and joy to you, reader, and may Monkey and all of the other animals at the shelter serve as reminders of the power of love and forgiveness.
Above: Bella, a very sweet and photogenic one-year-old who loves head scratches.

"A little to the left..."

Above: Cisco, a black beauty (I love black cats) who meows to run free, eagerly trying to get your attention and catch your eye with those haunting green ones of his.


  1. These animals are so lucky to have a friend in you, Nat. Give them an extra scratch from me <3