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Tails from a Volunteer

Volunteer Jen Sternkopf discusses her experiences.

Bideawee first came into my life nine years ago when my family was looking for a cat, trying to fill the void left in our hearts after our beloved Cody Girl passed away from cancer.  Years later, I never imagined I would become a volunteer like those who helped me find my new and much-loved family member.                 

I began volunteering in 2011, after finally finishing my graduate studies and finding a teaching position. Once I was comfortable in my career, I decided to give back to Bideawee. With summers off, I have more than enough time to volunteer and repay Bideawee for uniting me with my orange tabby, Mr. Noodles, one of the greatest loves of my life.

When I first went to the Adoption Center at Bideawee I was greeted by staff members and volunteers who were extremely friendly and helpful.  I originally planned to spend time with the cats, since I have always had a fear of dogs and never walked one in my life.  But, after meeting Gail, a passionate volunteer who trains newcomers, all of those plans changed.  She took me under her wing and gave me the confidence to bring joy, companionship, and love to the lives of every pet at Bideawee.

All of the dogs I encountered have touched my heart, but especially, Gin Blossom, a special dog who waited a long time to finally find her new family.  Dealing with some behavior issues, Gin Blossom improved tremendously from when she first arrived at Bideawee.  With the dedication and care of Bideawee staff and volunteers, she made great strides and finally found her new home a few months ago.

Many of Bideawee’s cats have touched my heart, but none have affected me quite like Mulligan and Barbarossa.  Despite facing great hardship early in their lives, they are both incredibly loving.  Mulligan was rescued from a hoarding situation before arriving at Bideawee.  He was ill, severely emaciated and dehydrated.  Unfortunately, Barbarossa had it no better.  He came to Bideawee after he was rescued from the devastating floods in Missouri.  He was found orphaned in the disaster and desperately needed a safe home.  Sadly, due to the deplorable living conditions they endured, these two loving boys are both FIV positive.  Finding a forever home for two cats who are FIV positive can be more of a challenge than it can for your average kitty.  FIV could possibly shorten a cats life span and a cat with FIV cannot live with other cats since the disease is easily spread.  Both factors make finding a potential adopter more challenging, but for now, they have one another, along with the wonderful staff and volunteers who show them love everyday.

In their own special ways, Mulligan and Barbarossa make sure to show love back. They have their own private room and when you walk in, you are greeted in the best way a cat can.  Mulligan always says hello first with his distinctive, reliably raspy meow.  Barbarossa gives his famous two-step stretch as he walks over to get his chin scratched.  He will always guide your hand with his fuzzy little paw to just the right spot he needs scratched.  These cats trust, love, and seek out human affection and companionship.  Their resiliency to recover from what they have endured is an inspiration for anyone who gets hung up on the everyday stresses life can throw at you.  They are faithful reminders that things can be worse, that things will eventually get better, and that life is what you make of it.  They found friendship and companionship in one another, and it is my hope for them that a loving adopter will come and take both of them to their forever home together.  After all, they deserve it.

Being a volunteer at Bideawee reminds me of a famous quote stating that time is the most valuable thing anyone can have.  I couldn’t agree more.  Giving and sharing my time with these precious animals has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Whether I am helping at an event, mentoring teenage volunteers, or doing routine tasks like cleaning cages, emptying litter boxes, filling food bowls, going out for walks, mopping, or vacuuming, I am happy to give my time to these loving creatures.  They give so much and only ask for our company and love in return.  I truly believe that the time I share with all of the animals at Bideawee has made me a better person. Animals can teach us so many wonderful things about life; all we need to do is give them the opportunity.

If you would like to become a volunteer at Bideawee please call 866-262-8133.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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