Friday, January 21, 2011

January's Volunteer of the Month


At BACS, we like to think that we lead by example. And we can even apply that outside of the shelter, where we start the new year with hope for civil discourse and more cooperation from everyone throughout our society. So what better way for the BACS Dog Blog to kick off 2011 than by demonstrating a willingness to knock down traditional barriers?

No more shall BACS have West Side Story-style rivalries.

No more Daniel-san vs. Cobra Kai blood feuds.

I think we all know where I'm heading. This month the Dog Blog is featuring a Cat Volunteer.

Thanks for all your hard work Julia! I'm allergic to cats so I avoid the cat house, but it's good to know we've got volunteers back there taking care of our feline friends.

What do you do when you're not at the shelter?

I'm a PhD student in transportation engineering at UC Berkeley, and I work at a research center where we study traffic safety. I also dabble in bicycle advocacy, baking, gardening, and home repair, but I really love relaxing with my kitties, Mr. Bingley and Oliver (pictured below). I'm only 31, so I still consider myself a 'crazy-cat-lady-in-training.'

Why did you initially decide to volunteer at BACS?

I had been wanting to do something to help homeless kitties for a while; my own boys were rescued by Island Cat Resources & Adoption as semi-feral kittens. When I moved from Oakland to Berkeley last year, I was finally within bicycling distance of a shelter, so I signed up.

What do you do as a cat volunteer?

Like the dog volunteers, we try to keep the cats sane while they're stuck in a kennel for weeks to months. Cats don't do so well on a leash, so we keep them on our laps in the main cat room or take them to the back room for some playtime. The cages are pretty tiny, so the kitties really appreciate being able to get out and stretch their legs. Since I'm there often, I also take photos of the cats when they're being extra charming, and when they've won me over, I write them bios to post online. I work in the shed with the sick cats, and I've helped to tame some feral kittens, too. In December, I started teaching one of the cat classes. I really want to work with the dogs, too, but there's no time! ... and no green dot dogs.

What are your favorite things about volunteering?

Some of the cats are understandably pretty freaked out by the cages, the smells of all the other cats, and the sounds of dogs barking. It's super satisfying when I'm able to help a shy or frightened cat start to feel comfortable in the shelter; seeing progress over days or weeks lets us know the work is worthwhile. It's all about that first purr! The ultimate goal is to find these kitties homes, so I also like introducing potential adopters to the cats and helping to make a good match.

We cat volunteers are a bit misanthropic, but since we can't take the cats outside, it seems like we spend more time interacting with each other. I've had a great time chatting with and getting to know the volunteers and staff.

Who are your favorite cats, past and present?

My first love was Sam (pictured below), a gorgeous classic brown tabby with white, who was very scared at the back of his kennel, but he would still purr and lift his chin for me to scratch it. With a little work, he showed his true lover-boy self. He was the first cat I photographed, which got me started on that. My other past favorites include Ellie (our toothless girl), Ralph (with the infected tail tip), Babu, and Lila. Basically, all a cat has to do is lick my hand. My current favorite is Boots; he's such a cute little dummy!


Rob said...

Alright, congratulations Julia! One of our more dedicated volunteers, to be sure.

Susan said...

Congrats on this addition to your vita.
To a budding "crazy cat lady" (showing promising signs of fruition)...
From a committed senior misanthrope.