In the words of Green Day... Don't be an American Idiot... support the MSPCA!
Welcome to my personal fundraising page for the 2018 Fast and Furriest 5K to benefit the MSPCA! As many of you know, the MSPCA has been a huge part of my life for my entire existence. I started going there regularly as a tiny little Jenny with my parents to see all of the animals; in fact, many of my earliest memories took place there, like getting splashed by dogs playing in the pools of the outdoor portions of their kennels, my dad getting bit by a goose for being an idiot and sticking his finger in to pet it, finding a loose goat in the barn... ah, yes. The good ol' times. As I got older I couldn't wait to turn 16 just so I could start volunteering at the shelter, and that's exactly what I did. I started off as a dog walker but quickly got involved in all different aspects of the shelter. I started running birthday parties and giving tours of the shelter, I got trained to help with recovery for animals waking up from anesthesia after surgery, I learned how to administer medications, I helped transport animals to our Boston location from time to time.. you name it, I wanted to be a part of it. I built lasting friendships and professional relationships during this time, making my dad wake up early every Saturday morning so I could get to the shelter for 7 AM at the latest and be a part of the "Saturday morning dog walking crew". I was dedicated, and the shelter provided me with some type of purpose I had never experienced before. And a year and a half later, I received an impromptu Facebook message offering me a paid position. I never could have imagined that I would soon be able to provide sound behavioral advice to adopters, or perform medical care that a vet tech would be responsible for, and I CERTAINLY never would have imagined that I'd take a stab as head counselor for the MSPCA's summer camp... let alone twice (So. Many. Kids.). In accepting this job I was both ecstatic for the learning experiences and opportunities I was going to be provided, but also terrified as I was about to be the youngest person on staff with little to no experience with anything aside from walking and training mildly challenging dogs. When I was offered my job I remember being told that the position would entail a lot of work with cats, and my response was "I know nothing about cats. Will someone train me?" Three and a half years really changes a lot... because now I have turned into somewhat of a cat whisperer with a very specific cause near and dear to my heart: office cats.
What's an office cat, you ask? Only the most marvelous creature known to man. Many would disagree, but trust me... I know things.
Office cats are cats that are not thriving in the shelter environment but have the potential to be amazing companions with the right people and in the right home setting. These cats present themselves on a spectrum; from the super scared cat frozen in place, to the nervous cat who hisses and hides wide-eyed from the world, to the cat who gets so overtimulated in a small cage from lack of activity that they end up scratching or biting someone the second they're touched, to the cat who is so incredibly stressed and terrified by the chaos of the shelter that they don't know what to do but act out aggressively as a type of defense mechanism. These cats can be challenging to manage, and challenging to adopt out when they aren't portraying their best selves. It's not their fault, and all of us staffers understand that. So we decided to get creative and start moving these types of cats into some of our offices once we noticed them struggling. This provides them with a bigger, quieter space to reside and more socialization time. I always found these cats to be interesting, but I didn't start to truly connect with them until I met my first quirky, shy, personal project cat and saw his transformation firsthand into a "normal" cat: my perfect little Green Day. Ever since then, the office cats have been like my babies and I have been working diligently to help provide them with all they need to reach their true potential. My hope is to start developing individualized enrichment plans for them come summer once I have more time to devote to them and don't have to worry about being a full time student (for a little while, anyways). Something about them gives me so much drive, and provides an incredibly rewarding feeling time and time again that I can never seem to get enough of.
I met Green last summer when he was brought in by law enforcement with a few other cats. He remained in a stoic, emotionless state for at least a month without demonstrating any progress whatsoever. You could pet him and he wouldn't aggress, but his body remained tense and his eyes remained wide 24/7. He spent a lot of time hiding. He was so unhappy, and we had no background information on him to provide us with even a glimmer of hope that he could be a happy, "normal" cat. I was starting to become convinced that he was forever broken, and it truly broke my heart to watch. So that's when I decided to take him on as my first ever project cat. I was known to take on project dogs pretty frequently and having more experience with them I was able to understand their body language more clearly and crack them quicker. Performing this magic with cats was going to be completely new to me, and I really didn't know where to begin, especially since cat body language can be so much more difficult to interpret at times. I was up for the challenge regardless.
Green got moved into an office and despite all my efforts, for a while he remained his sad self. He had no interest in being pet, playing with toys, enjoying catnip... I even tried slowly reintroducing him to one of his sister cats, Annabelle... but that actually set him back another step as she hated his guts for some reason after being separate from him for a while and would just terrify him with her hissing from across the office. I didn't know where to go next. Then one day I went to sit with Green and offer him some treats (which of course, he snubbed), and I started petting him while thinking "what else can I try?" Suddenly, I noticed myself stop petting and felt a gentle push on my hand... could it be?! A headbutt!!! And then he got up from his hiding spot (he liked to squich himself behind his cat tree) and came over to me and started rubbing against me trying to solicit attention! He was enjoying pets and even started meowing and chirping... and once he started he just couldn't stop! It was like he never had heard himself before. That was one of my proudest days at the shelter for sure.
As time passed I wanted to ensure he would stay comfortable as he would need to be able to meet potential adopters if he wanted to score himself a nice home. Another cat had come into the shelter and was struggling in a similar way as Green had, and me and a few other staff members really wanted to try to make them friends so they could boost one another's confidence and help one another remain more relaxed and happy. In no time we made Green a best friend: little Trey Songz. They groomed each other and played and got along just like bros, and ultimately made each other's stay at the shelter so much more enjoyable. They were the best boys, and I grew to genuinely love both of them. Though they didn't go home together they both got adopted (which obviously brought tears of joy to my eyes) and had planted the seeds of office cat initiative and cat behavior in my soul. Working with them is one of my favorite parts of my job now, and I continue to learn so many new skills from spending time with these cats who just require a little patience and extra compassion. With your help, we can continue to provide these animals with the support they need to succeed, which unfortunately isn't feasible at many other shelters... which is just another reason why I feel so lucky to be a part of this amazing organization.
The MSPCA is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that cares for both domestic companion animals and farm animals. We take in thousands of animals each year from the community and provide them with the essentials, necessary vaccines and medical care, and lots of love and enrichment during the time they spend with us. We are an open-admission shelter, which means that we accept and find homes for animals with medical conditions and complex behavioral needs as long as they aren't suffering and don't present as unsafe to the general public. We pride ourselves in being able to do this while also giving back to our community through training classes, low cost and free spay/neuter surgeries, and vaccine clinics. We can't continue our work in the animal welfare world without supporters like you... things can add up pretty quick! That being said, please consider making a donation big or small to this organization that has had such a great influence on my life. Though I am zoning in on the story of the office gatos in my fundraising efforts, your contribution will go towards caring for ALL of the animals on the property. If you aren't able to donate at this time, consider contributing to your local shelter in other ways by donating items like blankets and toys, or your time through volunteering! And you can always share this page in hopes that one of your friends supports our mission and can donate! The organization appreciates every little amount of assistance it receives, and I know I personally am always touched by how much people are willing to give towards the cause and how much they care. It's a beautiful thing that I'll probably cherish far beyond my days working here.
Thank you in advance for any donations you may choose to make, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have about the organization before deciding to donate (or any questions in general! Education and outreach is HUGE in animal welfare, and one of my favorite things to partake in!)
Peace, love, and kindness to all,
Please support me in the Fast and Furriest!
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