Monday, February 2, 2015

Facing fear

I can’t help but be glad that January is over. I spent a good part of it sick with various ailments and took three different antibiotics trying to get over everything.
The good news is that February started out wonderfully: I faced a fear.

You know that I love animals, especially cats. Over the years I have become more passionate about animal welfare, especially with companion animals like cats and dogs. I have read a lot and thought a lot and talked a lot and written a lot. I have taken care of four different cats. But I didn’t believe I was doing enough.
I have talked about volunteering with the local shelter, but I haven’t done anything about it besides inquiring about opportunities by email.

The Campbell County shelter. It's a dreary looking building. The county government is discussing whether to renovate or build a new facility.

In Campbell County, the Animal Control Care Center is separate from the humane society that operates in the county. Animal Control has to accept every animal brought to it—stray or surrendered by owner. And it is not a no-kill shelter.
Some caring people formed a group called Friends of Campbell County Control. The mission of the group “is to provide support for the animals of Campbell County and reduce the euthanasia rate.”
I follow the group on Facebook and have been so impressed at the all-volunteer efforts to care for animals and try to get them fostered or adopted.

Fern, one of the cats in the shelter. 

I never moved forward with my efforts to volunteer because I was afraid.
One of these fears is an OCD fear: fear of responsibility, that I would hurt an animal because I would shirk in my responsibilities and do something wrong. I would obsess over safety and health issues and compulsively do unnecessary things to try to make my anxiety go away.
My thought process was that if I avoided responsibility, I wouldn’t have the obsessions.
Adopting Waddles helped me a lot with this fear. But taking care of more animals, more than we ever had in our house, raised the fears again.

Honey Bee loved being held and cuddled. She wanted me to continue paying attention to her.

And I was afraid because of my anxiety. I tend to take the suffering of others to heart, sometimes to the degree that I get very emotional. I was afraid of what I would see and experience in the shelter. I was afraid of how I would feel when I had to leave the homeless animals behind when I went to my own home.

I used to put much more value on my feelings about something than I should have. That’s an OCD problem, too. If I feel like something is wrong, then something must be wrong and I better check it, fix it, repeat it, or avoid it.

Turbo has a loud purr when he's held.

But the more I spend in the quiet, thinking and writing about my values and beliefs, the better I understand that fear is a natural response to doing something different. I have to push through such fears and the accompanying feelings and at least give things a chance.

Kittens surrendered to the shelter by the owner. The yellow ones are boys and the black ones are girls. It's hard to get a still photo of a moving kitten!

This boy is new to the shelter and doesn't have a name yet. He seemed frightened. But when I opened the cage and talked to him and rubbed him, he started purring and rolling around.

This past Friday night, I sent the Friends a message on Facebook asking about the next orientation date. They wrote back that it was on Sunday. I told them I planned to attend.
I was excited and afraid. Believe me, I thought of excuses not to go. I didn’t feel 100 percent physically. I felt guilty leaving Chase Bird to go help care for other animals.
But I got in the car and drove to the shelter. I exposed myself to my fear.
When I left 90 minutes later, I felt joy and contentment.
I will be spending most of my time with the cats, which I was told was good because most volunteers want to walk the dogs.
I loved on the animals and talked to them and helped with some simple assessments on whether certain cats were OK with dogs and/or other cats.
Barbe, the leader of the volunteers, knew I was thinking of getting another cat, and she insisted on taking a photo of me and Bastet, a lovely tortoise kitty. Then she texted the photo to Larry.

Me and Bastet. She is in a purple cage in the waiting area, acting as "greeter" to visitors.

No, we’ve not made a decision to adopt yet. But I plan to go back soon and whenever I can to volunteer and love on those cats and let them know that humans can be kind to them.
What a great day it was!

I am still waiting on word about the job. The person in charge of hiring was out of town three days last week but told me he would be in touch with me this week. So I wait. Thank you for your good wishes!

What has been your favorite volunteer activity?


  1. i have sent good wishes your way several times this past week as i KNEW you were waiting and waiting. :) i admire your fortitude in volunteering at the shelter. i get emotionally tied up and want to save them all. and i hope that you'll find a great sibling for chase bird, too. :)

  2. I'm glad you are feeling better. How wonderful that you decided to volunteer! I'd want to scoop up those orange male kittens myself! I know you will make a meaningful difference there.

    Warm wishes for the job!

  3. Yay! What a great did it!

  4. Congratulations on this new volunteer venture! That's a HUGE confrontation of fear.

    I've not had much luck with volunteering lately. My last gig was at the local playhouse, working in the office. Somehow a four-hour per week commitment turned into twenty (a staff person, seeing I could do the layout of the programs, quit abruptly). I've tried a few other things that then mushroomed. For right now, I'm taking a break until my novel is done, and then I will try, try again. I think volunteering is good for the soul, and I'm sure there's a place for me somewhere.

  5. It's great that you finally broke the ice and got to the shelter. I hope the health issues are behind you.

  6. Oh you did it good for you. I always knew you would work with animals you have a big caring heart.This is a big step for you. What a great bunch of pretty kitties. Well done. Hug B

  7. Wow! Kudos to you for stepping up and following your heart! Such a great cause.

  8. Oh, this sounds like such a wonderful spot for you to do something that makes a difference and take yet another step over conquering fear. Good for you -- I'm very excited for you! And I have to say, seeing those sweet orange boys made my heart swell -- that looks about the age Gypsy was when he came into my life and NEVER have I seen a more loving, sweet animal. (I miss him every day!)

    I think my most rewarding volunteer gig was ten years at a children's grief center, facilitating groups of middle schoolers who had experienced the death of a parent, sibling, relative or friend. Anyone who was major in their lives. Walking with them on their grieving journey was indeed a privilege.

  9. That's so sweet. I'm glad you were able to do it! I'm not left with a lot of time to volunteer at the moment. I'd love to do some work with animals too! My first visit to your blog.

  10. Yay! Good for you! You win when you deny that fear!

  11. Good for you. I've been thinking about doing this myself. :-)

  12. LOVE that picture of you and Bastet!! And yes you are right, fear is a natural response to doing something different. I'm proud of you, Tina :)

  13. oh it is so hard to see them all in small cages, breaks my heart!! nice pic of you and bastet. i volunteered in our local hospital for many years, doing whatever was needed and mostly interacting with the patients. i had to stop because of mobility issues but i still hope to go back one day!!!

  14. Oh what a great way to face your fears. You look so happy holding that sweet kitty. Have a great time there.

  15. This is so awesome and so so amazing that besides all your thoughts and fears you just did go to the shelter because it's been something you've been wanting for so long. I'm so happy you've been rewareded with such a beautiful experience. The cats will be forever grateful that you took that time for them and went past your fears to be there for them :)
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  16. This is wonderful Tina, and I would think it will be a wonderful experience for you. My favorite volunteer activity is my church's food bank.
    Have a great weekend!

  17. Catching up on old posts. I volunteered at our local shelter for several years. It was really really satisfying. Helping people find a new pet is great fun, and hanging out with the cats is also great fun. It can be sad sometimes, but mostly isn't. I hope this works out for you!


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