Volunteers go to dogs, cats at Humane Society

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Jackson Middle School student Chance Breese has been a volunteer at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri since November, but his memories of helping with the animals go back further.

"I used to come here with my mom when I was about 5 and help her clean kennels," the 13-year-old said.

Twenty-year-old Beth Waggonner may follow in his footsteps. She was the sole recruit at the volunteer orientation held Saturday at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," she said.

While living at home in Dexter, she once had 15 cats at one time.

The local Humane Society understands animals in quantity. It takes in about 5,000 animals each year. As an open shelter, the society does not turn away any animal. So the need for volunteers -- who must be 13 or older -- is constant.

Volunteer opportunities include participation in special events, including the annual Bark in the Park, an auction, Christmas pet photos, participating in mobile pet adoptions and helping educate the public. Volunteers can play with, exercise, groom or bathe the pets.

Other volunteer activities include contributing to the newsletter, becoming a docent, participation in the Pet Pals program and involvement in animal foster care.

On Saturday, Breese was handling the cats and later walking the dogs. Sometimes he became a human scratching post. Breese wore a sweat shirt over his T-shirt to cut down on the effects of clawing felines. They repeatedly sank their claws into his flesh while wrapping around his neck. He handled them while offering commentary on each cat's personality as if they've been lifelong friends.

Breese and two other Jackson Middle School students, Alyssa Dittmer and Baylie Bonney, attended orientation together in November. They love working there and come as often as possible. Assigning names to the animals who have none is a big perk for them.

The trio knows the adoption status and personality traits of just about every animal since they began volunteering.

Dittmer is proud of the cocker spaniel who overcame a fear of people and was adopted. Her current student, a collie, is learning to become more social.

"She comes to me now," Dittmer said.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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