Volunteer spirit touches hearts, paws
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Puppies don't take a vacation during the holidays.
They still need food, water and exercise, which they had on Christmas Day thanks to the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri's Holiday Helpers.
This group of about a dozen volunteers spent Christmas cleaning cages, washing blankets and cuddling kittens so Humane Society staff could enjoy the holiday with families and friends. They cared for more than 50 animals.
"We just love it. We've done it as a family for eight years now," said Tressa Watson of Cape Girardeau. "We just get a lot of joy out of it."
Watson, a nurse, once worked at the Humane Society and helped organize the Holiday Helpers program. Now she volunteers as part of it.
"A lot of people who work here have little children at home, so this gives them time to spend with them," she said.
It seems every year someone ends up adopting an animal they meet during their stint as a Christmas volunteer, she said.
Last year, Karl Honaas of Cape Girardeau took a Chihuahua-and-Dachshund mix for a walk on Christmas Day. He came back the next day to take her home with him.
"I wasn't a big fan of small dogs, but she was sitting on my chest and she put her head next to mine and that was it," he said.
Shortly after he took Emma home with him, she developed a limp. He discovered she would need expensive surgery.
"She was put in my life because I was able to do that for her. Some people who get a dog with a problem aren't able to handle it. They might have put her down," Honaas said.
Today, he considers Emma his best friend. "It's just too bad you can't take one home every year."
An average of 12 animals are taken in by the Humane Society each day -- about 4,000 animals each year, said Humane Society board member Charlotte Craig. While most are dogs and cats, they've accepted everything from rabbits to goats throughout the years.
The shelter goes through 40 to 50 pounds of dog food each day, as well as about seven pounds of cat food and lots of bleach to keep everything disinfected.
Craig began volunteering at the Humane Society on Christmas Day after her children were adults.
"We were sitting in the house on Christmas morning drinking coffee, so we just started coming down to help the staff," she said. After a few years and inviting a few more friends to help, they were able to give the staff the day off.
She hopes the Holiday Helpers program can grow to include other holidays --perhaps Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
This was the first year Dawn Hill of Oran, Mo., has volunteered on Christmas, but she said her animal-loving family understands.
"I just decided to do something totally different this year," said Hill, who works as a nurse. "I wanted to give my time to something other than people."
Sometimes people are afraid to volunteer, Craig said, because they believe it would be too sad to see so many animals without homes. She disagrees and contends the Humane Society can be a happy place where animals are adopted, sent to rescue organizations and, in some cases, reunited with their families.
Adoptions at the Humane Society typically pick up around the holidays. This year several local veterinary clinics donated spaying and neutering services to make bringing a pet home more affordable.
For more information on the Humane Society, visit semopets.org.
2536 Boutin Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.