We’re kids and we volunteer. In our column we write about kids in our community who also volunteer — what they do and why they do it.
Claire Lang-Ree, 10, told her story from the sofa at the facility of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (HSTT). ‘Once I saw a cat come into quarantine. He was in a rusty cage with a towel over it. I realized then that I wanted to help the animals out of their scared moments.’
Next to Claire sat fellow HSTT volunteers Alyssa Anderson, 15, and her sister, Lauren, 11. And next to them sat Seymour, a big black dog who bumped and nudged his way into the girls’ laps throughout our interview.
Wait! A dog in the interview? Yes. Here, the animals matter — a lot. Everything is about them, from the giant candy-cane bone on the windowsill to the mop to clean up the puppy poop on the office floor at the end of the day.
The girls’ stories are about the animals, too. And there are heaps of stories.
There’s Lauren’s tale about Kreature, who came in as a feral cat. To socialize him, she set a treat on the edge of Kreature’s cage. He came toward the treat, backed away, came again, then slinked away. ‘I got at his level,’ Lauren said, ‘and didn’t make eye contact. Now he’ll let me pet him.’
And Alyssa’s story about Norman, the 2-year-old Newfoundland mix: ‘We go on walks on the Legacy Trail, play tug o’ war with big sticks, and we bond.’ She and Lauren aren’t allowed to have a dog in their current situation, so she comes here to spend time with dogs.
And Claire talked about Jethro. She and her mom dressed Jethro in his ‘Adopt Me’ vest and took him to the ski swap last year. Everyone in line petted him. Great idea, Claire, because soon after, he was adopted into a family with kids!
As the girls told their stories, we wished all the animals could fit on the sofa with Seymour. But that might have been difficult because capacity at HSTT is 9 dogs and 25 cats.
They are either dropped off here or rescued from being euthanized at other shelters. HSTT is special because it does not euthanize adoptable animals. Some of us didn’t understand what ‘euthanize’ meant. But now that we do, we know how important these volunteers are.
Alyssa, Lauren, and Claire spend weekends socializing the animals so they can be adopted. Once they are adopted, there is space for other lucky animals.
From her chair, Erin Ellis, the Volunteer and Foster Programs coordinator, smiled proudly at the girls on the sofa, saying, ‘The adults who volunteer focus on the technical side of things — the training. The kids who volunteer train, too, but they also bring enormous amounts of love.’
With love, these kids clean cages, notice changes in animal behavior, report swollen paws, and take dogs on fun, sniffing, playing walks or harder training walks.
Claire found she wanted to help even more when she saw the way the quarantine cat was struggling when he arrived; he was scared in his rusty cage. It was important for her to be a part of his socializing process, from beginning to end.
‘I put myself in their situation,’ she said. ‘I would want someone to help me if I were them.’
If you’re interested in volunteering at HSTT you must be at least eight years old, and with a parent or guardian at all times. You’ll also need to go through training. Call Erin Ellis at (530) 587-0667 to find out more.
~ We know we’re not the only kids who volunteer. If you do, or you know someone who does, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to comment below.