Lara, Marina, Trevor and Doug know what it’s like to need a helping hand in life, and homeless cats certainly need all the helping hands they can find.
So, every Wednesday morning, this remarkable quartet helps clean cages and spruce up surroundings at LAPS’ satellite cat-adoption centre inside the Abbotsford PetSmart store, under the guidance of their mentor, Shayne Stark.
LAPS — the Aldergrove-based Langley Animal Protection Society — opened the centre just over four months ago, and already 27 cats and kittens have found good homes from there, with more set to go.
Much credit for this success goes to Aldergrove’s Florence Webber, a LAPS volunteer who spends much of every week front and centre at the store. She maintains a roster of around 16 volunteers who help clean and care for the pets. Adoptions Monday to Friday are usually done in the evenings, between 6 and 8 p.m., and on weekends between noon and 4 p.m.
PetSmart Charities of Canada promotes the adoption centre and very generously supplies most of its necessities, such as dishes, cages, hideaways and litter. LAPS also has a generous food sponsor. An ingenious volunteer has modified the cats’ cages to create separate “rooms” with connecting portholes. And the PetSmart staff enjoy having live animals in the store and help watch out for their wellbeing.
Although summer is traditionally “kitten season”, some of the animals in LAPS’ care are older and less likely to be adopted than are cute, playful, photogenic kittens. Some are strays — “a drop in the bucket of the estimated 21,000 abandoned or feral cats just in the Langley area,” says Jayne Nelson, LAPS’ manager of animal welfare and shelter operations. Some are given up by people who feel they can no longer care for them.
The question visitors to the PetSmart centre often ask (and one that most irks Florence Webber) is: “What’s wrong with the cats?”
“It’s as if, because an animal doesn’t have a permanent home, there must be something wrong with the animal,” she says. “A lot of cats looking to be adopted have had really good homes. There is nothing at all wrong with any of them!
“Instead of abandoning animals, it’s much better that someone who can no longer care for a pet, and cannot find a new home for it, does the responsible thing and give it up to someone who can find it a good home.”
Jayne Nelson says the satellite adoption centre will likely double the number of adoptions LAPS is able to do.
She calls the volunteers there an incredibly dedicated group — LAPS’ “Dream Team”.
“Florence Webber has gone above and beyond to make the centre successful. I honestly don’t think the centre would have achieved the same level of success without her. We are so grateful to the volunteers who give so much of their time to help cats find their forever homes, to the PetSmart staff, who have been amazing to work with, and to PetSmart Charities for making it all possible,” she says.
Lara, Marina, Trevor and Doug also volunteer at the Abbotsford SPCA shelter and at Elizabeth’s Wildlife Centre. Their contributions are part of a day program for 23 adults with developmental disabilities run by Pacific Pathways. Trevor also volunteers — keeping stats — for Trinity Western University’s Langley-based Spartans basketball team. And Lara is employed to deliver local newspapers in Abbotsford.
Next summer, the quartet hopes to be among a Pacific Pathways team of 16 heading to Romania. They’ll be spending a week at a camp for adults with developmental disabilities and visiting Romanian families and schools in the Hunedoara area of Transylvania.
But first each has to raise $3,000 towards the cost of the trip and the craft supplies and other gifts they hope to take to their Romanian counterparts. They’re planning fundraisers, such as beer-and-burger nights and bowling events, and are looking to community generosity to send them on their way.
If you’d like to help Lara, Marina, Trevor and Doug experience their journey of a lifetime, contact Virginia Sawatsky (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And if you’d like to volunteer with LAPS (helping cats and/or dogs), phone 604-857-5055 or email email@example.com.
All those in need of helping hands will thank you.
-By JANET INGRAM-JOHNSON