Gift of Jazz This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


     Aweek before my fourteenth birthday, I was looking at the animals in a local petstore when I spotted a poster of cats for adoption through the county HumaneSociety. A picture of a beautiful Seal Point Siamese caught my eye. I have aweakness for Siamese, but there was something about this particular cat."Jazz, female, spayed" was written under her picture. I took a businesscard and went home.

When we went to the shelter to meet Jazz, she turnedout to be one of the director's own cats, not a shelter cat. Dawn had had her fornine years, and as an only cat getting all the attention, Jazz had itmade.

When Jazz was older, Dawn took in three more cats. Jazz was used tobeing the "only child" and the new cats terrified her. She couldn'tdeal with them and spent most of her time hiding under a box. Dawn knew it wouldbe better for Jazz if she lived where she was the only cat.

I spent timewith Jazz and fell in love with her. It was obvious that she couldn't be herselfif she was afraid all the time and so, two days before my birthday, I got mypresent: I took Jazz home.

Jazz spent her first few weeks hiding. Shecrawled into my closet and stayed there. Slowly, she began to emerge. She'd slinkby and then come and sit on the couch. One night I woke up and she was curled upnext to my head. Since then, she's been a blaze of energy. She talks all the timeand lets us know what's on her mind! Jazz is the perfect cat.

I wantedDawn to know how much I loved Jazz, so I started volunteering at the HumaneSociety. We worked together, and I helped with general clean-up, socializing thecats, clipping their nails, giving medication and whatever else neededdoing.

Run by volunteers and relying entirely on donations, the shelterwas a cat's dream! Cats and kittens raced around chasing toys while a few sat ona shelf eating. Others were on top of the medicine cabinet. The cats even hadscreened windows and a big porch to watch birds.

All the cats and dogs arespayed or neutered before being placed, and receive the necessary shots and aveterinary exam. We never euthanize the animals, and they remain in our careuntil they're adopted. Each month we hold an "Adopt-A-Thon."

Idesign fliers for our upcoming events, and last year when we designed a web siteon petfinder.org. I became the web manager. We took digital pictures of theanimals and posted them. At first, the number of viewers was 50 or less eachweek. The numbers began to climb and within a few months, over 2,000 viewers werecoming to our site each week.

During the spring, there were a ton ofkittens and I started to keep foster cats and kittens in my care. Last summer, Ialso started volunteering at our vet clinic where I learned how to weighpatients, fill out charts, prepare exam rooms, draw up shots and answer theclinic's phone. This will come in handy if I decide to be a vet!

I spendmost of my free time doing Humane Society activities and have accumulated over2,000 volunteer hours in two years. I've met wonderful people and it's changed mylife. It's great to help homeless animals and have fun with friends at the sametime.

I discovered who I was through volunteering. It has become so muchmore than volunteer work. Dawn and I are like long-lost sisters, sharing a tightbond. In the beginning, our group only talked about the animals, but now wegossip about who's wearing what and who tripped over her cat and fell down thestairs. We're not just volunteers, we're friends.

I think some of theadults expected less of me because I'm a teenager. They probably thought that I'dshow up a few times and then quit. I worked my hardest to disprove theirassumptions, and I think I did!

At our events, we work as many as 15 hoursto hold a "Pet Adopt-A-Thon." I think all the volunteers deserve a lotof recognition. We've helped hundreds of animals and I want to say thank you toeveryone, every day for the cats and dogs. It takes an enormous amount of hardwork and dedication!

I especially owe a thank you to Dawn and Jazz. IfJazz hadn't been up for adoption, I never would have met Dawn or startedvolunteering. Two years later, I still carry the business card from the petstore, with the reminder to "Call about Jazz" on the back.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2003 Teen Ink Community Service Contest.






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