It was a cold day. Snow had fallen just two nights before so the ground was covered. I knock on the heavy glass door as one of my fellow volunteers allow me in. They tell me to set my stuff in the corner and I do so quickly. I fix my long sleeves as anxiety courses through me. I look around the large building. The ceiling is slanted. It slants up like a pyramid but the center goes further up. I look at the objects around me as I start to clean. When you enter the room there is decorations and one single cat cage on your right. On the left there are cages stacked upon each other that all have cats. It stretches across the entire wall. They have 3 cages stacked upon each other throughout the wall.
In the center of the room as you first enter is an informational piece regarding why they need donations and what the donations will go towards. Most of the pamphlets are green and white. The floor is cold concrete. Mud gets tracked in easily so there are footprints everywhere. There is a door directly across from the entrance. My eyes slide towards the right again. There is a small shelf almost hidden from view that is filled with dog treats. Beside that is a large door. Much too heavy for me to open without help. I glance through the large glass window to see all the dog kennels. There’s one dog beside the door jumping excitedly at the sight of a new volunteer. I look to my left and I see the front desk. Papers are scattered all over it and a desktop computer rests at its corner. Behind the front desk is also another glass door. This leads to the office where they fill out most of the information on what dogs they have.
I walk directly across the room to find three doors. All filled with cats. The room in front of me has a glass sliding door. There are 6 sickly cats all refusing to eat. The room from what I can see has a huge window scaling most of the wall across from the door. There are shelves and other places for the cats to hop up on. There is a long haired black and white cat perched on the highest window. There are three cats hiding in one basket together sleeping soundly. One cat is drinking some water. Lastly there is one cat in the corner on the lowest shelf. She is starting to doze off. I look to my left, directing my attention elsewhere. It’s another heavy glass door. Looking through the glass I can see about 10-15 cats all playing and running around happily. These are the cats that are up for adoption that get along with other animals. I laugh lightly as I watch a black cat roll around on the ground near the door. Looking inside that room you can see many wooden platforms. The walls are hard to make out through all the wooden platforms and hiding places for the cats. There are multiple scratching posts and beds all around the large room. I look across from this room to find a similar room. I walk inside this room to find more cats in cages. Cages are stacked up by three at a time. There are three platforms for setting food and water dishes while they’re being prepared. Some of the cages are empty but most have the litter-mates.
I leave the room to see another cat cage by the room with the playful cats. I pet the two cats in this large cage. They’re related in some way. One thing for sure is that they’re very gentle. A soft orange color with small stripes of darker orange mixed in. I get to work cleaning their cage first. I allow them to roam around the large room freely since there are no other cats loose. They spilled their water and kicked their litter out of the box. I pull the newspaper out and throw it in the garbage. I pull the cart of cleaning supplies closer and I brush down the shelves. The cage has 3 levels. Two hammocks are rested in this cage for the lazy cats, one on the third level and one on the second level. There is a small shelf as well on the 3rd and second levels. The first level is flat and rather plain. I replace the newspaper and I go across the room to the one lone cage to start mixing their wet and dry food. It smells like tuna in here. Most likely because the other volunteers had been mixing up the wet and dry foods all morning. There’s a pile of empty tuna cans beside me. I refrain from breathing through my nose as I finish mixing and I set the food in the cage. The cats automatically walk into the cage to eat. I laugh lightly at their eagerness to get back into their cage. I put down fresh water for them and I close the cage again.
I am then put on mopping duty. The cart is bright yellow and the mop is taller than I am. I gently start mopping the muddy floors. Hopefully I can finish before the Animal Shelter officially opens for the day. I push the heavy mop back and forth. I smile as I see a worker named Johnathan. He has long blondish dreadlocks and a short beard. He’s almost a foot taller than I am and much more built. He compliments me on what a great job I’m doing and we both get back to work. I finish mopping the cold floors of the lobby and I sit down in the corner with my stuff. There is a small table and two chairs there. There is also a small green bench. I take a drink of my sprite before quickly getting up and going back to work.
I walk into the room with the sickly cats. They haven’t eaten since they arrived here. The owner surrendered them and is in the process of giving up at least 30 more. He had to have had close to 80 cats. I think about ways to get the cats to eat. I pick up a small handful of pure wet cat food. It supposedly is salmon but it smells much worse to me. I hold my food-covered hand out for the small cat in the corner. She’s a striped cat with bright green eyes. She starts to lick my hand and eat off it. My face lights up as I stay as still as possible. I slowly turn my head and laugh softly seeing 5-6 volunteers and workers staring in amazement. They quietly walk in and I receive a few high fives and squeals from joy. We work together for the rest of the day handfeeding the starving cats. Slowly the workers get back to work but I stay in the room with one other volunteer feeding the cats for the rest of the day. We leave the room covered in cat hair and cat food. Just another day as a volunteer at the animal shelter. This is my favorite place to be. I feel safe here and I feel like I truly fit in.
This is my safe place.