Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Jan. 25, 2022

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Volunteers find holiday cheer at Humane Society in Vancouver on Christmas Day

Work of caring for homeless animals goes on 365 days of the year at Humane Society for Southwest Washington

By , Columbian staff writer
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Volunteer Carl Utter keeps in step with shelter dog, Cowboy, while helping out at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington on Wednesday morning.
Volunteer Carl Utter keeps in step with shelter dog, Cowboy, while helping out at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington on Wednesday morning. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Work of caring for homeless animals goes on 365 days of the year at Humane Society

Soft meows and claws clicking on the floor, along with volunteers’ coos, will still be heard today in the halls of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

The animal shelter doesn’t stop its operations for the holidays, despite it being closed to the public.

Dogs and cats carry on with their lives because they don’t know the difference between a normal day and a holiday. On the other hand, humans set aside time from their celebrations to spend time with the critters.

The shelter, which normally has about 30 volunteers, reduced its staff to 20 people today. This is because certain shifts aren’t available during the shelter’s closure, such as working with adopters. It also allowed people to take the day off.

Carl Utter and Rita Ryerson, two volunteers at the animal shelter, both said they volunteered for a shift on Christmas because it’s lovely to see the animals on any day. Utter said he also wanted to be cognizant of other volunteers’ holiday plans. Ryerson’s obligations happen to be later in the day, so she had time to spare at the shelter.

Utter planned to start the day like he usually does. He will put on his red vest and store waste bags, treats and leashes in its various pockets.

Utter, who has been a volunteer at the shelter for about four months, said Monday he looked forward to his Christmas shift.

“It’s a nice way to spend the day being quiet,” he said.

The silence creates an environment of peace and solitude, even with the occasional woof or thumping tail, Utter said.

After he checks the board, he will see what the dogs need early in the morning. For some, it is training or socializing, and other dogs need a quick walk outside or playtime to expel energy.

Utter enjoys the job of strolling through the woods behind the building with a dog — even if it’s raining. The activities volunteers do with the animals, no matter how menial, are important for their growth and development, he said. It all contributes to the end goal of getting them adopted.

Altogether, nurturing goes a long way. It takes time and a lot of love to build a good relationship with a dog, Utter said, because you don’t know what their past looked like. Unfortunately, some of the shelter animals come from difficult, sometimes abusive, situations.

Ryerson, who has been a shelter volunteer for six years, said the kittens and cats are overjoyed to see and be held by a friendly human being, which is beneficial for the cat and the volunteer.

“It’s very uplifting (and) fun,” she said. “It’s just really a good place to be and you really get to see wonderful things happen. That’s very important at this point in time in life, and it is so beautiful.”

Kittens and cats usually follow Ryerson around the cattery as she sanitizes their kennels and replenishes food and water. Sometimes, she stops to have a short social session with the animals or wrap them in a soft blanket, and takes them to the window so they can look outside.

“It’s a great morning,” Ryerson said. “I mean, it’s like 2½ hours of playing with a cat.”

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