Dirty work never felt so good
By Dianne L. Patterson
My first morning as a volunteer at CAS was everything I hoped it would be! After cleaning animalsâ€™ stalls and delivering fresh water and bedding, I left feeling humbled by how approachable the animals wereâ€”surprising given what many experienced at the hands of humans.
A bit eager,Â I arrived too early for my morning shift, so I got to enjoy hands-on time with the animals. I learned that residents of the main barn are special needs folks–new to the sanctuary, or sick or old or blind. Knowing this made my time with these animals feel all the more special.
Since I have never met an animal I didnâ€™t want to pet, IÂ set about determining those who would welcome my advances. I presented my hand for the obligatory sniffing and spoke softly to the barn dwellers. Before I knew it, I had found a young steer who loved head scratches. Several stalls down I visited a horse who snacks on people she doesnâ€™t know.Â In the next stall, I found two young Â goats. I spoke softly to them but forced myself to hold back on petting them as Iâ€™d been told they were timid. I would later play a supporting role in corralling them as it was time for graduation to life in the pasture with the other goats!
The most vocal barn residents were the free range turkeys and the piglets. I looked in on the piglets to see what the fuss was about only to see four sweet black faces looking up at me from behind the stall door and squealing wildly to be let out. They had to wait a bit before being released for the day, and their patience had worn thin.
I also met three sheep. My heart ached for the oldestâ€”Ariesâ€”as I watched him rise and take slow, stiff steps, easing his arthritic body into the day. As the day wore on, though, my heartache turned to admiration as I watched him follow the volunteers from one end of the barn to the other. He got pats on the head, ear scratches and words of affection from everyone who walked by.Â I couldn’t resist him!Â I was drawn to his fortitude and his beautiful goldÂ eyes. I began calling him Mr. Endurance because, instead of lying down in pain and watching life go on around him, he was an active part of that life. Each time Aries approached me for attention (or a treat, perhaps?) I was increasingly convinced that he stays active and engaged because he doesnâ€™t want to miss a minute of the joyful life he lives at CAS.
Once the barn animals had been fed and led to pasture or released to roam freely, it was time to clean the stalls. While it wasÂ satisfying to â€œscoop poopâ€ and provide a clean space for these deserving animals, my true reward came from being able to interactÂ with them. When our work was done, IÂ headed home, tired and smiling.
Lessons Learned about volunteering at CAS
- Keep the BenGay handy. Parts of my body ached that I didnâ€™t even know I hadâ€”just as Iâ€™d been warned they would.
- Bring a change of shoes,Â and put your work boots IN THE TRUNK!
- Dirty work never felt so good. Aside from the satisfaction of providing clean digs for the animals, I felt humbled by the trust the animals have in their caregiversâ€”a testament to the haven they have come to know.
This guest blog was written by a CAS volunteer. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at CAS please click here. Please note that since this blog was written, Aries has passed.