Years ago, my husband and I moved from Chicago to a tiny city in Michigan for his job. We said yes because we couldn’t say no. The Chicago site was shutting down, and the relocation offer was also a promotion. In fact, my husband’s HR guy was the one who convinced us that it was a good idea.
(That HR guy is now a nurse. Thanks for nothing, Steve!)
So, we packed our two cats and moved in November. We later learned that it’s the beginning of six months of frigid temperatures and gray skies. Kalamazoo only gets about 65 days of sunshine, and, to make matters worse, we moved inside of a snow belt. Our first winter was wondrous, but the next three years were pretty rough.
You know what got me through those endless winters? Volunteering with cats and dogs. Spending time with animals was a lifeline. I was a foster parent and event planner. For a short and unsuccessful time, I was a board member. We also picked up three cats of our own.
I was burned out on animal rescue work by the time we moved to North Carolina. No offense, but the general public is filled with idiots who vote against the government and yet also expect the government to take unwanted pets when they’re done with the animals. It’s super frustrating, and I have a whole diatribe on this, but the short version is that I needed a break.
Although lately I’ve got some time on my hands, and I have an iPhone that brings me reader complaints and offensive tweets from guys who think today is the day I woke up stupid. Why not turn my digital addiction into something positive?
So, I’m going back to my roots and volunteering at Wake County Animal Center. My official volunteer title is Feline Paparazzi, and I’m using my iPhone to take cat photos. Why not? What the hell else am I doing?
My real goal is to learn how to walk and bathe dogs, but I want to make sure that I commit to something that I can handle. That’s why I’m setting a short-term goal: 10 hours of volunteering with cats, and then I’ll assess whether or not I can also contribute to the dog team. I’m already close to meeting that goal.
I can’t fix the animal overpopulation problem — just like I can’t fix your stupid cousin who bought a designer dog — but I can do my small part to get these cats adopted. And, in going back to my roots, I remember what it was like to be a stranger in a new town who could’ve been codependent on her husband but, instead, chose to do something valuable on her own.
I used to be brave. I forgot about that.
There’s something to be said for looking to the past for answers to today’s challenges. For me, the answer always starts with volunteering.