By L. Vanessa Gruden
Posted: April 30, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Adoptions And More
14. All ferret shelter directors love it when you adopt!
15. Someone to care for a special needs animal either permanently or temporarily is truly wonderful. Maybe you have a talent for working with biters? Or you work at home and can care for an animal that requires several daily soup feedings? The ferret shelter director often deals with so many ferrets that these little guys may not get as much care as they could use. Not only are you really helping the ferret, but you’re helping the ferret shelter director feel better, knowing the animal is getting individual care.
16. Ferret shelter operators are grateful when people accept the whole adoption process. No one asks for a vet reference or landlord approval because they’re trying to be mean; we just want to make sure the ferret will go to a permanent home that will provide appropriate care. And we usually can’t accommodate those who stop in or call wanting to adopt right now; most ferret shelters don’t maintain a storefront operation and will be suspicious of anyone expecting instant gratification.
17. Little things count. If you come to adopt with your existing ferret and it poops on the floor, cleaning it yourself is really thoughtful! I love getting updates from adoptors telling me how their new friend is doing. Shelter directors often send animals off into the unknown; hearing they are well, loved and happy makes our day!
Volunteers —When They’re Good, They’re Great
18. Volunteering can be done in many ways, either in administrative duties or direct animal care. Some common tasks include writing grants, doing mailings, posting available animals online, web design, accounting, animal transport, intake/adoption assistance, grooming, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. It doesn’t have to be weekly; many directors would love someone to periodically organize a major cleanup. Being willing to do a monthly session at Petco or Petsmart is a great assist. FACT has one special volunteer family that runs an annual benefit tag sale — they do everything from finding goods to advertising, storing, pricing, and dumping leftovers.
19. Be considerate and respect boundaries, because nearly all shelters are run out of the director’s home. When a volunteer visits, it means the director is working; they may prefer to keep certain days/hours free.
20. Do tasks the way the ferret shelter director wants; he or she is there 24/7 and doesn’t need supplies moved where they can’t be found.
21. Simple things help, too. Tamara von Ouhl of New Jersey, along with Debi, Millie and me, love help socializing ferrets. Shelter ferrets need that interaction as much as they need food and clean litter. Millie would love someone to help fold the newspapers she uses in litter boxes — it makes litter changing faster. I often ask people to grind the dry food used for “duck soup.” A break from those tedious, constant chores is really welcomed!
22. It’s important to commit to your volunteerism and follow through. A volunteer offer isn’t worth much if you never do the job. A ferret shelter operator invests time and effort into volunteer training; it’s frustrating to have time wasted by someone who is unreliable.
23. The point of helping is to do work that either frees the ferret shelter operator to do other things or helps him/her do more, so please don’t expect them to entertain you or your children. A responsible adult who will work with them should accompany minors. Large groups should have several adults supervising. It’s great when volunteers “pair up;” they keep each other company and accomplish more.
24. Ferret shelter operators need to get away sometimes, for business, vacation or a short break to save their sanity. An experienced volunteer(s) willing to stop in and “cover” a care shift is performing a truly valuable service.
When you devote a good part of your time caring for other people’s abandoned animals, you are a special type of person. (Yes, and a little crazy, too!) The ferret shelter director is the heart and muscle behind the shelter. Occasionally doing a Wonderful Thing for that person helps them get through the hard work and heartbreak.
A small gift or treat is so thoughtful. The eyes of a chocoholic will light up for something sweet. A certificate for dinner out — with a free cage-cleaning session included while they dine — won’t be turned away! But you don’t have to spend a penny — take the time to thank the person who runs the ferret shelter for all their efforts, and you’ll be doing something truly wonderful.
L. Vanessa Gruden has run the Ferret Association of CT shelter since 1991.