Every other Saturday morning, you will find volunteers Candy Fisher, Nancy Ranieri, John Moll, Kris Blumka and her daughter Carissa feeding, medicating and cleaning the House Cats area of the shelter. That’s a lot of work to accomplish before the shelter opens at 11:00 a.m., so Carissa said their strategy is to divide and conquer. “Nancy works in ISO, John works in the front offices, Candy and Kris work in receiving, and I do the kitten room,” she explained. Then, “we all come back together once we finish our sections to help with any final tasks”. They all agreed that they work together well as a team, “Although we sometimes fantasize about how we’d design a more effective shelter (if we won the lottery) I really would miss the craziness that occurs from our sharing the current space,” Nancy admitted.
Most of the volunteers on this shift have worked together for years, with Kris and Carissa being the newest additions in 2015, and they have all had some interesting experiences along the way. Candy said “At least once a month, you can find me lying on the floor, reaching under the cages to pull out an escapee.” Kittens always make the work interesting for Carissa, who explained, “Whenever I lean over in the kitten room, one of them will jump on my back and ride around while I continue to move and clean!”
It’s no surprise that these cat lovers also have cats at home. Nancy has two cats - Ally, a 15-year-old rescue from another shelter, and Lucy, a WSHS foster failure. Candy reported, “I currently have four cats. Priscilla is a rescue from a feral mom in southern Indiana. Dori was adopted from WSHS as a shy cat, and George and Vanessa are my permanent fosters.” Kris and Carissa live with a tuxedo cat named Tuxy, who was originally a stray who would wander around their backyard and is now “one of the most friendly cats I have met, and is super tolerant,” said Carissa.
When asked what they liked most about volunteering at West Suburban, most responded that helping the animals was at the top of the list. Nancy said, “I know I’ve made their environment better if I’ve loved or fed a cat that needed it, or cleaned, organized or laundered something that has contributed to an animal’s benefit. And probably have laughed my way through it, if I’m working with my usual team!” That is evident in a story Carissa shared: “There were two cats named Buttercup and Biscuit that stayed in receiving for a while, and when Candy saw them, she would say ‘Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!’ A few weeks later Nancy came with a personalized shirt she made that had that saying on it for Candy!”