Even after she decided to leave her part-time position at the Montrose Animal Shelter, Kathy Harris couldn’t stay away from helping her four-footed friends.
Harris, who had volunteered prior to hiring on part-time at the shelter, went back to volunteering there, where she assists with spay and neuter clinics, among other tasks.
Harris has been helping out in some way or another since retiring from her nursing career in 2006.
“I had been volunteering at the shelter off and on, just walking dogs. After I retired from the hospital, I went out there on a more regular basis and started doing more regular work, cleaning and taking care of more animals. Then a part-time opportunity opened up,” Harris said.
Harris took the opportunity, continuing in it for 6.5 years.
“Then I decided ‘I think I’ll go back to volunteering.’ I started volunteering again a few mornings a week, helping with some of the spay/neuter clinics. That’s what I’ve been doing since I resigned from the shelter job. I spent a long history there, but it’s something I enjoy doing,” she said.
Two days a week, Harris takes care of shelter cats and helps walk dogs.
“My main emphasis is working with the cats and getting them cleaned up and fed. If there are a lot of cats, it can take up my whole time,” she said.
At spay/neuter clinics, Harris assists animals during recovery.
She is a staunch advocate of sterilizing pets.
“I think that it’s an important thing. There’s too many unwanted litters, especially kittens. Unless you’re planning to be a professional breeder, it makes for a nicer pet if they’re spayed or neutered. I definitely am an advocate of that,” Harris said.
She doesn’t only support the idea of reducing the number of unwanted cats and dogs born every season. Harris has stepped up several times to foster kittens and mother cats, as well as orphaned kittens.
“ … seeing them become nice, adoptable kittens, become sociable, to me, that’s pretty rewarding,” Harris said.
She began fostering kittens while still an employee, helping with the spring surge when litters of kittens too young for adoption tend to inundate animal shelters.
“You really don’t want to cage all that time at the shelter. They do much better if they are in a home environment,” Harris said.
Both cats and dogs are wonderful companions, she said, adding that although cats are independent, they are also very affectionate.
What motivates Harris to spend her retirement cleaning cat cages, walking dogs and hosting kittens?
“A love of animals,” she said, recalling how a neighbor suggested she go walk shelter dogs after she cut back her hours at the hospital.
“I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the staff out there and thought it was a worthwhile thing to do. Animals, no matter what is going on, no matter the changes, they always need to be taken care of. I just enjoy doing that.
“I think it’s just healthy mentally and physically to do whatever volunteer job you like to do,” Harris said.
Harris is one of many community members who give back by helping in animal shelter, either by donating time, or goods, services and cash.
The donations have come from smaller offerings by children who have chosen to gather pet food or donations in lieu of having birthday gifts, and all the way up to a $45,000 donation from an anonymous donor, as well as the support of foundations and other grantors. As a city facility, the animal shelter is also accounted for in the annual budget.
Harris is at the shelter to help soothe animals that come in.
“They’re confused about why they’re there, basically kind of frightened at first. I like trying to make them feel more comfortable and cared for. … I just want it to be a welcoming place for visitors out there and a good place for animals to be taken care of,” she said.
No matter where people’s interests may lie, Harris recommends pitching in to help the greater good in some way.
“I feel that, especially for retired people, it’s a way to be involved. Mentally and physically, I think it’s healthy. It’s good for you. It’s good for whatever place you choose to volunteer at,” she said.
“It makes for a healthy, more caring community if you have people who want to give of themselves. There are a lot of talented people who have a lot to offer and I think there are many opportunities.”