Josie latched the kennel door. “See you later, Muffin.”
She stepped to the next one, reading the card on the door. “Hello, Schmoopie. Can I pet you?”
Schmoopie retreated as far back as she could, folding her ears down.
“How about if we just talk instead?”
Josie whispered words of encouragement through the grated door. A moment later, she lifted the latch. Perhaps Schmoopie would be more comfortable now. Gently, she eased open the door, keeping her voice low and steady. Schmoopie’s ears stayed alert, but folded Josie reached inside.
“Ok. If you don’t want any petting, this is not a problem.”
Josie thought about the six months since she began volunteering at Benny’s Animal Shelter. Her life was in disarray: in January, her dad had died. Her son had totaled his pickup due to black ice. He was fine but couldn’t afford to replace it, even with the insurance. And Louis had left her in March. His bass boat was still in the carport but everything else was gone.
But these moments with the cats at the shelter: when she didn’t need to interact with anyone or try to make small talk. The cats needed her. Not her specifically, but someone. And she needed them, both the ones that purred easily and were adopted before she returned, and the tough ones like Schmoopie, going through a rough patch. Mirroring her own self, she thought. They asked nothing from her.
Angie, her best friend since seventh grade, had warned her against volunteering. “It’ll be depressing – all those caged cats!” But it was not depressing. It was very centering, allowing Josie to focus only on that moment and that purpose. She looked forward to it, even, especially with cats like Shmoopie, who would be there a while, and who needed time to build up trust.