2011 Writing Contest: Be the Change You Want to See

Third Place Essay

Helping Abused Animals

Meredith Petzke, Brooklyn High School, Brooklyn, OH (Teacher: Robert Kelber)

I became a vegetarian in January of my freshman year in high school, and ever since then I have strived to help animals in any way, no matter how small it may be. I decided to apply to volunteer at my local animal shelter. On my first day at the shelter, I saw many cats that really needed help, and my heart went out to them. I learned how to treat abandoned cats for their illnesses and give them medicine. But my weekly visits were much more than chores like cleaning litter boxes and washing dishes; I got to know all the animals and play with them. To see each animal recuperate and make progress was an amazing experience. That's when I started to wonder what else I could do to help animals in need.

I had tons of ideas, and I was anxious to enact my plans. I decided that my goal was to help cats that had suffered abuse by bringing them to local retirement homes to spend some time with the residents. I knew that the costs would include transportation to and from the retirement homes. The benefits to the community would be overwhelming. The animals would really enjoy being in the company of these kind people, and the residents would no doubt appreciate the animals' visits. I began talking to the Animal Shelter staff about taking the cats to the retirement homes twice per month. I realized that this was going to be a huge time commitment, but I was ready for the challenge.

On the day of my first visit to a local area retirement home, I was very excited. I packed up the family van with 10 cat carriers and headed off on the road. When I arrived, I unpacked all the cats and brought them into the community room. The people gathered in the room had such looks of happiness when they saw their feline visitors. Each cat was soon happily purring away, and each resident was overjoyed to have the cats to play with. The visit was a success and, as I returned the cats to the shelter, I felt really proud about what had been accomplished.

Looking back on the days when my idea was just a spark, I am so glad that I followed through. All my costs have been covered by my part-time job. The benefits completely outweigh the couple of hours that it takes to make the visits. And as far as unintended consequences go, I never intended to enjoy volunteering this much.