Mewsings Blog - volunteers

November 16, 2007

On Sunday, November 11, eleven students from UT's Gamma Beta Phi, an honors club for students with grade point averages of 3.75 and above, came to Thundering Paws and gave us three hours of work and animal loving.

They washed down the cat run, scrubbed dirty litter boxes, vacuumed and mopped, moved heavy things, cleaned out our dog Sweet Pea's kennel, and fed, watered, and scooped litter boxes inside the house. As if that wasn't enough, they stayed and petted and brushed everyone who would let them, which is quite a lot of petting and brushing.

Thank you Gamma Beta Phi, you are awesome!

UT volunteers
Happy kitties with their new UT friends


August 4, 2007

Thundering Paws could use more on-site volunteers. Have you ever wondered what a whole house full of cats (and dogs and bunnies) looks like? Come on out and spend a Sunday afternoon with us. There is always cleaning and organizing to do here, or you could give one of our regular volunteers a welcome break and scoop all the litter boxes. It's a good way to meet new kitty friends in every room.

Come on out -- there are cat bellies that need petting!

Get together with two or three friends and we can come up with a special task, like scrubbing and disinfecting the cat run, or doing some yard work. But it won't be all hard work. Our kitties always need more petting and brushing and playing with, and our dogs would love to go for a walk with you.

Your time and effort will be very much appreciated, and you'll have that good feeling that you get when you help others. Give us a call or send us a note and we'll work out the details.

Click here for our contact information.


July 9, 2007

Do you have experience selling things online?

We have great stuff to sell, and need help getting it sold. We always get so many wonderful items for our silent auctions at events, some of which are unsold or unclaimed, and generous donors also provide us with works of art or goods that can be sold to raise funds to provide for all our animals. All we need now is someone with the time and experience to set up an online store of some kind.

Could that be you? This is an excellent volunteer position for someone who would like to help us but can't come out to the shelter on a regular basis. You could do this from home, either through ebay, or some other method, whatever you have experience with and are comfortable doing.

If you're interested, please call Anne at 402-9725 to discuss the possibilities.

Help us raise funds for all our animals, including sweet little Pumpkin


January 29, 2007

We currently have a number of animals in need of good foster homes.

Boat kittens
Two of the boat kittens

The six boat kittens--Raul, Raya, Solange, Solace, Victor, and Isabel, need a new place to stay. These are all friendly outgoing tabby kittens, about 5 months old, cute as can be. And you don't have to take them all! Fostering even one or two would be a great help.

Willow, Daniel

We also have two very shy kitties--Willow and Daniel. Willow and Daniel were rescued as feral kittens and tamed, but they could use additional socialization in a home environment to help them become more confident and outgoing. It takes a little effort to get to know these kitties, but once they trust you they are very affectionate. They could be placed together or separately.


Then there's Fabio, the sweetest, friendliest big hunk of cat ever. Fabio is FIV+, and for this reason he can't be out interacting with all the other cats at the shelter, so he has to spend most of his time in a large cage. A foster home where he could be out and about would make such a difference for him.

Sweet Pea

And Sweet Pea, a good dog who just needs a consistent environment with someone who knows how to communicate with dogs. She loves people but doesn't get along well with other animals, so she needs a foster home where she can be the only pet. She is crate trained, and will bring her crate with her.

Thundering Paws provides the supplies you need and covers veterinary expenses for the fostered pet. You provide lots of love, and you'll receive lots of love in return.

Contact us for more information.

fostering, volunteers

December 7, 2006

On Monday, December 4, a WONDERFUL local veterinarian (hereinafter known as "L") and a WONDERFUL local cat rescue person (hereinafter known as "J"), neither of whom have given me permission to use their names, donated their time and talents to come to Thundering Paws and, with the help of our WONDERFUL volunteer, Scott Haywood and I, vaccinated cats.

The action was fast and furious with fur flying. Forty-nine lucky (!) cats got vaccinated against rabies and many viruses including distemper, were examined, and recommendations were made for their continued or improved health. (Most of the other cats had already had updated vaccinations earlier in the year.)

Photo: Big kitty Towanda.

The highlight of the day--for me--was vaccinating Towanda and Felicidad. Both came here as ferals, Towanda as a kitten and Felicidad as a new mother. Felicidad's kittens all were raised to be tame kitties, the boys being adopted out and Camille, her daughter, living at Thundering Paws. Interestingly enough, Towanda, who came as an eight week old kitten, is still feral, whereas Felicidad, who came as a young adult, allows most people to pet her if we move carefully toward her.

Photo: Felicidad having a nap.

Felicidad's calm demeanor and willingness to be petted did not show up on Monday, however. Scott, a Cat Whisperer, was able to coax her into a carrier, but when she was brought out and put on the examining table, she reverted to being a feral cat. J, an excellent Cat Wrangler, was able to get her back into the carrier, to be vaccinated later.

Cats are cats, you know. Picture a room full of lap cats, purring on every surface, eyes almost closed, oozing serenity. Let one human walk in the door with the vague intent of capturing one specific cat to examine, and all these pastoral felines turn into what I refer to as Wild Kitties From Hell, bouncing off walls, diving under furniture, fighting for traction on the tile floors. At times, we have witnessed what can only be described as a Cat Explosion: one kitty does something that threatens her neighbor and it causes a chain reaction of spazzing, fleeing, climbing, and freaking out. The human witnesses can only stand perfectly still and pray that we are not inadvertently mistaken for trees.

With this in mind, we set the stage for a successful cat capturing ("cat-uring"), by putting as many skittish kitties as possible into "cat-tivity" beforehand. On Saturday morning, volunteers set up cages, which I quickly filled Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, volunteers set up more, dragging out the most pathetic looking enclosures you have ever seen! All functional contraptions were used. The Martha Stewarts of cat-dom were appalled to be stuffed into such unsightly hovels, but, oh well, whatcha gonna do?

Then, Sunday night, I had left many empty carriers and cages sprinkled all over the sanctuary with the doors open. How many cats can resist going into an open carrier with a clean towel in it? Towanda couldn't.

Monday morning, I walked around slamming doors and, when I realized I had caught Towanda, I was amazed. As was she. She called me many rude and hurtful names, but I was adamant and did not open the door as she demanded I do.

L and J came over and we all captured and vaccinated 47 cats. Tried Felicidad. Failed. Set her aside to stew in her carrier. J asked if I had a net. We have several and I procured one from the storeroom. With the carrier on the floor, J put the net up to the door and slowly opened it. Felicidad rolled out like a rabid hedgehog, right into the net. After she was thoroughly tangled up, J put a thick blanket over her and held her on the floor with only her rump visible within the net. L vaccinated her in a flash and, before I knew it was over, the blanket and net were lying on the floor and the cat was fleeing into the room. I was truly impressed, and it is not something I EVER want to learn to do!

Interestingly, on Wednesday afternoon, I happened by Towanda sitting atop a table with some other kitties who enjoy human attention. After petting them, I gingerly reached over and petted Towanda's flank three times. After the third time, she gave a perfunctory hiss and sauntered away--quite different from the hysterical hissing and appalled fleeing she displayed before Monday. I said to her, "Watch out, Towanda. You're getting Domesticated (shudder!)" It's happened here before to seemingly more feral cats than Towanda.

After L and J left, amid profuse thanks, Scott and I cleaned up. Other volunteers, Pattie Overstreet and Marilyn Pizzo, cleaned up more on Wednesday. We will still be cleaning up on the weekend. What a mess! But darn well worth it to have these kitties safely vaccinated. I asked the wonderful veterinarian what I could do to thank her. She said, "Oh don't you worry. Some day I will come upon the most Special Kitty, and have nowhere for her to live and I'll think of you." I told her that would be fine.

I learned so much on Monday. The knowledge imparted to me by these two women was phenomenal. I think I know something about cat care and then I run into people like these two and realize that I know only a thimbleful.

Like L, our other veterinarians don't want to be acknowledged publicly. They all do mountains of rescue work and don't want to be asked to do any more. Think about this the next time you take your animal to the vet. You may complain about the high prices for veterinary care. But remember that most veterinarians--probably 99% of them--could easily have been human doctors rolling in dough but instead chose a profession where they had to learn the health care, trauma care, medications and idiosyncrasies of multiple species instead of one. They perform for patients who cannot speak and who may or may not have an advocate, who may or may not be willing or able to spend the money required for the patient's best care. These veterinarians often waive or reduce fees for rescue organizations, as well as for large-eyed children whose pet has some disease or injury, the cure for which the child's parent cannot pay. Gladly pay your vet! Know that he or she is contributing to our charges' wellbeing, too.

Thank you, L and J! You know who you are. And thank you, Scott, too. Thank you Tony, Lydia, Mike, Wendy, Michelle, Jake, Dave, Kali, Allie, Clay, Pattie, Marilyn--everyone who helped or will help put up or take down cages and coax kitties into them for this event. There is NO WAY we could do this without you! I often say that serendipity rules Thundering Paws. Certainly in our scores of excellent, hardworking, willing, capable, loving volunteers this is shown over and over.


November 26, 2006

I was paying a woman to do the chores morning and evening. This wasn't working out too well because what I did--mostly--instead of the chores, was hustle money to pay her. At that time, Breed Hardware, both Austin locations, allowed me to sit outside their stores and "table"-- that activity of setting up a table, hanging a sign on it, putting a jar on it, standing beside it and handing out flyers and asking for donations--any time I wanted to do so. It was a great gig while it lasted and I could make between $15 and $100 an hour standing in front of a Breed Hardware. Anyway, I'd go sit outside Breed Hardware and beg money while Alice did the chores and then I'd come back to Thundering Paws and pay Alice for doing the chores.

Photo: Vivian, top cat in Annie's Room

Oh, it wasn't that bad! Most of the money went to cat food and cat litter (we use a TON of litter!) and rent, electricity, vet care, spaying and neutering, all the usual suspects. I'm exaggerating. But I did want to find a way for the chores to get done without paying anyone to do them or me doing them all: I needed to be out into the community spreading the word about Thundering Paws.

After a particularly disappointing benefit, I told Alice I couldn't pay her anymore, so you'd think she'd quit, right? Well, she didn't. She went out and found someone in a neighboring subdivision who had contacted her, saying she wanted to volunteer here. This was Annie Stuhr.

Annie Stuhr might weigh 100 lbs. dripping wet and I don't believe I've ever seen her sit down. She came over that first morning with Alice, looked around Thundering Paws without showing much reaction and said, "Okay. I'll volunteer to come help you every morning, Monday through Friday." I thought, "This will last two days." Wrong. So far, it has lasted four years. And she was not kidding about the "every day, Monday through Friday" thing, either. Okay, she took a day off when she had some medical testing, because they made her get to the doctor's office at 6 a.m. But not when she had dental surgery--she worked that day.

She scoops 20 to 30 litter boxes, feeds and waters everyone, talks baby talk to and pets all cats and dogs. She feeds the feral kitties. She learned to trap cats. She goes with me to appear on Fox News once a month. She scrubs down the cat run, a screened concrete porch to which about half the cats have access. She walks dogs, takes animals to vets, holds them while I vaccinate or give fluids, although she hates needles. There is no one I would rather have to help me transfer feral cats to cages or carriers. She speaks their language, of love or fear.

She has donated money to the cause, too. (I LOVE it when people PAY to work here!) Annie couldn't stand the room at the end of the hall (it was a mess) so she donated the linoleum--the good stuff, not the cheap stuff--the paint and the labor to paint it, along with another volunteer, Pattie Overstreet. We have named it Annie's Room. In it are cats who cannot stand to be with the huge congregations in the larger rooms. Annie's Room is ruled by Vivian Soprano, a "full-figured" (Annie coined that term) blue and white 10 year old Manx whose brother, diabetic Neal, also lives in there.

If Annie ever reads this--she doesn't do computers--she will call me up and yell at me because I forgot to would I know? I've forgotten to say it. I don't care. The woman is tireless, a workhorse, a serious animal lover. She fights me on issues that she thinks I don't resolve correctly. She is always on the side of the animals. Out in public, she introduces me as her boss. And I say, "Tell me again, which one of us is the boss? I forget."

And she's brave, too. One day while she was working at Thundering Paws, Annie's husband, Billy, called to say that a neighbor had come running up their driveway, yelling, "Hurt puppy on the road! Come help!" Annie and I grabbed some rudimentary supplies and hopped into her pickup truck--she's a pickup sort of gal whose favorite singer is Toby Keith--and dashed off to find the dog. We found a black pit bull mix sitting by the side of the road, not bleeding but not walking either. We could observe no obvious injuries, so Annie started walking up to the dog, holding out her hand. I stopped her. Annie had no fear and the dog probably would have just licked Annie's hand and then come over and bitten me. What we finally did was to offer the dog a kennel, into which she immediately climbed, and we whisked her off to the vet, where she promptly bit the vet tech. Cured of heartworms, spayed, gentled by many wonderful volunteers, she is now our dear Sweet Pea, for whom we would be delighted to find the right home.

Annie came to all Thundering Paws benefits for years, until other concerns came into her life. Besides working here, she is a member of the board of her homeowners association, makes and markets collectibles such as custom made teddy bears, jewelry, quilts and crystal works, and organizes sales to promote her beautifully crafted items and those of other craftspeople. She and Billy also have, I think, 14 cats, over half from Thundering Paws, and three dogs.

There is very little I have asked her to do for an animal that she has refused to do. "I don't do bunnies," she says--that's about it. And she has brought her husband into the fold, too. Billy comes over every week and rolls the heavy trash containers of dirty litter out to the curb, a feat I cannot perform. He doesn't call and ask if it needs to be done: he just quietly shows up and does it. It is a job about which I no longer need to think, and that is a wonderful thing.

That's another thing about Thundering Paws--watch out if your wife, husband, daughter, partner, friend, whatever starts volunteering here. Don't have time, you say? Pshaw! Ask Billy Stuhr, Kevin Rolfes (Kay's husband), Bosco (Laura LaMantia's friend and Laura is Brittany, our first volunteer's, mom), Mary Kay Sliz (our third volunteer, Emily's, mom), Anna Sliz, (Emily's sister), Sarah Sliz (the other sister), Chris Mihal (Tricia, our second volunteer's, brother), Joan Mihal (Tricia and Chris's mom), Aaron Overstreet (Pattie's husband), Marilyn Pizzo (Pattie's sister), Julie Pizzo (Pattie's niece), Rich Pizzo (Pattie's nephew), Bob Harvey (Betty Wager's partner), Cathy Devine (Tim's sister), Terry Burns, (Cathy's partner)--the list goes on and on.

All the people above not in parentheses just innocently said to their relative or friend, "Oh yeah, volunteering at an animal sanctuary is a great thing for you to do. Have fun," only to end up filling up 50 water jugs twice a week and loading them in a truck bed, or just walking this one dog, or sitting at a table outside a bookstore, or picking up cat food once a week, or cleaning just one room (once a week for four years!) or being on the board of directors, whatever.

I will feature other volunteers in the blog another time. I am amazed at our volunteers and the constant service to the animals--and to me--that they provide. I could not possibly do this alone anymore and the good news is that not only do I not have to, they wouldn't let me. One volunteer, Wendy Benson, who came with a group from 3M, was afraid that volunteering at an animal sanctuary would be depressing but she was willing to do it that one time. She was pleasantly surprised at how uplifting she found it, and she now comes every Saturday morning, and, of course, brings her husband, Mike, with her. Because of these people, I can visit my 87 year old mother--our most consistent financial supporter-- in Houston, and go on much-needed vacations a few times a year.

Living in a virtual fishbowl and being on call 24/7 for very little salary sounds like it would be an awful job for an introvert, but it's not. It's my joy and passion and I have a bevy of fellow introverted cat lovers helping me and giving me respite. It never occurred to me when I began the sanctuary that I would come to love so many humans in this endeavor, but I have.

I am grateful for each and every one of them, and every day I am grateful for Annie Stuhr.


November 20, 2006

Share some happy holiday spirit!


We have lots of gift-wrapping events coming up, and we could use your help. Each year, Thundering Paws goes to area bookstores and provides free giftwrapping for the bookstore customers. The bookstore provides the wrap and the place, we just provide the people-power. Volunteers work in teams for shifts that are a couple hours long. Most of the things you'll wrap are books and CDs, so it's easy and fun. It's also a great way to help Thundering Paws, since we collect donations. Go to this news article for information about times and places, and who to contact to sign up for a shift.

fundraising, volunteers

September 29, 2006


Thundering Paws Animal Sanctuary and German Shepherd Rescue of Central Texas would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all the organizers and volunteers who participated in the United Way's recent Day of Caring. We had the good fortune to benefit from this program. Volunteers from Dell and 3M generously gave their time and muscle-power to help us with a variety of tasks at Thundering Paws and at our sister organization, German Shepherd Rescue.

They showed up with smiles and lots of enthusiasm and jumped right in with our "wish list" of chores. In about 15 minutes two large holes in our driveway had been filled in and cleaning inside the shelter was underway.

Cleaning house

In spite of the heat, the yard was mowed and some trees were trimmed. Dogs were washed and puppies were played with.

Dog wash

Bunny cages were cleaned and kittens were cuddled. Carpeted ramps were installed in the cat run and shelves were installed in the big shed.

Installing shelves

And so much more! Our volunteers even came up with projects that were not on our list, like building a much-needed step outside our back door.

We do have a dedicated team of regular volunteers who manage, sometimes just barely, to keep up with the daily chores and regular cleaning. We all really appreciate the extra help catching up on thorough cleaning and getting some special projects accomplished.

There is always more to do than we have time for!