The Magical Season

Spring is here, and tour season at Home for Life is right around the corner. We officially open for tours the first weekend after Memorial Day and offer tours at least twice a week throughout the summer and fall. Tours are reserved for donors and sponsors who make our work possible, but we also offer at least one open house per season,where anyone is welcome who's interested in meeting our animals and seeing Home for Life.

We love to have kids visit Home for Life. Some of our animals are not especially amenable to children. But, there are several areas of the sanctuary that are safe for kids to visit where they can interact with the cats,dogs and other creatures we care for. Most kids find our catteries just fascinating. One child told me that the catteries were like going into butterfly exhibits where butterflies are at liberty in the enclosure to zoom around , alighting on people,then flying off. To enter the cat areas is really like going into a different world.

That experience must seem magical to a child. I tend to look at the cats and the catteries in terms of what needs to be fixed, cleaned more thoroughly,and which of the cats is ill,not eating, needs grooming,ect. It's wonderful to see the cats in their environment through the eyes of kids who are astonished, delighted and completely captivated, both by the cats who approach them and those going about their business, doing what cats do: cats of every size and color, some disabled, long fur, short fur, green eyes,blue eyes, yellow eyes. At Home for Life, all the cats are free to go where they want, moving in 3 dimensions, up and among the cat trees and teepees even going outside through their own catdoors. At our open house last year, several children had the opportunity to meet our cats. Here's Drew, an older cat,catching the attention of a little girl by playing with her hair.

At the same event, a little boy says hi to two of our elderly cats,Dot the calico on the left and Fritzl, who only recently passed away, in the picture on the right.

It's widely acknowledged that animals can provide therapeutic services to people of all ages who are sick.traumatized or wounded. But seldom discussed is the value of the reverse; what people and kids can do for animals who have been wounded and rejected and how all can flourish as a result For any kid simply encountering animals as fellow living beings with whom they share our world emphasizes the value of their understanding and appreciation and that giving is just as worthwhile as receiving. There is value in what people bring to their interaction with animals, especially ones like those at Home for Life who have had less than positive experiences with humans in their past,before coming to the sanctuary. Most kids do not need to hear the stories of what some of our animals have suffered before coming to Home for Life to benefit from the happiness to be had from meeting our animals halfway and having the animals respond . At the sanctuary they can expeirence first hand that approaching animals with an open heart is the key to building a bridge of appreciation and understanding with another living creature. Since the sanctuary is the home of our cats,where they know they are safe, they feel comfortable and confident greeting new people and even children, even though they rarely interact with kids.

Visiting our animals on their own turf offers a valuable perspective to kids where they have the chance to see the world from our animals' point of view and observe our cats where they can be themsleves in a protected environment. For all our visitors, adults and children, sanctuaries reveal that animals have the potential to be so much more than an accessory, an ego enhancement or a source of income, chores and messes or expense. The most valuable service a sanctuary provides is education to transform the way that people think about and treat animals. Sanctuaries can foster an appreciation of animals as as having worth in and of themselves as fellow living beings by allowing people to see and experience the world from the animals' perspective.

These photos were taken by Mark Luinenburg at our 2010 Open House, last August.