Cleaning Rooms and Playing Santa to Help Cats

If you have ever adopted a cat from The Cat House, attended its Santa photo fundraiser, or had your pet microchipped at Parkview Animal Hospital thanks to the Coalition for Pet Protection, you just may have met Rodney Cameron or Doug Bedell.

Rodney has always loved animals. In 1999, when he and his wife moved to Lincoln, they had two cats and hoped to adopt a dog. Rodney ’s wife, Traci, was also interested in volunteering with an animal rescue group. During a meeting with the president of the Coalition for Pet Protection, the couple fell in love with one of the dogs up for adoption. Rodney describes Julia as “beautiful, loving, and playful.” Adopting Julia led to Traci’s continuing to volunteer with CPP because she wanted to give back to the group who had given her so much in Julia.

Santa Photo from Rodney
Santa Photo from Rodney

Inspired by his wife, Rodney has now been volunteering at the Coalition for Pet Protection for the past eighteen years. He helps to set up and breakdown the microchip clinic—where pet owners receive a discounted rate for getting their pets microchipped—that CPP provides in partnership with Parkview Animal Hospital. Wanting to do even more for cats, Rodney began volunteering at The Cat House fifteen years ago. Rodney helps with the no-kill shelter’s fundraising efforts by donning a Santa suit and making appearances at local pet stores to pose with people’s pets.

Like Rodney , Doug has always loved animals. After his daughter told him about The Cat House, Doug began volunteering there. For about ten years he helped at TCH, which he describes as “a well-run organization staffed strictly by volunteers.” He started as most TCH volunteers do by cleaning rooms, then became one of the team leaders for this task. His duties also included transcribing messages from the answering machine, serving as a guide during open hours, transporting cats to vet appointments, reviewing potential adopters’ applications, and helping at fundraisers. About The Cat House, Doug said, “Every time I go, I always see a cat I want to take home. So many different personalities for such diverse types of people. It’s fun just to say hi to everyone and just go pet and hold all sorts of cats.”

ALLISON: Share some of the memorable experiences you’ve had while working in animal welfare.

DOUG: A funny moment I remember was trying to clean a room at The Cat House with about a dozen kittens. What a mess! They were attacking the broom as I tried to sweep, climbing up my legs, jumping into the trash can. Some of them escaped from their room and I had to chase them down.

RODNEY: One time, in the early days of me being The Cat House’s Santa, I had the chance to get my picture taken with a potbelly pig. It was a sweet thing and one of its front legs was in a cast. You should have seen the mom and dad fawning over him. They really loved that animal.

DOUG: A moment that sticks out is when a lady had to give up her cat. I don’t remember the reason. She was in tears and I tried to console her. She told me she would visit him as often as possible. I remember her coming to visit him. I’m guessing the cat eventually got adopted.

RODNEY: The first cat we adopted from The Cat House was a Cornish Rex named Chocolate Lover; we renamed him Topper. TCH had two other Cornish Rexes and we were considering Rafaella, a pretty cream/brownointed cat. We decided against her when my wife picked her up and Rafaella squirted diarrhea on the front of my wife’s shirt. Rafaella eventually got over that habit with the person who adopted her. We were already friends with that person and whenever I went over to visit, Rafaella would crawl under my shirt and lay down every time. She was so sweet.

Rodney ’s love of animals began when he was growing up in California. His parents used to regularly take Rodney and his sisters to the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. At age nine, Rodney got a parakeet, which learned to fly to Rodney ’s shoulder when he patted it. He got a second parakeet a few years later. He loved taking care of his birds. Then he met his wife, who had a cat, so Rodney became a cat guy. Now the couple also own two dogs.

Through Rodney ’s animal welfare work, he’s “developed a consistent manner” in how he handles their own cats and dogs. Rodney knows how to groom them. He can trim their nails, and even has a cordless drum sander “to round out the dogs’ claws after trimming them.” Rodney also knows how to administer pills and subcutaneous fluids. Finally, Rodney has learned to network with rescue people, which he says is “a terrific way of quickly spreading the word about an adoptable pet.”

In contrast to Rodney , Doug has owned cats most of his life. When he married, he and his wife started out with an orange tabby named Maxwell. One of Maxwell’s favorite activities was harassing the neighbor’s beagle, which Doug says the neighbors thought was hilarious. Since Maxwell’s death, the Bedells have adopted many other cats. One cat they adopted was orphaned by the F4 tornado that destroyed the small town of Hallam, Nebraska, in 2004. The kitten had not yet been weaned, and so the Bedells had to quickly learn how to bottle feed him. Fittingly, the Bedells named the little tabby Hallam. Currently the Bedells have two cats, both adopted from TCH.

Through Doug’s animal welfare work, he learned how to approach a cat that doesn’t know him and how to read its body language. Doug found it both challenging and rewarding to work with pet owners. “I’d get frustrated hearing excuses for why people turned in their pets. And then there were people who adopted a cat that was deemed ‘unadoptable.’”

ALLISON: Do you have any tips for future volunteers? Why should others volunteer?

RODNEY: Don’t give up. Cleaning cat boxes and all the other standard care that goes with cat rescue is challenging work. There may be sad times when a cat is dying no matter what you or a vet does for it. Be there for the cat and give it as much care and love as you can. There will be cats that need your help, so stay strong and pass your love and knowledge on to others. This will give other volunteers the strength they will need.

DOUG: I’d strongly encourage people to volunteer at any animal shelter or rescue organization. You’ll feel as if you’re making a positive contribution to the community, you’ll meet new people, and yes fall in love.

RODNEY: There are so many animals that need homes. If there weren’t so many cats and dogs that got left behind in numerous ways, there would not be so many organizations needing help. Every single rescue needs help, I guarantee it.

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