Kimberly Jess always has time to hug a kitten.
She had fur in her hands on Thursday, at 1:07 p.m., when Becky Stern of Rotterdam stopped by the Animal Protective Foundation in Scotia.
It was just a quick visit. Stern, a foster care-giver, needed some medicine for a couple of kittens napping and nuzzling at her place. “It takes special people to do this,” Jess said of the volunteers, returning the gray-and-white ball to a pet travel case. “It’s not for everybody. . . . We have some very good people.”
As community outreach manager for the foundation, which is on Maple Avenue, Charlton resident Jess has days filled with cats, dogs, kids and adults. She helps with adoptions, answers questions about animals, takes photographs of canines and felines for the foundation’s website and also gives educational talks to children.
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“We talk about pet responsibility,” Jess said during a rainy afternoon. “We try to get the next generation educated, what it takes to own a pet.”
There were no children in the foundation’s halls and rooms on this day. Dave Ericson of Glenville, another volunteer, stopped by the shelter’s storage garage with a trunk full of pet food and cat litter. A couple times a week, Ericson picks up the supplies — packages slightly damaged — from the nearby Walmart on Freeman’s Bridge Road.
Camera is essential tool
At 1:15 p.m., Jess was stacking the large bags in a corner of the garage. Lately, much of the stock has gone to feed pets in storm-ravaged Cobleskill and Rotterdam Junction.
Jess walked to the back of the garage, through a door and down a hallway in the foundation’s main building. She saw Gail Yuille, a volunteer in the foundation’s surgery department, kneeling next to a small cage with a slender occupant.
“How’s our little ferret?” Jess asked.
“She’s kind of awake now because I was talking to her,” Yuille answered.
Jess grabbed her camera and began another routine. Animals who move into the shelter get their pictures taken for the foundation’s website. It’s a little bit of public relations — people will fall in love with a pair of sad kitten or puppy eyes.
Samuel, a tan hound with streaks of black in his coat, was the first model. But he was a little skittish.
Some of the 25 kittens and young cats in one of the feline holding rooms were next. They all had names — Candy was a Calico cat, Elvis was white with pink ears and a patch of gray on top of his head.
A little gray cat sat quietly for his portrait. “This little cat is going to get so adopted because he’s so cute; everybody loves the little cats,” Jess said.
Jess wants people to love the bigger cats, too. To observe the foundation’s 80th anniversary — it opened in 1931 — cats one year and older and most dogs are available for $19.31. Jess said animals can be adopted from a shelter for less money than people will spend in a pet store. “We’re full of great animals at a good price,” she said. “They’re a bargain.”
And while Jess keeps a cheery disposition around the small animal kingdom, there are sad stories. Some cats and dogs have been abandoned by their owners, others are strays. When people get eviction notices from their apartments and leave at the end of the month, the shelter’s population increases. One man dropped off 11 cats and kittens in early September.
In some cases, people can no longer afford to feed their animals. The owners of Sunny, a shy, white domestic shorthair, are moving to Japan.
“Can’t go to Japan?” Jess asked the cat. “You would have liked it there.”
At 1:30, a gray-haired woman was looking at six kittens frolic in one of the cat playrooms. An adult gray tiger lounged on a shelf about six feet up the back wall, watching with mild disinterest as constant tackles, scrambles and roll-overs took place on the floor.
“Is that orange cat a male or a female?” the woman asked. She was moving soon, and while she would like to have had a new pet, she didn’t want one during a transition period. “Every new home needs a cat in it,” Jess said.
The orange cat was Matty, a boy. “What about that little Calico there,” the prospective shopper asked. “That’s probably a girl; Calicos are girls,” Jess answered.
Jess tried to get a picture of Debbie, the sleepy ferret, but didn’t spend much time with her. The animal snoozing quietly under blankets was a stray. “She’s very lucky,” Jess said. “Somebody found it and brought it in. It would not have survived.”
The shopper from the cat room was at the front desk, and wanted another look at another cat. This time, she wanted to hold the little orange kitten. “Hello, baby, you’re so cute,” the shopper said. “Hello, honey. Adorable. How beautiful.”
The cat lover said she’ll be back in a couple weeks, after the unpacking.
Indoor day for the dogs
At 1:50, Arlene Krisanda of Schenectady was in the front lobby. She’s helped the foundation with fundraising efforts, and looked at the bulletin board full of 18 pictures and posters of missing and lost cats and dogs. “There’s a lot of missing animals out there,” Jess said. “That’s why it’s so important to have identification.”
At 2 p.m., Jess spent some time with the dogs. Some were scheduled for photography, but it’s a two-person job. “Somebody has to hold them, somebody has to take the picture,” Jess said.
Everyone seemed to be barking. They might have been happier outside, but it was raining.
“They go out a couple times a day, and they love it,” Jess said. “They’re like, ‘Take me out, take me out! I want to go play.’ ”
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