Not-so-random acts of kindness

Being kind to animals is at the core of what drives various Best Friends volunteers. The kindness they give is returned to them tenfold.
By Elissa Jones

If we let them, animals have the magical ability to bring out the best in us as human beings. In turn, kindness to animals comes with its own set of tangible rewards. Every purr, every snuggle and every lick (even the ones that come when you’d really rather not be licked) somehow make life a little brighter. And, of course, every life saved brings even greater — immeasurable — rewards.

All the lifesaving work done at Best Friends can only take place thanks to the generosity of you, and all our supporters. Whether you donate financially — a little or a lot. Whether you volunteer — one or 100 hours. Whether you adopt one pet or foster a dozen. Whatever the case, we thank you. No act of kindness — from volunteer, donor or adopter — can ever be considered small. And each of your not-so-random acts of kindness is cherished. Nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing goes uncelebrated.

Because this is the time of year to reflect and give thanks, we’re honored to share a few stories with you — so we can all have at our fingertips a reminder of the good that exists in this country when we need a little reassurance. As the Greek philosopher Aesop famously said: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” Here’s to another great year of kindness.

Problem? What problem?

Colleen Hart spends every Sunday helping out in Cat World at the Sanctuary. She makes sure the cats with back-end paralysis issues get a special walk, either on a harness or in a stroller.

“When I spend time with ‘my’ cats, any problem I am having is forgotten. Their needs become so much more important than mine,” Colleen says. “I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but they give me so much more than I could ever give them.”

The Eagle Scout has landed

Thirteen-year-old scout Brett Woodward of Troop 415 in Granada Hills, California, approached our Best Friends Pet Adoption Center team in Los Angeles about the final project required to achieve his Eagle Scout ranking. To become an Eagle Scout, Brett needed to volunteer his time in a meaningful way with a local nonprofit. Brett decided to do something to benefit the animals.

The project wouldn’t be just a day of volunteering. No, Brett had to create a full business plan outlining his goals, and then raise the money to complete his proposal. Brett’s plan included providing the animals of Best Friends with homemade pet beds and other supplies, and he figured that he needed $1,100 to do that.

Brett raised twice that amount and then recruited 63 volunteers of his own to assist him. Friends, family and fellow scouts pulled together to give a combined 385 hours of work over three days, making dog beds, food puzzles, cat beds and toys. They used the extra funds to buy dog blankets, kitten formula and more supplies.

And, in case you’re wondering, Brett earned his Eagle Scout rank, which — as far as the animals are concerned — was well deserved.

Brett Woodward completed his Eagle Scout project for the animals

Horse whisperer

Dan Lichtenstein helps with the Sanctuary horses three days a week, spending time with our older horses and giving them lots of one-on-one attention. He also helps out with other tasks. Horse Haven manager Jen Reid says, “He’s our super water-trough cleaner and filler. He keeps those water troughs way cleaner than we do!”

Big love in the Big Apple

Best Friends–New York volunteer programs specialist Maria Hertneck can’t say enough about our volunteers in the Big Apple. Two who stand out are Kirstin Burdett and Stephanie Etherton. They assist the team with adoption counseling almost every week and even use their vacation time to volunteer at our adoption events. Maria notes, “Then they go home to the pets they are fostering for us.”

Stephanie Etherton volunteering for the animals in the Big Apple

Kiddies for the kitties

These two happy kids are members of a family who foster kittens for Best Friends. Recently, they decided to do even more for the tiny fuzz balls by raising funds for our kitten nursery in Salt Lake City. Their efforts brought in $220 for the animals, which they presented to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in a bucket they decorated themselves.

Not only does their family foster kittens, the children raised $220 for the animals

Anonymous generosity

At Best Friends, the kindness isn’t just relegated to the animals. Not long ago, one of our members read the story of 17-year-old Bonny O’Donnel, a student who had been bullied so intensely by her peers that she suffered from anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Eventually, Bonny qualified for a service dog named Carson. Their relationship — that of girl and trusted canine companion — gave Bonny the strength to return to, and graduate from, high school.

When the Best Friends member read the story, she wanted Bonny’s family — who had been through so much — to experience a place where there was nothing but kindness, love, acceptance and, of course, animals. So she underwrote a trip, anonymously, for the whole family, including Carson, from their home in Georgia to the Sanctuary.

Bonny O’Donnel and her service dog Carson

Home for the holidays

Best Friends members Kirsten Miller and Mindy Baggish made their third annual visit to the Sanctuary last December. Then they rushed home to California to spend Christmas with the dogs at the Best Friends adoption center in Los Angeles. Why? Because, while they volunteer there and at Strut Your Mutt on a regular basis, it’s their favorite place to spend the holidays. And who could blame them?

Volunteering at the Sanctuary and Los Angeles

Driving the kitty cab

Kristen Larson of Los Angeles spends almost every weekend during kitten season (the time of year when cats give birth, thereby adding to the kitten population) providing shuttle service to kittens from the South Los Angeles shelter to our kitten nursery at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center.

Her tireless taxiing ensures that countless fragile little lives are saved. “Kristen has been doing this for years, nearly every weekend, without anyone asking her to do so,” says Kaylee Hawkins, lifesaving manager for Best Friends–Los Angeles. “She gives up her weekends to help the South L.A. shelter for the first half of the day. And then she comes to Best Friends the second half of the day. Wow.” Wow is right.

Kristen Larson helps in Los Angeles almost every weekend during kitten season

Find out how you can get in on the kindness

One of the beautiful things about kindness is that it’s contagious. And it’s contagious in any amount. So this year, we thank you in advance, for helping to make our community — a community of incredible people and wonderful pets — so strong. There really is no such thing as a small act of giving.

Photos by Marshall Boprey, Lori Fusaro, Sarah Ause Kichas and Molly Wald