August 2016 MVP: Kathy Shurvell
A group of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Humane Society in 1894 and are vital to our success today! With the help of volunteers, we can provide care, love and attention to our four (and sometimes two) legged friends until they find their forever homes. The MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) will recognize the work and get to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs will receive a framed photo and gift card as our thanks!
MVP is a volunteer-driven project with articles by Brian Kozak and pictures by Jim Harvey.
August 2016 MVP: Kathy Shurvell
If you’re at the Winnipeg Humane Society while Kathy Shurvell is volunteering as a cat cuddler, look for the cats most in need of affection or socialization. Chances are that’s where you’ll find Kathy.
“I tend to spend a lot of time in Room A because those cats seem to have been there a long time (but recently some of them have been adopted),” Kathy said. “I especially like to spend time with those cats.”
As of this month, Kathy has been a WHS volunteer, alongside her sister Karen Hill who started a few months earlier. “My sister and I have always loved cats,” she explained. “When Karen retired she said let’s do some volunteer work and for some reason we both thought of this place and we just absolutely love it.”
Before volunteering at the WHS Kathy ran a home day care for 20 years. She sees the similarities between caring for little ones and cats. “Like little kids, cats cannot communicate with words,” she said. “You have to read their body language, behavior and expressions and behave in reaction to that.
“They have human qualities,” she noted. “I see them by themselves looking up at you, saying ‘don’t leave me.’ You feel bad going home. You think about it all week and then you look forward to coming back and sometimes they are adopted and you’re so happy and excited for them.”
Volunteering at the WHS is another step in Kathy’s life-long love for cats. “Karen and I both have a passion for cats,” she pointed out. “We had cats while we were growing up and I’ve always had a cat while my children were growing up.
“They’re a bit less demanding than dogs. When you’re working, it’s difficult looking after a dog. Cats are more independent. If you leave for a while, they are perfectly fine. Some dogs are more active and need your attention more.”
Kathy is always eager to take up the challenge of socializing those cats that are shy or frightened. “There’s one cat now that just doesn’t want to come out of the back of her condo,” she said. “You just go very slow and you hope that next week they’re a little bit less shy and if not, you go in and try to gradually socialize them.”
Kathy remembers one cat, Mary, who “must have had a bad experience before she came here.” Mary would not leave the back of her cage but Kathy was persistent, coming back a few times a week. Other volunteers noticed Mary’s fright and also helped. Eventually Mary was coaxed out, learned to trust people and was adopted.
“Some of the cats allow you to bring them out of the shells and you feel so wonderful when you can do that,” she said.
Her determination and passion for cats has not gone unnoticed by staff and volunteers alike. “Kathy’s sensitivity, compassion, love and empathy for our cats is unsurpassed,” said fellow volunteer Janet Stanko. “She gives her time, energy and an almost magical creativity to the animals helping to transform them into an adoptable pet for some happy individual or family!”
Kathy recently adopted a new cat, Andy, after her previous one passed away in March after 17 years with Kathy and her husband. She showed the same determination in selecting a cat as she does in socializing the cats – she took her time until she found the one that was right for the family. “I didn’t want to rush into anything,” she explained. “I had to make sure I found one that doesn’t have bad habits. When I saw Andy and I took him out of his cage he fell asleep on my lap and I just thought ‘This is the one.’”
Besides Andy, what else does the future hold in store for Kathy? She does crafts and is now working on some mixed media pictures that she’d like to sell in order to make money for the Winnipeg Humane Society. It’s clearly a cause near and dear to her heart.
“Staff here is so wonderful. They give you so much support; they give the cats so much support. It’s a good place to be for the cats, the volunteers, everyone. It’s great to see people so passionate about what they do.”