Most volunteers working at the Sanctuary come in on the same day each week and work in the same area. “Work” is important – whether cleaning or feeding – but there are very few of us who don’t also take time for cat-cuddling. Sometimes that occurs when scooping a box; people at floor-level are ideal sitting-places, after all. Sometimes it’s while changing bedding; shifting a cat so you can shake bedding out always leaves one feeling a little guilty for disturbing sleeping felines, and a little pause for petting is always in order. And many of us develop close relationships with “our” cats.
For the staff, for those of us who come in more frequently, and for the Kitty Comforters, the scope is greater. I do a lot of fill-in shifts, and I enjoy sometimes being in the back pens, or in Old Aids, feeding in Single-wide or Double-wide – and getting to know a wider variety of cats. There are some areas I rarely get to work in, and when writing about a cat in those areas, I usually turn to one of the staff (mostly Phaedra) for the “inside” on their ways. But no matter where I work, there are favourite areas and cats I will return to visit, just for the pleasure of their company.
The south-east corner of the front courtyard is known as the Val Jones area. I turned to Board member Geri Tiller for information about Val, who was a good friend of hers.
“Val Jones was an executive with the Fraser Port Authority, and called Carol Reichert at RAPS because there were feral cats around the South Fraser Port Authority land and one in particular, an orange male who had an abscess on his head. Carol asked me if I would try to trap him and that’s where it all started. Valerie had been feeding cats for a while and had converted a storage shed so the cats would be safe and have a shelter from the cold weather.
Val and I met under the Arthur Laing bridge several early mornings and we would set the traps together. Sometimes we were lucky and over a two month period we managed to trap 15 cats including 5 kittens. From that group of cats came Foxy (Silverfox), Savannah, Paulo, Fury, Latte, Valerie, and others. I named Val-cat after her – though at the time of her capture she was of the most ornery, cantankerous felines I’d ever run into. Valerie (human) particularly loved one cat which we could not catch but since she was there feeding it we felt it was OK. She would come and visit the Sanctuary on Sunday afternoons and bring treats.”
Valerie Jones was affected by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and was taken from us much too young. Geri attended her memorial, and spoke publicly about Val’s love for the cats – Val’s family came to visit the shelter the very next day. Subsequently they heard of various Sanctuary projects and decided that they wanted to donate the funds for the construction of what became known as the Val Jones area. This bequest to the Sanctuary allowed us to build two cabins in the corner, and the area was named for her. Once it was completed they came once again to see the shelter and the homes that had been constructed in her memory.
Two years ago the adjacent enclosure known as Old Aids (which actually houses cats with feline leukemia) was becoming more crowded, and we fenced the Val Jones area off from the main courtyard to allow us to extend space for new leukemia-positive cats to come in. Sadly, pretty Savannah tested leukemia-positive, and took up residence in this corner that she already knew.
We have since lost Val-cat and three of her youngsters to cancer; but that peaceful little corner continues to shelter a sweet group of cats who will be introduced next week.