By Colin Cole
Hello everyone! My name is colin cole. I’m a shelter volunteer at Heartland Humane, a KBVR DJ, runner, vegan, poet(?), recent cat dad, and LEEP PhD candidate. I first came to Corvallis in 2012 (wow time flies) to pursue an M.A. in Latino Studies which, unfortunately, has since been discontinued (more support for world languages, anyone?). Prior to that, I taught high school Spanish and creative writing in California, and completed my undergraduate studies in Education at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. Currently, my research focuses on Hip Hop, language use, and identities in the lives of Latinx youth in Oregon.
Throughout my time as a PhD student, Heartland Humane, Benton County’s open-door animal shelter, has also been a refuge for me and many other volunteers. Nothing is better for a theory induced headache than a half hour of fetch or a walk through Avery Park with a shelter dog whose tail wags at the sight of you. And wag they do! The majority of my time at Heartland is spent with the dogs, working on socializing, leash skills, or my favorite… runs. When time management is difficult, it helps to combine volunteering and working out, and if I feel like taking a few days off, the dogs keep me accountable.
At the end of my shifts, I’ll often spend time with the cats, giving head scratches and belly rubs. There’s a different type of calm that comes from spending time with the cats and listening to that purr (cat people where you at?). On days where life is stressful, socializing cats provides another level of catharsis and tranquility.
Due to Covid-19, the shelter is currently closed to the public, though they continue to do fosters and adoptions by appointment. Unfortunately, the Heartland Thriftshop on 3rd St., which provides approximately 30% of Heartland Humane’s annual Budget, has closed (though they are selling items online!). In addition, donations are down as many folks in the community now face challenges due to the pandemic.
While I am adjusting to shelter-in-place measures and a barrage of Zoom meetings, I’m fortunate to still have contact with the animals and incredible staff. As many of us are spending the majority of our time at home, physically distanced from others, it is an opportune moment to foster or adopt responsibly. I just happened to be seduced by Mamba, now Sombrita, in January and she has made life at home more comforting, entertaining, and enjoyable.
For those of us in academia, there are many benefits to getting outside of our heads and grounding ourselves in the present, and there are no better teachers than animals. There are many ways to become involved and support Heartland. Donations to Heartland are tax-deductible and can be made at heartlandhumane.org. Any amount helps. If you would rather help another way, adopting during this time of social-distancing can be, as human-animal bonds always are, mutually beneficial. Fostering could also be something to consider later in the Summer once kitten season arrives. Or at the very least, we can value our essential workers and rethink our relationship to animals.