By Sue Ellen Abney-Roberts, FOTAS volunteer
As I sit here relaxing in my chair this Thanksgiving evening with a warm dog snuggled in my lap, I am thinking of the many things I have to be thankful for this season. I am thinking about my time as a volunteer at the Aiken County Animal Shelter. I am thinking about my Thanksgiving morning spent walking dogs at the Shelter. I am thinking about my mother.
Mom was a free-lance writer, and one of my favorite books she wrote is a collection of 52 essays about the many things she was thankful for called “Thanksgiving Every Week.“ One of those essays, entitled “Sewing Machines,” described how she loved to sew, loved to take cloth and a pattern and just be creative.
I share my mother’s love for sewing, and my passion is making blankets and toys for the dogs at the Shelter. Nothing delights me more than buying fleece remnants on sale (Mom also taught me to be economical), and turning those remnants into a warm blanket for a dog who has not found a home yet.
Mom also wrote an essay called “Long Suffering Husbands.” My husband, who is disabled, is unable to walk dogs, but he knows how much I love my time at the Shelter. Sometimes he sits in his truck while I walk the dogs. He often delivers the blankets I sew for the animals to the Shelter while I am working during the week. For many of my FOTAS friends, volunteering at the Shelter is a family affair—husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, volunteer together—many of whom spent their Thanksgiving morning at the Shelter as well.
Two of mother’s essays, “Worthwhile Committees” and “Unsung Heros,” describe many of the qualities I see in my fellow FOTAS volunteers, who have made such a difference in the quality of life for the dogs at the Shelter. There are volunteers who walk dogs every day, but there are many others behind the scenes who work on things like fundraising and fostering animals. So many dogs and cats have been adopted because of the efforts of the many dedicated FOTAS volunteers. What a worthwhile contribution this organization has made in Aiken County!
This is my first Thanksgiving without my Mom, who died this Fall. It is a new beginning for me. My mother wrote about “New Beginnings.” She said “Only as we are challenged will we have a chance to show what we can do as we work with others in various group efforts.”
She was so right. The morning after she died, I was at the shelter walking dogs. “Why are you here?” asked my fellow volunteers. The answer is simple: it relieves my stress; it makes me happy; it would make my mother happy.
When the new Shelter opened in 2014, I donated one of the play yards in loving memory of my parents. Every Saturday I see their names on the plaque when I walk the dogs, and it makes me happy. My parents would be proud. Their spirit of volunteerism lives on through their daughter.