ROCKPORT, Maine — Jack Schade, 14, of Rockport, a student at Midcoast Christian Academy in Thomaston, is a young man who loves being around cats. He puts that caring attitude to good use as a volunteer at the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League. And there are photos to prove it. Jack is one of the youth volunteers featured — with a cat — in the shelter’s 2012 calendar, a fundraiser for the shelter. Asked what he thought about having his photo in the calendar, Jack said, “Wow. To have my picture on a calendar. That’s new. That’s wow.”
“Jack is a cat whisperer — he talks to cats, visits the cats,” said Lisa Dresser, administrative director at the shelter. “The first time I saw him, he walked through the door wearing a cotton-ball-and-duct-tape beard, dressed in a Santa Claus costume he had made. He brought a big pack of toys, treats, goodies and food for the cats. He also brings friends to help clean the cat rooms and do things around the shelter. He absolutely loves it here.”
Jack used his own money to buy the gifts for the cats.
But the calendar is not the first time Jack’s image has been associated with the shelter. He was bringing back to the shelter a mother cat, Darcy, and her kittens, Demure, Daisy and Danny, he and his family had fostered.
“It was so nice to have them, sad to take them back, sad you won’t see them anymore after they are adopted. But it was a good thing because the kittens were adopted within a month, two months for Darcy,” he said. “Cats are just the sweetest things in the world. Cats enjoy people so much.”
Jack has adopted pets of his own — his cat Stripey has been with him since he was 7.
“Stripey sleeps next to me, always there, really a meower,” Jack said. The family also has a cat named Tiger, a Dalmation named Missy, and “a purebred, runt-of-litter golden retriever called Jessie,” Jack said.
As a volunteer, Jack takes part in the shelter’s Pat a Pet program, taking kittens to nursing homes for residents to enjoy.
“The kittens are easy, they sleep in my arms,” Jack said. Jack, Dresser said, is very knowledgeable about cats, choosing felines for the program to match the specific personalities of nursing home residents.
Jack’s vision for the future includes taking care of elderly cats.
“I want to take as much land as I can, clear it and replant it to be pet friendly, and make it a haven for cats that haven’t been adopted — like the cat that has been at the shelter for 15 years — so they would be happy and able to do whatever they wanted to do before they pass on. It would be so amazing to create this place where people could come and watch the cats. So far that’s my life dream,” he said.
Jack offered this advice to youth thinking about volunteering at the shelter, “Don’t look on the outside, especially the ones in the special needs room. Look at the personality, be patient. Take time, pat the cats, love the cats. Give them all your heart. And In the feral cat room, sit there, they will come to you. The rest you get from experience and being there.” Jack also has volunteered at the Knox Center, the local soup kitchen and Habitat for Humanity.
Jack, the son of Andrea and Rob Lovell, is one of 15-20 youth volunteers, ranging in age from 3 to 12, affiliated with the shelter. Accompanied by their parents, the young people foster dogs and cats, bring in on their own initiative proceeds from lemonade stands and impromptu dog shows, help at shelter fundraising or informational events, walk the dogs, socialize with the cats and feed the shelter animals.
For Dresser, Jack and the other young people are heroes, a thought that generated the idea of featuring some of them in the shelter’s calendar, with photos taken by local artist Patrisha McLean.
The cost of the calendar is $15.75. Calendars are available for purchase at the shelter and in Camden at Destination Dog, Clean Bee Laundry, French & Brawn Marketplace, Once A Tree, Owl & Turtle Book Store, EBS, Camden National Bank and Zoot Coffee Shop; in Rockport at Camden Hospital for Animals, Yankee Clipper, Prism Restaurant & Gallery, Hoboken Gardens, Graffam Brothers Seafood, Leonard’s, Camden National Bank, Key Bank and PenBay Veterinary Associates; and at Loyal Biscuit in Rockland and Belfast.
Information about the shelter will be available at a table manned by volunteers on Saturday, Dec. 3, in front of French and Brawn in downtown Camden during Christmas by the Sea festivities. To learn more about the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League and its work, call the shelter at 236-8702, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit crarl.org.