Beth knows that it’s a little unusual to have a “kitten super highway” in the spare bedroom of her Plano home. But when you have a big love for animals and open your house as a foster home for City of Plano animal services, you are willing to do unusual things to provide comfort and care to a variety of furry friends.

“I am married to a wonderful, patient man that built me the foster room of my dreams,” she said. “It’s important to keep foster animals separate from personal pets to ensure no diseases or parasites are shared. So, my husband built what we call the “kitten super highway” in one of our spare bedrooms. It’s a network of walkways on the ceiling and walls that allows cats and kittens to look down on their new home while building strong muscles and confidence.”

Felker first got involved with City of Plano Animal Services as a citizen member of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee in January 2009. While on the committee, she began fostering pregnant mother cats. After fostering for a few years, she started also volunteering in the city’s shelter as a cat room attendant and visitation consultant.

“Beth has been a shelter volunteer since 2011. She has an affinity for our furry felines. In fact, we lovingly refer to her as our crazy cat lady!” said City of Plano Senior Animal Services Officer Amber Weible. “She comes in Saturday or Sunday to spend time with the cats and helps families find their new family member. Beth also has provided a temporary home to countless kittens. Her big heart has helped so many animals.She also mentors our new foster volunteers. Beth’s capacity to share her heart and home amazes everyone who meets her.”

Felker said, “I lend a hand anyplace I can, whether it be in the cat rooms, dog kennels, washing dishes, or doing laundry. Closest to my heart will always be my role as a foster. In fact, fostering plays such a vital part at the shelter, a few years ago I asked the senior offi cers if I could serve as a volunteer foster coordinator. Now, I train new volunteers on how to become a foster for City of Plano Animal Services.”

Felker teaches biology at Collin College and received a graduate degree in entomology. She loves anything related to the great outdoors, and said that her love for nature and animals was formed during her years as a Girl Scout.

During the spring and summer months, Felker also raises swallowtail and monarch butterflies in her backyard butterfly garden. She also volunteers with the DFW Wildlife Coalition as a hotline volunteer and supervisor.

Felker said during her time volunteering with various animal rescue organizations, quite a few pets have become a part of their family: Gobbles the cat (Felker’s first “bottle baby”), Eunice the cat, Cru the cat, Khalessi the cat (a City of Plano Animals Services alumnus), Magnitude the formal feral cat, Sugar Smack the cat (a City of Plano Animals Services alumnus), Tyrion the dog (a City of Plano Animals Services alumnus), Rosie the tarantula, and quite a few fish.

The amount of time Felker spends volunteering each month varies. She spends at least six to eight hours each weekend at the city’s shelter assisting with adoptions and training new foster parents.

“We have lots of diff erent volunteer opportunities here,” said officer Weible. “We have something here for just about anyone.”

The shelter offers a variety of different volunteer opportunities, both for those interested in working with animals and those who prefer to have less animal contact. Laundry attendants, greeters and administrative assistant volunteers have less contact with animals at the shelter, said Weible.

Volunteers also photograph pets available for adoption, serve as adoption consultants for dogs and cats, and help exercise the animals at the shelter. There are also opportunities for corporate groups and volunteer teams to serve in a one-time volunteer setting at the shelter through a variety of different programs and activities.

In 2014, 190 different people donated 9,748 hours to the shelter. “All of our volunteers are equally important, but this time of year, fosters are greatly appreciated due to the large number of mothers and litters,” said Weible. “Our fosters are so important because they give these babies a chance to grow in a home environment without the threat of illness that can commonly occur in a shelter environment.”

“When it’s kitten season, volunteering can be a 24-hour labor of love,” explained Felker. Neonatal kittens need to be bottle fed and stimulated every three hours, 24/7.”

This year, Felker received an award from the shelter for most volunteer hours served—more than
350 hours.

“Fostering animals means saving a life…many lives, in fact,” said Felker. “I truly believe the animals I take into my care know that I am trying to help them. No matter how sick or afraid they might be, they all get to experience a tender loving touch while in my home. Foster animals get time to rest and recover so that when they are ready, they can return to the shelter to find their forever home.”

She added, “It’s also important for me to know that I am helping the staff at the shelter when I take home fosters. By taking fosters home, it gives the shelter staff more time to love on animals at the shelter waiting to be adopted. If it weren’t for the dedicated and kind staff at the shelter, I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time volunteering there as I do.

“It’s easy to see the gratitude in the eyes of the animals I help, but what always gets to me is just how grateful the people are that I help. So many times adopters come into the shelter wanting a kitten…a very specific kitten that will cuddle or sleep in their laps. By definition, kittens are little balls of 100 percent lightning, all be it cute lightning, but certainly not an animal that wants to just lounge around. By helping educate adopters, I really feel like I am able to help people get the right pet for them.”

Weible commented, “Our volunteers provide socialization, play time and even temporary homes for our fur babies. Every little bit of their times makes a huge difference in our animals lives. Our volunteers are a huge reason why our adoption rate is so high. Without their dedication, our shelter wouldn’t be so successful. Finding even one or two hours a week can provide a feeling of accomplishment by helping save the lives of homeless animals. Beth is very important to everyone here at the shelter, and her dedication is awe inspiring!”

Felker’s compassion for animals knows no bounds. She recalls the time she saw a cat stuck in the median of the Dallas North Tollway.

“I promised my mom I would never do this again, but I ran across four lanes of traffic, scooped up the cat and took her to the shelter. Luckily, that cat was micro-chipped and the owners came all the way from Little Elm within an hour to reclaim their cat that had been missing for months!” she said.

“When I was in high school, one of my teachers told me that you get out of life what you put into it. Those words could not be truer, especially when it comes to volunteering,” added Felker. “Sure, it might be easier to sit on your couch Saturday instead of volunteering at the shelter, but you get more out of it than you could ever imagine. Whether it’s finding a child the dog they have always dreamed of or reuniting an owner with a lost cat, it’s all good stuff that helps feed your soul!”

Interested in volunteering for City of Plano Animal Services?
Visit: http://www.plano.gov/869/Volunteer-Opportunities

Amy Sandling Crawford

Amy Sanding Crawford is a frequent contributor to Plano Profile Magazine. An accomplished communications professional who knows how to craft and deliver messages that produce results, Amy also serves...