How Can I Help?
by Steve Bodofsky
Running a ferret rescue, we meet a lot of new people, day in and day
out. They come by looking for help with a sick ferret, or to learn about adoption or care.
As they look around, it doesnt take long before they realize the enormity of the
situation. And, in most cases, theyre quick to ask, How can I help?
The immediate answer is usually something glib, along the lines of
cash, preferably in large denominations. After weve all had a good
laugh, these folks usually do make some sort of donation. And all donations, no matter how
large or small, are greatly appreciated.
But money is only one way to help a rescue or shelter; and in some
cases, it may not be the best way you can help out. Here are some others you might want to
One of the best ways to help a shelter is to reduce its costs. And the
most effective way of reducing a shelters costs is to adopt a ferret yourself. Or,
if that isnt possible, you could help place adoptable ferrets with new owners.
Cant take in any more ferrets? How about sponsoring a sick or
elderly ferret in the rescue? Your out-of-pocket cost would work out to just a few cents a
day, but your commitment would make a real difference to the rescue
and the ferret
As a ferret owner yourself, youre the perfect person to introduce
ferrets to friends, family and acquaintances. If someone shows an interest, direct them
toward the shelter. Dont let them go to a pet store: There are too many ferrets in
shelters, just waiting for someone to offer them a new home.
And even if the person you send doesnt adopt, at least
theyll have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of ferret care. Nothing
prevents a ferret from finding its way into the shelters like good education ahead of
time. And the fewer ferrets in the system, the more money available for the ones that are
Most shelters use product sales to help support their operations. Some
sell harnesses, others sell hammocks or snuggle sacks. We sell Ferret Fun Tubes, nutritional
supplements, and our own line of New Rainbow Bridge fine
art prints and sympathy cards. The hope is that
well sell enough of these products to provide for our fuzzy friends, without cutting
too deeply into our mortgage payment.
When youre talking to a shelter operator, find out what they use
to generate funds. In most cases, youll find they offer something that youre
either looking for, or you need on a regular basis.
Of course, you can probably find whatever youre looking for at the
local chain store; sometimes for less than the shelter is asking. But by buying from the
shelter, youre helping support ferrets directly. So what if you pay a few extra
bucks: Isnt it worth it to know the moneys going to support those rescues?
Even if you try to support your local rescues and shelters first every
time, sometimes you will have to buy from the pet chains. The trick is to make sure
youre buying from a chain that supports rescues and shelters. PetSmart spends
thousands of dollars every year to help dog, cat
and yes, ferret shelters.
As a PetSmart-approved rescue/shelter, were invited to
PetSmarts Adopt-a-thons, where we can educate the public about ferrets and their
care. And were encouraged to offer ferrets for adoption through the PetSmart
program. Thats why we recommend buying from PetSmart, over other pet supply chains:
Its in our best interest to keep them in the adoption business.
Avoid the stores that sell ferrets: In most cases, theyre part of
the problem, not the solution.
Probably the best thing you can offer any shelter is yourself: If you
can, offer to come in once a week (or twice a month
whatever you have time for) to
help clean cages and fill water bottles. In our shelter, that simple job can take six
hours for one person: A second person cuts that time in half.
Dont forget the more demanding chores of ear cleaning and nail
clipping. Shelters have to do that every week or two, just like you do; the only
difference is, at the shelters, it can take several hours to get through. An extra set of
hands can trim that job down to size.
Are you heading over to the vets? Why not call the shelter, and
see if they need you to take someone with you? Going to the pet supply store? See if you
can pick something up for the shelter while youre there.
And dont just consider shelter chores: Remember, every minute
spent working in the shelter takes a minute away from the rest of the house. We still need
to rake leaves, clean out gutters, seal the driveway, wash windows
all the same
chores you perform around your own home.
Look around: Youll see if theres something that had to
slide, in favor of the rescue. Are the shrubs overgrown? Offer to come by one day and trim
them. Are the windows dirty? Offer to wash them. Just about any chore that you do for
yourself can be a good way to help out at a shelter.
Is there too much needed for you to handle yourself? Get some friends
together and organize a painting party, or a spring-cleaning weekend. Its just
amazing how much a few people can get done when they put their mind to it.
One thing most shelters have very little time for is cooking. We usually
subsist on quick, easy-to-prepare meals or callout from the local steak or pizza place. Do
you have a special dish that youre known for? Offer to bring a meal by, or invite us
to dinner at your place. Either would be a wonderful change of pace.
Another thing that can be more valuable to a shelter than cash is
stuff. What kind of stuff? Heres one: You know those big barrels that
you get with some brands of hard pretzel? Theyre great for storing ferret food or
litter. They even make good ferret toys.
Other items that fit into the category of stuff are things
like trash cans with locking lids, 5-gallon buckets, step stools, scales (Ive been
looking for those hanging scales like the ones in the grocery story for a year now; I
still havent found one
yet), plastic tubs (for litter boxes), receiving
blankets, towels, sheets and so on. If youre not sure whether something you have
would be useful, ask: Were not shy
well tell you.
We recently received a folding table, a filing cabinet and a bulletin
board from one of our more generous friends. While none of the items were specifically for
the ferrets, the money we saved by not having to buy them enables us to provide more for
the rescues. So that simple donation was like a cash donation of $150 or more, and it
didnt cost her a thing; the best of all possible worlds.
Another item to consider is furniture. Many of us who run shelters often
have to live with worn or damaged furniture. Look around you: Is the sofa threadbare? Are
the chairs frayed around the edges? Maybe they cant afford new ones, or maybe
theyre just unwilling to spend money for something thats likely to get damaged
as soon as it gets into the house.
Do you have a chair or sofa youre planning to replace? What kind
of shape is it in? If its in good shape, you might want to offer it to the rescue.
Of course, dont be offended if they refuse: They may not have the same taste as you.
Do you have any special skills you can offer to the rescue? They can
probably use them. For example, most rescues dont have their nonprofit status.
Thats because the process is too involved to handle themselves, and the cost of an
accountant or lawyer prevents them from filing the appropriate papers.
If youre a lawyer or an accountant, maybe you could offer to help
with the paperwork. Were working with someone right now whos helping us get
our nonprofit status. That not only saves us the money to acquire the new status, but also
makes us eligible for donations from mainstream sources.
Of course, thats not the only service an accountant could perform
for a shelter. We still have taxes to file, and business issues to deal with. As with
other services, anything we have to pay someone for comes out of our shelter budget.
Are you a doctor? The medicines we use for our rescues are the same ones
that kids use: We can use some of your samples to care for our fuzzy friends.
And professionals arent the only services that can be helpful to a
rescue. We just spent over $200 to have our heaters repaired; $200 that could have been
used to pay for an adrenal surgery.
Auto mechanics: We still have cars, and need the same maintenance and
repair services as any other car owner. Oil changes, tune-ups, brake work,
you can save a shelter hundreds of dollars over the course of a year,
without investing anything more than a bit of your free time.
Plumbing, carpentry, carpet cleaning, and so on
all services that
can be useful to a rescue, enabling them to devote more money to care for the rescues.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to help a shelter, no matter what
your personal capabilities, time constraints or financial situation. Of course, if all
else fails, theres always cash
preferably in large denominations.