Cherri Gillmore and her cat, Simon, are helping youngsters overcome their fear of reading aloud by encouraging them to work with unsocialized kittens.
There is a large dog kennel sitting on top of a table draped with a blanket in the middle of Cherri Gillmore’s living room in Truckee, California. If you’re lucky, you could even catch a glimpse of kittens snuggled up in the box or peering out from beneath the table.
Kitty Palace is the name given to Cherri’s foster home, which she has put up for the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe and Best Friends. 91 kittens were fostered there throughout the years by Cherri until they were old enough to be adopted.
For all animals, “Cherri is genuinely an angel,” says Victoria Johnson of Best Friends. The lives of children are being saved because of foster volunteers like Cherri. It’s a good thing she’s here.”
This cat motivates an animal-loving volunteer to help even more people.
Cherri’s love for fostering kittens can be traced back to Elvis Presley (the cat, that is). When she started working at the shelter, she thought she was more of a dog person, but she opted to help out with the cats because they were in the greatest need.
The shelter staff hoped that Cherri, who had a reputation for helping even the shyest cats open up, could help Elvis, an unhappy bundle of fur. He started purring as soon as she put her arm around him. The day Cherri chose to become a foster volunteer and bring Elvis home, “Elvis was singing particularly for me,” she recalls.
She watched Elvis grow from a shy kitten to a confident one over a few months. She eventually became so attached to him that she decided to adopt him. Nonetheless, she was not finished fostering. Quite the opposite was true. After watching Elvis grow, she decided to help other kittens in the same situation.
A love for rescuing and rehabilitating feral cats.
Cherri says she prefers to take in kittens who haven’t been socialized at the shelter. When it comes to kittens, “I’m fine with dealing with shy or scared ones.”
To ensure that kittens have the social skills they need to flourish after adoption, she has developed a rock-solid plan throughout the years. Take your time and let people approach you at their own pace, she advises.
It’s not uncommon for her to “kitty burrito” her kittens once they’ve become comfortable in their new home. Finally, in her office, she closes the door and places them all on her chest, allowing them to hear her heartbeat for the first time. Moreover, she lets them bite baby food off her finger before petting them. According to her, “they perceive me as a giver of wonderful things.” she claims.
Even the most frightened and shivery kittens have been able to find new homes thanks to her efforts. And she’ll get occasional reports from adopters about how well the kittens she cared for in the past are doing. She says, “I would perform backflips if I could.” “It’s good to hear that they’re doing well.”
Coaches who read to cats
Instead of being at home with her foster babies, you can usually find Cherri volunteering at a nearby elementary school, where she helps students get the confidence they need to read aloud in front of an audience. A project she and Elvis (who recently passed away) began six years ago is what she’s currently participating in.
Each child brings in a favorite book, and she and Simon spend approximately an hour with each one. While Simon waits calmly, they read him a story. It’s a role that Simon is completely at home in. She names the 17-pound gray tabby Simon her “Chariot,” and she takes him in a canvas carrier that sits atop a wagon. “It’s like having a dog in a cat dress,” Cherri adds. Simon jumps out of his chariot as soon as it arrives in the chamber, ready to meet the enthusiastic children who can’t wait to pet him.
The initiative has been a big success, according to Cherri. Parents and teachers agree that the program has made their children more comfortable reading aloud, first with Elvis and now with Simon. As of very late, the local public library has been home to the Read Up For Fun (RUFF) program of the Humane Society of Tahoe-Truckee.
Our RUFF program consists of only licensed therapy dogs, except Simon, the mascot for the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. Children’s faces light up when they see a cat and know that this unique animal will be their reading companion.
An incredible volunteer has reached a major milestone.
This year’s kitten season is almost around the corner, and Cherri believes she will soon be welcoming her 100th foster kitten into her home. And she has no intention of stopping. Think of all the kittens she’s saved — from a litter found in a dumpster to those she adopted, like Elvis and Simon —and she’ll feel better. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for her efforts.
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