Project of the Week: SVC Tiger TAILS
The pre-medical community at Princeton is a thriving one. A large percentage of students during their time as an undergrad describe themselves as “pre-med,” and intend to pursue a medical degree after Princeton. Still others are interested in medicine in a different light, through programs like the Global Health and Health Policy certificate, or classes such as Medical Anthropology. And although there are many clubs and organizations that deal with human health and its implications, it can be hard for students interested in four-legged health to find an outlet for their passion. That is, until Colleen Knight ‘14 had a fateful conversation with a community member at Communiversity 2011.
“Last year at Communiversity, I met someone who works at SAVE, an animal shelter about three miles from campus. Our conversation led to the woman saying how nice it would be to have a group of students from Princeton come there to volunteer,” Colleen recounts.
Communiversity, where over 40,000 people gather annually for Princeton’s premier town-gown event, seems the perfect place for such a conversation to happen. Key components fell into place quickly.
“I was put into contact with the assistant manager of the shelter, and she told me to let her know once I had a group of students together,” Collen says. Thus began TAILS, or Tending to Animals in Local Shelters, an important and unique volunteer opportunity for students interested in veterinary medicine, or who simply love animals.
The basic idea of the project was to connect interested student volunteers with the shelter SAVE, which required more volunteer help. Colleen worked diligently to build up her volunteer base for her new endeavor, advertising on all college email list-serves for interested students. She also made use of resources at the Pace Center tailored specifically to help develop and establish new student volunteer projects like TAILS. After putting together her initial group of students to attend an orientation session required for all volunteers, Colleen realized she had a small problem. To get to the shelter, the group had biked a hard 3 miles, which left them with barely enough energy to complete their orientation, let alone return travel. So, Colleen got in touch with Dave Brown, the director of the Student Volunteer Council.
“I contacted Dave, the director of the SVC, about actually establishing TAILS as an SVC weekly project. Dave and SVC Board met with me and we got the group officially established, and I held an interest meeting and we took another group of students to an orientation at the shelter, this time in an automobile.”
Despite its recent beginnings, TAILS is prospering.
“We now have 20 people that can volunteer, and we have taken a few trips to the shelter, and can’t wait to expand next year,” Colleen relates, excited. She anticipates participation to increase, as the work they do is very fulfilling for participants, as well as useful and necessary to SAVE, the shelter with which TAILS partners.
Colleen remembers one time in particular that underscored the reason for her work.
“I was sitting on the floor working on some homework, when a black cat named Greg decided to investigate my totebag, which was leaning up against the wall behind me. I quietly tried to get him away from it without disturbing the manager’s talk, but when I picked him up, he let out a high pitched “meow,” so the whole room noticed. I was finally able to lure him away from my bag by petting his head, and he just walked around me and crawled into my lap. He rolled over while I scratched his head and rubbed his belly, and he stayed there for almost a half hour! He was such a sweet cat, and when we went back a few weeks later, he was still there to visit with us all.” Working with TAILS, Colleen says, is important because it allows her to gain experience for veterinary school. But more importantly, she says, “it is a great escape from the stress of school. There is no better way to spend a Saturday than walking a dog or playing with a cat and forgetting about all the homework waiting back on campus. Some of the animals have been there a long time and don’t get the individual attention they need (and really want), and being able to provide that for them is very rewarding.”
TAILS travels to SAVE every Saturday morning to perform several tasks around the shelter, including walking dogs, socializing cats, doing laundry, and other tasks. TAILS is also hoping to extend the project to help SAVE in other ways, such as volunteering at adoption events, organizing fundraisers, and raising community awareness of homeless animals.