Volunteer Profile: Christine King
by Lee Chambers
When Christine King was a child, she wasn’t an animal fan. “My brother had a guinea pig. We had a bird. But my grandmother had the cat from hell,” she recalls. “I was terrified of that cat when I was growing up.”
Fast forward to a few years ago. Adult Christine had a friend who was moving and couldn’t take his cat, Freddy. Christine knew the big orange tabby and was comfortable adopting him. Since then he has been joined by Squirt, born on her porch to a feral mom, and Blinky, a one-eyed cat for whom she was caring at Dakin on Thanksgiving Eve and didn’t have the heart to leave her at the shelter. Yes, Christine’s conversion to cat lover is now complete, with her volunteering her skills and love in the cat care arena, cleaning, changing litter, providing food and water, and of course playing with and socializing Dakin’s constant flow of felines. “I always fall in love with at least one,” she says, adding that she spends extra time with the elderly cats, or those who will not survive. “I just want them to know in their final days, they are loved,” she says.
Christine’s love for animals spills over to her “day job” teaching sixth grade in Williams Middle School in Longmeadow. Her students are well aware of her work at Dakin and have even held collections for cat food and items. In fact, she first learned about Dakin from the parent of one of her students, and estimates she’s been volunteering for about six years.
When this Southampton resident isn’t teaching or volunteering at Dakin, she is a daily runner, avid yoga practitioner and serious hiker, who has scaled such daunting heights as Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and Maine’s Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. She and friends can be found hiking the Pioneer Valley’s Seven Sisters range most weekends. Although she loves teaching, she finds these physical activities an ideal way to shed the stress and pressure of the classroom. “I enjoy challenges and find it relaxing,” she says. “No small hills for me!”
“Christine is amazing and has trained many of our cat volunteers,” says Jen Good-Schiff, Dakin’s manager of volunteer services. “She’s an exceptional volunteer.”
In addition to her closing shift in the cat areas on Tuesday evenings, Christine is considering adding a weekend shift to her calendar since “they need someone. It just feels good to know you are helping these animals who can’t help themselves.”
Thanks to Marianne Gambaro for contributing this story. Marianne is a published poet and manages her husband Jim's fine art photography business. Learn more about her at margampoetry.wordpress.com