By Trista Morris
I know many of you are missing your furry friends on campus over at the VEC and are probably wondering how they are doing. As someone who works at the VEC, I’d like to give you a quick update on actions we are taking to support the continued care for our beloved animals at Wilson.
Throughout the stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson has taken many measures to ensure the safety of its students and employees. This has included mostly emptying campus, distancing students by switching to online classes for the remainder of the Spring semester and sending non-essential employees home to quarantine with their families. Employees at the VEC are still allowed to care for the animals as they are considered “essential” under Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order. We do still have employees coming in twice a day to not only care for the animals, but to socialize them and get them outside for walks and fresh air.
This has been an unexpected change for all of us, including the animals at the VEC. The absence of VMT students on campus means less social interaction and less time outside for the animals. However, we have an incredible community at Wilson and many members have volunteered their homes and time to foster the majority of the animals during this time, including dogs, rats, rabbits and hamsters. Where we normally have sixteen dogs, we now have seven, so the number of animals we are caring for is incredibly scaled back. The increase in foster care has helped to relieve the VEC staff which has been reduced due to the limited number of local students and to promote social distancing. This not only alleviates the workload on employees, but it gives the animals an opportunity to live outside the kennels and experience the joys of a family and home, and for me, that is the most wonderful part.
As I am sure is the same for many others, emotionally and mentally this is a stressful time. Working in the VEC and interacting with the animals offers me a really amazing way to alleviate some of the stress surrounding the crisis. The animals are always happy to see me and just want attention and love. It’s comforting and you get a lot back in return. I was also able to get the perspective of some other VEC employees and this is what they have to say:
“It’s definitely an unexpected change but it’s nothing that the employees at the VEC can’t handle. Taking care of the animals at the VEC now is very similar to taking care of them over breaks. The animals at the VEC adapt very well and have been doing great! They get plenty of daily TLC from the employees on a daily basis.” – Alyssa Wood
“I personally enjoy it. While the students are here, it’s our responsibility to supervise and make sure the animals are being taken care of properly, but I enjoy being able to interact with them one-on-one and take each of the dogs for walks after I’m done taking care of them. I love how excited they get when they walk outside. I’m glad Mary Beth was able to find people to care for most of the dogs so they aren’t stuck in kennels all day, and I feel bad for the ones that are left. That is why I try to take them out for walks so they can enjoy some fresh air. I can tell the cats miss human interaction and attention too, so I try to spend some time loving on them before I leave. Overall, I enjoy it, partly because it gets me out of my house!” – Kat Chenaille
Even in this atmosphere of intense anxiety, employees at the VEC are dedicated to caring for the animals. I am grateful to work with such an astounding group of people who exemplify care, compassion and dedication and to be a part of a community committed to helping animals.