“She brings the girls and the cat to me—I was the vice principal,” Jerry Meyer says. “I say, ‘I am going to take the cat, she’ll stay in my office. I am going to call Mom and see what she wants to do.’”
Moments prior, twin girls who attended Meyer’s school, Minne Lusa Elementary, found a gray, long-haired tabby cat near the bus stop. The students tried their best to hide the cat in their coat on the way into the school, Meyer says, but one of the other faculty members noticed the cat and sent the girls and their new friend to the vice principal’s office.
Unfortunately, the family could not take in the cat, so Meyer decided to give her to the Nebraska Humane Society, where his colleague Nicki Nixon volunteered. Meyer says that NHS was Nixon’s love. She spent almost as much time at NHS as she did teaching.
Meyer says he deliberated his decision for a while, but he eventually adopted the cat. He named her Mrs. Slocombe after the Easter egg-haired, cat-loving saleswoman on “Are You Being Served?” one of his favorite British television shows. Meyer and Mrs. Slocombe would be close companions for the next 17 years.
After 31 years as an educator for Omaha Public Schools, Meyer wanted to spend his free time giving back to the community. He thought about volunteering at The Durham Museum or Fontenelle Forest, but then he remembered Nixon’s love for NHS and decided to apply to be a volunteer. The decision was poignant because Nixon had passed away shortly after Mrs. Slocombe.
Meyer has volunteered at NHS for about nine years and is close to accumulating 1,800 hours helping animals, specifically cats.
Meyer volunteers for roughly eight hours a week, and says he works with four or five other volunteers. They are responsible for feeding the cats, changing the litter in their boxes, and cleaning their kennels.
“Some of the cats we have had close to one year, so we go out of our way to give them extra grooming, playtime, and treats,” Meyer says. “We can take them into a small, enclosed room and hang out with them. Those are the things that I enjoy about volunteering.”
Meyer says the Nebraska Humane Society was the perfect fit for him, because it allowed him to combine the nurturing aspects of being a teacher with his love of animals.
“I think it is the nurturing and caring,” Meyer says. “When you are a teacher those [students] become your kids and you care about what happens to them—the same thing with the animals. You’re really happy when they get adopted.”
Volunteering at NHS isn’t without its challenges. Meyer says it can be difficult to see cats come in that have experienced abuse. Whether it is a kitten with a missing eye or a cat whose owner has passed away, each one has its own story.
Meyer says one of his favorite memories is when he was working with a cat who wouldn’t eat. He made it his “personal mission to get the cat to eat.” Meyer started hand-feeding him chicken, and for a while he was the only one who could get the cat to eat. When Meyer can do something like that for an animal, it helps them, and it makes him feel good.
“I am happy,” Meyer states. “This is doing something that I couldn’t make a living off of. I think most people who volunteer would understand that it really is, [as with] me, a sense of purpose. I feel like I am making a difference.”
Visit nehumanesociety.org for more information.
This article was printed in the 60+ section of the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.