Sanctuary has surprise volunteer

Lorraine Marie
Special to the S-E

Working on a scholarship

From the Virgin Islands, with a New York City stop-over, then on to the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary (CVAS). No, an exotic pet did not land at the Sanctuary. Rather, Jo Smith took time out from her fly-in consulting job in Colville to offer herself as a volunteer for animals.

She did not expect to become instant friends with Sanctuary Manager Nancy Rose. And she may have been just as surprised when she came up with a plan to create a scholarship for a CVAS volunteer.

Born and raised in the Virgin Islands, Smith always loved animals. Enough so that she seriously contemplated becoming a veterinarian someday.

Another career

“But I had a hard time with dealing with animals when they pass,” she confesses.

After that, she read somewhere that veterinarians have a too-high suicide rate, so she decided to seek a different career. She recently landed the job of her dreams, with Deliotte, a tax consulting advisory firm based in New York City.

She’s thrilled to be able to do lots of traveling, but there is one drawback: Smith has to leave her two adopted rescue dogs behind. But they are in good hands; she encouraged her uncle to come live with her in their apartment, and he fills in as a pet parent when Smith is away.

On the road, Smith is not content to just stay in a hotel room. To truly experience a community, she likes to find a way to volunteer, one of her passions.

As Miss U.S. United 2016, a beauty pageant that emphasizes the importance of community service, Smith wanted to find something meaningful she could do while in Colville.

Since she was only in town a few days, there was no time to pass the background check required for many volunteers. A sudden inspiration prompted her to stop at Colville Animal Hospital, where they suggested she contact CVAS.

Even though it was standard 5 p.m. closing time, Rose called her back quickly. In no time Smith was helping out with 160 cats (there was recently a big surge in the kitty population due to trapping a very overpopulated feral colony).


“I was so impressed,” Smith confides. “The cats had really nice quarters, even couches. They were really, really happy just to have me in with them, doing cleaning chores. It was so rewarding!”

After learning that the shelter was getting by on a shoestring, with an all-volunteer crew of, typically, eight people, Smith could not contain her urge to help even more. She proposed sponsoring a scholarship for a college-bound person who is a regular volunteer at the Sanctuary. She and Rose are exploring the idea and working out the details.

Next stop on Smith’s work itinerary was Idaho Falls. She misses her “kids” at home, but before she left the Sanctuary, Fonz, a 30-pound orange feline being treated for obesity, snuggled into Smith’s arms. And then, unexpectedly, he gave her the ultimate kitty compliment: a kitty kiss.

Article as seen in the Statesman-Examiner.