The purrs of appreciation begin almost immediately from kittens “Mindy” and “Oreo” when fingers reach inside the cage housing them. “Rosie” is among the adult cats in a separate room that size up visitors before rubbing up against their legs or offering “head-bumps” of love and acceptance. In another area, dogs like “Blue” wait with wide doggy eyes in anticipation of when they find their forever home.

Until that day arrives, the volunteers at Animal Welfare Friends (AWF), 22407 Business Highway 151 in Monticello, provide these area potential pets with all the creature comforts, as well as the equally essential scratches between the ears and belly rubs. As its website states, “Because every pet deserves a peaceful, safe and healthy life.”

Cindy Bagge, a member of the AWF board, said the shelter continues to grow and expand, and that a key to its expansion is dispelling the idea that it is strictly a Monticello shelter.

“Many of its activities are in Monticello, and it serves Jones County as far as picking up strays,” she explained. “We want to make sure that Cascade residents know about it.” Bagge said that people adopting from the no-kill shelter come from a 250-mile radius and from out-of-state, as well.

Partnerships with several area veterinarians help keep all the animals’ veterinary work up-to-date, and AWF has also taken in animals that have reached the end of their stays in other facilities.

While putting a roof over the head and food in the bowl for an animal may be enough to keep it alive, AWF volunteers provide the shelter’s hopefully temporary residents with the little extras that help them thrive. “It’s not just a place where a dog spends its life in a kennel and hopes to get a home,” said Bagge. “The animals are truly loved. They’re walked, they’re hugged and there’s interaction with these pets. I think that’s what separates us from other types of facilities.”

Volunteers come in to pet the cats or walk the dogs, helping the animals learn how to be social and to interact with humans. The volunteers can take the dogs out and run them or toss a ball with them on an expansive outdoor dog run. “People who can’t have pets can spend time with them at the shelter,” Bagge said.

Eager volunteers can fill out a volunteer application on the AWF website, at animalwelfarefriends.org, where individuals can also find useful information on the pet adoption process. There are also listings of the group’s events and a history of how it all started.

The “serving Jones County” that appears on the front door of the shelter is just an indicator that AWF will be notified when anyone calls Jones County with a report of a stray. People who have picked up stray animals may also call the shelter and drop the animal off, provided there is room. Bagge said that the shelter is full at times.

“We are a volunteer organization with one part-time employee,” she emphasized. “There are a lot of people doing a lot of really good things, and we try to be as responsive as we can.”

Animal Welfare Friends is open Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 6:30 p.m., but is closed Sundays and Mondays. They can be contacted by calling (319) b975-8283, or by emailing wesavepets@netins.net.