Caring Heart, Caring Hands

By Judy Layne

It’s been said that volunteers are ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. They offer the gift of their time and talents to teach, to listen, to help, to inspire, to comfort, to build. They expect no pay but the value of their work is priceless.

Mary MacIsaac has always had a caring heart. She spent her career as a Registered Nurse, caring for people. In 2018, she left nursing and found she missed the caregiving role that was a large part of her identity. Mary shared “I was going through a personally difficult time in my life and felt I needed to do something that would allow me to get outside of myself and do some good along the way. I’ve always loved animals so volunteering with the Nova Scotia SPCA was a natural choice for me.”

Mary began her volunteer journey with the SPCA by serving in various capacities at the Colchester shelter.  Working alongside staff, she fulfills a weekly shift that focuses on animal care. Mary related “On my day at the shelter, I do loads of laundry and tons of dishes. I’ve learned the hard way to wear old clothes since a lot of bleach is required to keep the animals and their environment clean and healthy. I come home smelling like bleach every Thursday,” she laughed.

Volunteering is personally rewarding. Mary remarked “I enjoy being at the shelter. The folks that work there are so dedicated; they go above and beyond for the animals every day. They are always willing to share their knowledge with me so I can learn and provide the best care I can. I can’t say enough good things about them and they are lots of fun.”

Mary’s shelter experience led her to become a foster fur-mama. Since 2018, Mary has fostered a remarkable 50+ cats and kittens! “On stormy nights, I feel good that my foster fur-babies are safe and cozy with me, as opposed to being strays outside,” shared Mary. “And although it’s hard to say good-bye to my fosters, I am happy to play a role in helping them learn to trust humans and in giving them a good start in life. I know they’ll be adopted into wonderful homes. I also know that there will be another kitten waiting in the wings that will need me.”

Among Mary’s fosters were two senior kitties – Robbie and Gizmo – with health issues. “These two boys definitely needed me most. Little did I know that they would become ‘foster fails’ and turn into permanent members of my family!” chuckled Mary. Several of Mary’s fosters were adopted by close friends. She explained “Folks met them when visiting and fell in love immediately. It’s wonderful to receive a steady stream of updates and photos showing the kitties thriving. They are clearly living their best cat lives.”

Every foster cat has their own special story. Mary related “Captain and Feather were part of a large litter that were in ill health, requiring daily meds and syringe feeding. They were the slowest to recover and were with me for 5 months. I receive regular updates and pics from the wonderful family who adopted them – together! Feather is now a beautiful young lady and Captain went from a frail sickly kitten to a grey lion who looks like Simba in The Lion King. And my most recent foster kitten just left for her forever home in Ottawa by 18-wheeler!”

Mary sums it up perfectly. “People tell me all the time that they couldn’t do what I do, but we are all stronger than we think we are. Any tears and sadness are more than offset by the joy, fun and satisfaction of helping babies get off to their best start and giving other animals a safe happy place to live while waiting for their fur-ever homes. I’ve met some great people and animals through my SPCA journey and am sure to meet more.”


With thousands of abused, neglected, injured, homeless animals to care for annually, there is much work to be done and never enough hands. Please consider becoming a volunteer and make a difference in these animals’ lives. There’s a wide range of opportunities to engage and inspire you.  Check them out here.



Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.