Posted: 08/07/2015 4:00 AM
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Salinas and Staff Sgt. Jeffery Smith, both allergic to cats, found themselves surrounded Thursday morning by more than 125 potential feline foes.
But when one rubbed up against them or meowed at them at the Animal Refuge Center Inc. near Vine Grove, they reacted with smiles, not shudders.
“My eyes will probably poof up and I might get a rash later, but it will be worth it,” Salinas said.
The two were among eight Army Reserve soldiers, temporarily in Kentucky to support cadet training at Fort Knox, who decided to spend their free time volunteering at the shelter.
“I’ll have to take some Claritin or something after this,” Smith said, adding he would soldier on through any reactions to continue helping the instigators of his future misery.
“I used to be a drill sergeant at Fort Knox back when the Armor School was here,” he said. “So, it’s nice to give back to a community that took care of us.”
The no-kill and cageless shelter cares for more than 150 animals, including two pigs, two geese, four goats, 125 or more cats and several dogs.
Generally, it only has about three sets of hands caring for them on any given day.
“We can always use volunteers,” said Penny Edwards, president and shelter manager at the refuge, “because we have so much ground to cover.”
During the visit, the soldiers broke down an old shelf and assembled its replacement, walked dogs, helped clean, went on a pet food run and “were a huge help,” Edwards said.
Smith and Salinas have adopted dogs from shelters and said they know the challenges faced by humans and animals alike inside one.
Capt. Cheryl Abbate, whose smile grew after each meow, said the entire group planned to help at a shelter and settled on the refuge after a short search.
“Animals — dogs especially — are doing great things for the military and are an integral part of maintaining soldier welfare,” Abbate said.
The Army uses dogs for detection and policing, alongside soldiers in war and as therapy for some soldiers when they return, among other work.
She said it was nice to help the community and animals, which are often “vulnerable and overlooked.”
“And besides, who doesn’t want to come play with kitties?’’ Salinas said.
Judah Taylor can be reached at or firstname.lastname@example.org.