Cellist among volunteers who give royal treatment to shelter pets

Image 1 of 7

Life in a cage can take a toll, but at the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood, finding ways for the animals to relax and decompress is a priority. 

"Homeless animals in an animal shelter are under a lot of stress," said Phil Snyder, director of the Suncoast Humane Society, who has pushed for the development of so-called 'enrichment programs.'

What started off as dog walking and cat cuddling has expanded into unexpected territory. Volunteers are now sharing their unique talents and skills by creating special activities to help the animals feel valued and loved.

"This is my way to be able to spend time with them," said Natalie Helm, a cellist for the Sarasota Orchestra.

Surrounded by dogs and other volunteers, Helm plays captivating classical music. The effects become noticeable within minutes, as the furry audience begins to settle down.

"I would love if people in the concert hall would fall asleep as I was playing to them, but I think dogs are just like, 'Wow, this is relaxing,' and they're actually able to do that," said Helm.

Other volunteers, like Mrs. Kay, host 'story time' and read picture books - most of which have an animal theme - to the dogs as they rest in their cages. Over at the feline quarters, Cindy Baker focuses on inner healing. She uses essential oils and hand movements to help the animals that are struggling to release negative energy.

"Their emotional health is just as important as their medical health," said Snyder.

Through these enrichment programs, Snyder hopes the animals remain connected to humans and stay motivated as they wait for a forever home.