LEWISTON — Linus Obenhaus doesn't have to work too hard to capture Flora's good side.
The young cat rubs her chin across the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society's rope toy and purrs. She walks across 12-year-old Linus' lap and purrs. She looks into his video camera ... and purrs.
As cat adoption videos go, this one is gold. Or at least it will be, with a little editing at home and a dash of background music.
"Cats go good to music," Linus said.
And he would know. The Sabattus seventh-grader volunteers at the Lewiston animal shelter, creating videos that — he hopes — entice people to adopt.
"I wanted to help in some way, but I didn't want to, like, come and clean the cages and stuff," he said. "And I really like making videos."
Linus picked up his first video camera when he was a toddler. In elementary school he started shooting adventure movies starring his friends, and he created his own website to showcase his movies, a few video letters to his Uncle Steve and other videos.
Linus became interested in the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society when his younger sister and their mother started volunteering there. He had always liked animals — his family has two cats and two rabbits — and wanted to help.
Shelter staff agreed.
"I think it's just an amazing thing," Operations Manager Zach Black said. "It's different than the everyday things our volunteers do for us: mailings and answering phones and cleaning the animals. It's helping us with more of a social media piece and helping animals find homes."
Although shelter staff members have videotaped animals before, shooting, editing and posting can take more time than they have. And Linus noticed a trend in the videos — they were too sad.
He wanted to shoot videos that captured the animals' spirits and made people want to take them home.
So about a month ago, Linus brought his camcorder to the shelter and set up shop in one of the small rooms used by families to get to know the pet they might adopt. He filmed a half-dozen animals that day, including Posey, a rabbit that had been at the shelter for months, and Scrappy, a dog dressed in a donated holiday costume. The others were cats.
"I'm just not as much of a dog person as I am a cat person," Linus said.
After a little trial and error, he learned what worked and what didn't when it came to getting the best from the cats. Toys? Worked. Treats? Worked. A tripod to steady his camera? Didn't work. (The cats kept knocking it over.)
Last week Linus returned to the shelter to film again. One video was of Flora, the purrer.
But as easy as it was for Linus to capture Flora's sweet personality, that day's shoot wasn't challenge free. Flora's brown and yellow fur was patchy in spots, her skin scabbed and healing from a bad reaction to the fleas she'd had when she came to the shelter — not exactly the model beauty some adopters look for.
And earlier in the morning Linus had to coax frightened Pookie and Blackie, a bonded pair of cats, out from under a bench in order to film them. Pookie eventually came out, but mostly to look for an escape and meow sadly at the door.
For a kid who loves animals, it can be hard filming them and then walking away. Linus knows, though, that he can't adopt them all.
He can just help them get homes.
"I think that the cats are really cute, but I know I could probably never take one home because it would be a lot to have more cats," he said, stroking Pookie's head. "And there are always going to be cats that are cute."
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