Twenty six years ago today, I made the move to adopt my first pet. I wanted a puppy. From a shelter. My mom happened to call a local shelter after she learned I planned to drive more than an hour to one of the more popular places. Well, at the local shelter, she learned about a shih-tzu who had been there for one day short of two months. The dog was five years old.
I reminded her that I wanted a puppy, not a five year old. Thing is, when the shelter told her this dog had already been in their care for one day short of two months, they also told her dogs who are not adopted by the two-month period are put down. Healthy, young, happy or otherwise. This was not a no-kill shelter.
The five year old shih-tzu had only hours left to live unless someone got over there and signed her out.
My mom, my sister, my grandmother and I piled into the car and hightailed it over. High-tailed was the shih-tzu the moment she saw us. It was as if she knew we were there to rescue her from imminent death.
The shelter didn’t know anything about her except her age and that she seemed like a purebred shih-tzu. They said she was found wandering the streets and, from her appearance, had been out and about for at least several weeks. This was March 20th. That means this little one had suffered the worst winter weather with few chances to find food or even water instead of ice. But she survived and happily came home with me where I immediately gave her a bath and a haircut.
She must have been treated well with her family, with baths and other pampering, because she lifted her chin, turned this way and that, closed her eyes and seemed to bask in her day at the spa.
Her name was Tiffy. She became my constant companion, my sounding board, my cuddle queen, my full heart.
I knew nothing about dogs before her because I’d never been able to have a pet – allergies, partly. House rules, mostly.
But Tiffy taught me what I needed to know. She was patient and understanding. Never seeming to forget what nearly happened to her and never – ever – letting me forget that she was not only grateful but more than worth the effort.
Tiffy lived to the ripe old dog age of 117, which is only 16 human years. I had her for 11 of those years and my life was enriched because of that time with her. Because of her. I’ll never forget that precious beauty. I’ll never forget her prima donna stubbornness nor her unconditional adoration. I’ll never forget how she waited to have her hat and coat put on before we went for a walk, nor how she’d run and bark at dangers in her sleep. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with love when I carried her out of that shelter, nor how she looked at me with bittersweet thanks, years later, when I helped put an end to the suffering of her cancer-riddled body.
I’ve rescued other animals since then. I’ve adopted, fostered and adopted out kittens and cats. I have six cats now in my house, and I love each of them more than I can ever express. But there will never be another to fill my heart and soul like Tiffy.
Tell me about your first pet. Who was he or she? What do you remember most, what made you smile, what melted your heart?
I’ve taken the advice I received and decided to post when the timing works. And so, here I am. 🙂
I’ve been researching fundraising ideas for the shelter. A small group of the volunteers met a few weeks back, and discussed ways we thought we could improve conditions and chances for adoption at the shelter. We formed a Cleanup Day and decided to carry it out quarterly.
Our first cleanup day was about two weeks ago. It was a lot of work – 12 solid hours the first day and another 8 the next. We’re not finished but we did a bang-up job, if I may say so myself, and the cats were quite intrigued.
We thought they’d be afraid. After all, we certainly upset their normal, peaceful routine. We moved everything, scrubbed and powerwashed their cages, the floor, their toys and climbers. They weren’t fazed in the least. Instead, they watched intently. Eyeballing everything that went on, each clearly hoping to be the first to check out what we did when the opportunity arose.
The place smells better, looks better and, hopefully, by the time we’re finished with this first-in-a-long-time cleaning, we’ll be able to make potential adoptive families eager to adopt and to bring friends by to do the same.
So beyond the cleaning, we decided to work out ideas for fundraising and adoptions. We’ve yet to come up with a new and exciting adoption event idea, but we have a potentially profitable fundraising idea – magazines. Yup. Simple, plain ole magazines. A person renews their subscription or orders a new one and the shelter receives 40% of the sale. Sounds like a win-win plan to me! 🙂
As for adoption events – or even other fundraising ideas – I’m open to suggestion. And to make it interesting, I’ll make it into a contest. Whoever comes up with the best and most usable adoption event idea, or fundraising campaign idea will get to pick a magazine of their choice from the above campaign and it will be my gift – to the winner and to the shelter. Another win-win. Now THAT’s what I call a successful campaign. 🙂
There’s one thing I can count on at the shelter and that is the warm furry greetings I get at the door.
Walking in there and seeing all those bright eyes and whiskered faces makes me smile somewhere deep inside. Every day, a precious bunch of cats line up by the door, each vying for the highest perch. And they wait their turn to be greeted by name, with a loving scruff between the ears, a scratch on their back just before their tail, or for some, no touches, just brief eye-to-eye contact. In return, I’m serenaded with a perfectly tuned chorus of purrs. I’m butted by adoring little heads, forced to stand still as furry bodies wind themselves around my legs and my most favorite greeting of all, given wet little whiskered kisses on my cheek.
It’s the whiskered kisses of one I’m going to miss. The whiskered kiss I always saved for last because it was the most adoring, the most innocent and unassuming of all.
Frannie, I’m stunned and saddened. For a small boy, you certainly filled the space… and my heart. I won’t be the only one to miss you, and I’m not the only one confused by your passing. Never a day went by without a contented spring in your step – especially when you set off to spit out your pill somewhere “private”, or a laugh at the way you grumbled while scratching your ears – as if you hated having to scratch them yourself.
You’ll be missed by human and feline alike and you will always, always be loved.
It’s tough enough to find homes for the cats we already have at the shelter but when kitten season comes around, we’re inundated with more of these babies. We do what we can to socialize the new ones as they come in so they’re ready to interact with other cats and with people. It’s good for us as animal lovers to bring a skittish kitten around but it’s even better for them because a happy cat is usually a cat who will be adopted.
Thing is, as a shelter, we can’t always control how the cats come to us. Some are from various neighborhoods and we’re called in to help trap, neuter and release. Sometimes, the ones we trap and neuter are so friendly or docile we simply can’t release them again and try to find adoptive parents for them. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve rescued a cat off the street and have found it a safe and loving home.
What’s not such a great feeling is finding animals dumped at our door.
Sure, people mean well. They think the cats they dump will be better off with us – and maybe they will. But it costs money to house and care for these cats. If someone wants to rescue a cat and decides to leave it with us, I wish they’d mail us a donation check, too. Instead, we’re left with the tab. As a shelter that gets it funds solely from donations, paying surprise bills like this is not the easiest thing to do.
Take this past Monday night… I’m driving to the shelter and I get a call from my co-volunteer. She’s scared. There’s a cardboard box precariously placed mid-way down the stairs to the shelter. It’s wrapped and wrapped with black electrical tape and the only ‘air holes’ are handle cutouts in the cardboard. There’s no sound from the box and no movement. There’s no indication of how long that box has been there. Hours, perhaps, in 78 degree weather? Imagine being alone and sealed in a box for hours.
I get there moments later, tear the tape from the box and peer inside. Two wide and frightened eyes stared up at me from way in the corner behind a small mound of ‘bedding’ (towels). It’s a kitten. A tiny calico, silent as can be.
That tiny seven-week-old calico, who we’ve named Lady and I call Lady Di, cost us an easy $100.00 right out of the box. Literally. She needed a flea bath, flea treatments, a fecal to test for worms, blood work to test for fatal and contagious diseases, and an overall exam. We want our kitties healthy. Now we have to house and feed her until she’s adopted and if that doesn’t happen before she’s 6 months old, we’re dolling out dough to pay for her to be spayed.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s what a shelter is for. But please, if you think a cat will be better off at a shelter and decide to leave that animal at the shelter door, be sure the animal is safe AND include a note stating your intention to send a donation… and then follow through.
Meanwhile, Lady Di is at my house being socialized. She’s still scared and hiding and my cats are not giving her an easy time of it, either. She’ll learn to hold her own and she’ll learn to play and trust. My job is to teach her while keeping her safe, fed, clean and secure.
I just hope I’m able to give her up when our ‘training’ period is over. She’s a precious little thing and easily wormed her way into our hearts. Take a look at her and tell me if she doesn’t do the same for you.
Well… I’m not exactly “hunting” as I’ve been typing since Mrs. Peters’ class in 7th grade. However, I am “pecking”.
I spent the weekend working on my deck. Yes, hubby powerwashed it all by his lonesome, but it still needed to be water-proofed and stained. We made it a family affair… and I have the sore and tingly wrists to prove it.
Actually, it’s one wrist – the right. Considering I’m a lefty, a weak right wrist shouldn’t matter. Ha! It’s amazing how much more I use my right hand than my left – mainly for anything that needs strength. While the left is more for control. And so, I used the right to lift and push furniture off the deck, to stir the stain and to stain the flower beds and edging with a brush. The repetitive motion and the strain did me in. My wrist is now wrapped in an Ace bandage and I’m babying it as much as I can – which makes typing take forever. Not that it matters because it’ll still ‘talk’ here. 🙂
The deck came out beautifully, in my opinion. The color is so rich – not weathered like it had been for so long. Too long. I’m so happy with it.
Oh! And check out what I found on the seat of a folding chair outside Daughter’s window…
Nope. Not cat-prints. Try… RACCOON PRINTS!!
After putting the deck back in order yesterday, Daughter and I went to the shelter. So from there, I must announce… KITTENS!
They’re precious, of course, but we still have to find homes for them. While there last night, I took some pictures of our newest additions – and some of the older kittens too.
As one of our volunteers said to me the other day, “We have to find homes for them soon because, like it or not, kittens do have a shelf life.” And it’s so true. People want the tiny ones because they look so cute and cuddly. What they don’t realize is that, once you get to know them, the older cats are just as cute and even more in need of cuddling.
I volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s rewarding work but often sad as well.
We’re a no-kill cat shelter. On the surface, that sounds wonderful, and it is. We don’t kill cats that have been there “too long” in order to make room for new cats. However, what that means is we become filled to capacity quickly – and often. If our older cats are not adopted, and sadly, most people choose kittens over adult cats, then they remain with us until they live out their natural lives, never to have a loving family of their own. That severely limits our ability to rescue new cats or kittens and get them into loving homes.
This is kitten season. Kittens arrive at the shelter en masse now and while MOST of them will find homes, the young mothers of these kittens will be returned from whence they came. Yes, they’ve been spayed, so they will not repopulate the area, but they’re out there on their own again, having to fend for themselves. Why? Because we haven’t the room to house them.
The most humane way to treat the cat overpopulation problem is with a relatively simple thing called “TNR”, or trap-neuter-return. Strays are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, allowed to heal, then returned to their community. Sadly, some of the trapped cats were once family pets but have since been abandoned for various reasons – some of which you cannot imagine. They’re friendly and innocent and have only survived the ‘wild’ because of luck. They need homes. They need to feel and be safe again. Unless the cat population is controlled by the practice of TNR, too many of these sweet things will continue to reproduce and add yet more strain on an already strained system – where too many shelters filled to capacity will destroy the animals they hold or be so overwhelmed they’ll unwittingly lose sight of the reason they’re volunteering there in the first place. To rescue animals and to find them safe and loving homes where they can give (and receive) affection only those privy to a cat’s world will ever fully appreciate.
Trap-neuter-return. A solution to so many problems.
And on a personal note – Bonita, you sweet beautiful thing, you will be missed by all of us, human and feline alike.
What an excellent week last week was for our shelter cats! We had three new adoptions! 😀 The best part is that of the three adoptions, two were of adult cats. ::sigh:: That makes me teary. Is so rare for the older cats to find homes. Like babies in an orphanage, kittens are more likely to be adopted and older cats are likely to spend their lives without a loving home.
This week, however, one very vocal adult male was adopted. He’d been adopted two years ago, but the adoptive parents felt he was too noisy and they brought him back. He was with us again for about four months, and I was worried he’d never have another chance. Well! A couple came in during the week, fell in love with him and his voice and took him home. I’m tearing up now… but from happiness for him.
The kitten was a tiny one. Only about two months old. He’ll be happy in his new home and has not yet developed the bad habits that sometimes get these little ones returned to us… like talking too much.
And finally, the greatest news is that Charlie has been adopted, too. Well… fostered. It’s a trial arrangement. If he and the foster parents are compatible, they’ll make it permanent. Charlie is a lover. Handsome, charming, and just a tad distant. On his terms, you can pet and cuddle him. On his terms, you’ll be sorry for doing so. Think, Mr. Darcy.
In case you’re wondering… Yes. The Charlie I’m speaking of is the same Charlie in the photo from my Whiskers on Kittens post. Isn’t he handsome?