This is a long one, friends … grab a cup of whatever makes you comfy and read on. In the following; some real thoughts, cute pics, and some honest emotion in all its messiness.

This past week, several of the leadership volunteers attended the Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) National Conference in Atlantic City, NJ. We sat in many sessions, networked during breaks, chatted with vendors, ate great plant-based food, brainstormed over drinks, barely slept; repeat for 4 days. We don’t miss your recycled air, Atlantic City hotel!

I bet you think I’m going to tell you that we are changing many things about the rescue.

Nah, not really.

Sure, we are going to make some changes … improvements, we hope. But the major gist of what we took home: we are doing most things correctly. Whew. Maybe you thought we already were on the correct path … maybe you thought “psshhh, they aren’t doing enough”. So here goes my most basic summary of the conference – devoid of nitty-gritty details because that would take me months (or more) to convey as eloquently as the conference presenters did.

1. We are on the right path.

Saving animals as best we can, honoring each INDIVIDUAL animal as best we can. To quote one of the conference presenters “It’s about the numbers, but each number has a whisker.”

2. Cats are still under-served compared to dogs all across the country and NJ is no exception.

In 2015 (latest state-wide statistics currently available), the reporting animal shelters saved 90.4% of dogs but only 76.7% of cats entering their shelters.

3. BFAS is still an inspiration.

Reconnecting with one of the founding members, Faith Maloney, was energizing. And I only had her attention for 15 minutes (she’s a busy lady!). The takeaway: if I’m still here after 7 years, I gotta be doing something right. Faith was one of the workshop leaders when I was at the Sanctuary in 2009 .. before Karma Cat + Zen Dog even existed. It’s not an exaggeration to say that KCZD would not exist without the help, influence, and inspiration of BFAS; the “How to Start an Animal Sanctuary” workshop; and Faith Maloney herself. Ask me how I want to be when I grow up? As kind, generous, and true as Faith.

4. But BFAS isn’t what drives us to continue the KCZD mission in NJ.

Obviously the animals drive us … as well as the other organizations and rescuers that we collaborate with. Let me share …

Jersey Shore Animal Foundation & Ocean Co. Shelters – JSAF works closely with the North and South Ocean County Shelters to get animals transferred to rescues. JSAF volunteers have helped us to pull 29 cats in the past 18 months – all of which have been adopted!

Gus, Raven, BobbyB, FrankieL, Azeri, BIlly900, Dinah, Duncan II, Derby

Gus, Raven, BobbyB, FrankieL, Azeri, BIlly900, Dinah, Duncan II, Derby

Leesa, Jason, Bentley, Aston, Noodle, Casey, Zara, Ralphie, Oreo

Leesa, Jason, Bentley, Aston, Noodle, Casey, Zara, Ralphie, Oreo

Jaguar, Joan Cusack, John Cusack, Betty, Al

Jaguar, Joan Cusack, John Cusack, Betty, Al

Tammy, Tucker, Avenger, Charger, Ciera, Lancer

Tammy, Tucker, Avenger, Charger, Ciera, Lancer

 

We recently collaborated with JSAF to take in 7 cats that were part of a hoarding case:

BamBam, Pebbles, Ozzy, Kelly-O, Dozer, Peanut and Buttah.

All of these wonderful cats are still waiting to be adopted! Submit an adoption application here!

 


Holisticat Rescue and Rehabilitation – dedicated to saving cats with a a focus on the medically-needy (thank goodness they are vet techs!) This past year, we were able to help them out by transferring a few of their cats into our program:

Porter & Pilsner and Pandora & Sienna

We are super happy to report that all of them have been adopted.


Old Bridge Animal Shelter (OBAS) – a small shelter with a dedicated ACO that works hard to get animals out the front door. This past year, we were able to take 9 cats from them.

Haleakala, Denail, Katmai, Comet, Indigo, Sequioa, Joshua, Biscayne

You can read Haleakala’s story as told by her foster mom here.

Everyone has been adopted except for our most recent OBAS intake, Lucky (who happens to be cat #1000 for KCZD!)


 

Monmouth County SPCA – one of the nicest animal shelters in NJ! In the early days of KCZD, MCSPCA helped us to refine our protocols related to transferring animals from municipal shelters.

We’ve transferred many from their facility over the years.


Last year, we partnered with The Lucky Cat (TLC) Rescue. to save the lives of four cats that were part of a horrendous hoarding situation:

Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn.

You can read more about that situation here and Billie Holiday’s story as told by her foster/adopter here. We are very happy to report that all four of these girls have been adopted and are living wonderful lives.


 

New Beginnings Animal Rescue – another rescue that believes in collaboration. From sharing resources, joint fundraisers (who can forget the shoe drive!), to saving momma cats & their babies.

Momma Serenity has been adopted, but all three of her babies (River, Simon & Capt. Mal) are still looking for homes to join!


The effort to trap-neuter-return (TNR) feral cats can be huge, but through some shared projects we can all get more done. Thanks to North Brunswick Humane Association (NBHA), Sammy’s Hope, Scarlet Paws, CAPIC Cats, and Trenton Cats Rescue for their collaboration efforts!


“It’s about the numbers, but each number has a whisker.”

And with those whiskers comes some profound responsibility. We are always questioning … “are we doing this right?” … “are we serving these animals as best we can?” … “are we serving our adopters, donors, volunteers, general public in need as best we can?”

Let me tell you, this shit weighs on you. I go to bed wondering about all these things.

I think about the ones we lost …

Adele, Alice, Alvin, Amaretto, Angel, Angelo James, Aubrey, Belle, Brian, Buster, Buttons, Floki, Flora, Freddie Boom Boom, Gemma, Genevieve, Ironman, JackB, Jake, Jasper, Jenny, Kelly-C, Little K, Megan, Petey, Ross, Rudy, Sanford, Wiley, Zaria, Zelda

and the ones we couldn’t save – those that died in the shelters because we just couldn’t get that safety net to them fast enough.

But we can’t dwell too long on the ones we’ve lost and the ones we didn’t get to save. We have to find strength to carry on. For me, I’ve always found comfort in music. And this week, part of my own personal comfort lost his own battle. This soulful artist that, unbeknownst to him, propped me up when I needed propping: Chester Bennington – lead singer of Linkin Park. A singer that could go from a raging scream to the softest melody. A dude born the same year as me and though we undoubtedly had different personal experiences, we had an unspoken kinship rooted in how we’ve seen our world change since 1976.

I am no artist. In fact, I’m an engineer who prefers numbers on a spreadsheet. But, in my heart of hearts I know that we all need artists. They speak/sing/write/paint/sculpt our inner most thoughts/desires/fears/hopes … and through them we can find the voice or lift or inspiration we need to keep going. To keep fighting.

Animal rescue workers are some of the most at-risk persons to suffer depression, detachment, and other mental struggles. We aren’t here for the money and our hearts are always bigger than pretty much anything else (homes, families, wallets).

And so I bring this long ramble back around to collaboration.

Other rescues … shelters … independent rescuers … volunteers … donors …. supporters. We, the fierce animal lovers of this world, need to stick together. We need to prop each other up when we are feeling defeated. My strength may be your weakness – let me help you. And, in turn, your strength may be my weakness – offer me your help. We may not take the helping hand right away, but the knowledge that we are there for each other WILL keep us going.

Here are the lyrics from one of my favorite, and appropriate, Linkin Park songs, “The Messenger”:

When you feel you’re alone
Cut off from this cruel world
Your instinct’s telling you to run

 

Listen to your heart
Those angel voices
They’ll sing to you
They’ll be your guide
Back home

 

When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
It keeps us kind

 

When you’ve suffered enough
And your spirit is breaking
You’re growing desperate from the fight

 

Remember you’re loved
And you always will be
This melody will bring you right
Back home

 

When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind

We are all leaders when we speak up for the innocent. And I’m here to remind you to speak louder – don’t let others silence your voice. You are not alone. We are in this together.

 

 

Executive Director

P.S. We hope to bring you some exciting news soon for KCZD … but, being the superstitious lot that we are, you’ll have to wait until the ink is dry. Thank you to all our volunteers, adopters, donors, supporters – you keep us true and motivated.

 

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