Rescue can be difficult. There are days when we feel like we can never do enough. Days that make us cry for the animals we can’t save.
Last Thursday was one of those days. I went to a local shelter to “pull” a few cats. We had space in our adoption center and foster homes for a few more. This is what rescue groups often do – they take animals from municipal shelters. Why? Because our shelters are still broken/dysfunctional. Yes, there are some good ones but there are so many that are understaffed, overcrowded and lacking significant public outreach. Case in the point, the shelter I was at only had adoption hours from 1pm to 4pm … when most people are working.
I had selected the cats we were pulling before I walked in the door – based on need, age, our foster home abilities and length of time at the shelter. But I walked through the adoption area anyway looking at all the beautiful cats waiting for forever homes. Several cats not on my list caught my eye for various reasons.
Dawn – a 6 month old kitten destined to spend her kittenhood in a cage.
Zyfi (now named Kimberly) – an adult with a severe head tilt.
and Layla – a four year old tabby who had a home but was surrendered to the shelter because “she wasn’t getting along”.
Layla broke my heart. Not because of her age or her brief story. But because when I looked into her eyes, I saw a cat that had given up hope. She didn’t even want to leave her cage – she had no interest in me or even the volunteer that she knew. Did she know that the shelter planned to euthanize her the next day? Cats are smart. Too smart.
Please understand, I’m not bashing this shelter. It’s a clean facility. The animals are cared for, fed, loved. It doesn’t smell and it is a welcoming environment. It’s just that almost no one knows to go there to seek out an adoptable animal. And they aren’t the only shelter in this predicament.
So, I had four carriers with me and I decided to stick to the plan … I left with the four cats I planned on taking: Hector, Wanda, Wilma and Cleveland. They knew they were picked – I couldn’t disappoint them.
And then I did something I don’t do very often. I cried my eyes out. I just could not get Layla out of my head. When I called our adoption director, she immediately made a plan to go get Layla. She called one of our fosters and asked her to make space. Then she called me back and told me to call the shelter to tell them we would pick up Layla in the morning. Plus two more cats.
Again, the tears.
Now, please don’t read this and think “well, what can I do to help with this huge issue? it’s insurmountable.” It is NOT – we can and we ARE making a difference. Shelters are changing. More animals are being adopted than being “purchased”.
And, Layla … Layla is doing so well in a foster home – she just needed to be out of the shelter. She was head-butting and purring with her foster mom 5 minutes after arriving in her temporary home.
Layla represents everything rescue is supposed to be. No animal deserves to die because a shelter has decided they are “out of time” to find a new home. Private rescues can work with shelters to provide that extra safety net for animals that need more time. But both groups need the public. We need you.
We need volunteers to socialize, clean and foster the animals. We need donors to provide the funds that keep everyone fed and cared for medically. We need adopters to visit the shelters and our adoption hours (you know you want to take a day off of work!). We need outspoken people to make the stories of these municipal shelters heard so that conditions (length of stay, foster care programs, adoption hours) change.
I often fall back on what is becoming an old saying from Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Never is it more true for the animals that need us. You don’t have to do everything, but you can do something. Thank you for helping us do something good.