This year was an exciting one with the joining together of Steve’s cats with mine, and the number of cats in need that came our way. Soon, we will be known as Steve and Anne’s Animal Rescue!
Finding a Home for Wingnut
At the beginning of August, Steve and I moved into a new place together. It was amazing that we were able to find a place where the landlady didn’t mind the number of cats we had. When we were each filling out our applications for the place, we wrote that we had 2 cats. Of course, we meant each, but we were kind of hoping it wouldn’t come up. But, when the landlady was filling out the lease, she started to write 2 cats, and we had to clarify, that we meant 2 cats each. But she was totally fine with it. She likes cats and likes us and let us move in with 4 cats.
The most stressful part of the whole move was, of course, how my 2 cats were going to merge with Steve’s 2 cats. The integration process is still on-going. Unfortunately, we’re now down to 3 cats. Indy, one of Steve’s cats, has always had some bad health problems, but earlier this spring, he went into kidney failure. After he spent several days in the hospital, during which he appeared to get better twice, we finally made the tough decision to let him go. It was an incredibly tough and painful decision, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that it was the right choice to make. Here’s a memorial that’s been put up to him on the Best Friends website.
As we were moving in, our landlady told us about her past tenants. They really sound like the epitome of white trash. At any rate, when they moved, they left their cat behind. This is something that I simply cannot understand or forgive. Even if you are unable to take a pet with you for some reason, you find your pet a new home. If no one can take it, the least you can do is bring it to the Humane Society. However, these people just left it behind to fend for itself. His name was Wingnut. Our landlady told us that she’d been leaving food out for him, but that he was very timid and pretty much kept to himself.
On our first night in the new place, as we were making dinner, Wingnut came up to the kitchen window and started meowing. Then he went to the cat door and started scratching to come in. Obviously, now that people were living in the house again, Wingnut thought his family had come back. This was not going to do. It was one of the saddest things ever. So, Steve and I started making friends with him in the evenings while I started investigating local animal rescue groups to find him a home. A few days later we were ready to go.
I’d gotten in touch with All Creatures Animal Caring Society right here in San Rafael. The lady who runs the society had found Wingnut a foster home where he could stay and become re-socialized before being adopted out. All Steve and I had to do was catch him. It didn’t go very well at first, and we were about to postpone for another night. Finally, Wingnut settled in for his dinner and I got close enough to start petting him. Grabbing him quickly, we shoved him into a box and drove him off to the City. We felt terrible because he was crying the whole way and he didn’t know we were trying to help him. All he knew was that 2 people who he had started to trust had suddenly grabbed him and he didn’t know why. However, all’s well that ends well. Two weeks after bringing him to the foster home, Wingnut was adopted to a permanent family!
Anne and Steve’s Animal Rescue Goes to Hawaii
Little did we know that our animal rescue efforts weren’t going to stop there. When Steve and I planned our trip to Hawaii, we had no idea that there was such a huge problem with stray and feral cats on the Islands. Every park we went to had stray cats. As the Hawaii Cat Foundation web site explains the situation, the weather is so warm, there are no predators, and the conditions are, generally, so favorable that a female can have her first litter when she’s just 4 months old and each cat can have up to 3 litters a year. The problem gets out of control very quickly. And, frankly, I found the attitude of many of the Hawaiian residents to be different than how I, and the people I know, feel about animals. It wasn’t really a bad attitude, but there was a definite feeling that animals were beasts, usually of burden, that had jobs to do. They weren’t to be coddled and they just weren’t something to be that concerned about.
At any rate, the first strays to tug at our heart strings were at Akaka Falls State Park. When we visited the falls, we were also greeted by 2 young cats, likely between 6 months and a year old. One was all black, the other was (my favorite) a tortoiseshell. The tortie was much friendlier than the black one. She wouldn’t let me touch her, but she would play with my hand from where she was hiding beneath our car.
The black cat wouldn’t let us anywhere near him. Steve and I wanted to help and thought we could catch them and bring them to the Humane Society. But we knew that we couldn’t take one without the other, because they likely depended on each other. We tried for an hour in the dimming light to catch the black cat, but were unable to do so.
On our return from the volcano park, Steve and I stopped back at Akaka Falls with a bag of kibble to feed the kitties. It was well past dark when we pulled in and it took us a little while to find the cats. We were walking around the parking lot calling for them. Suddenly, I heard Steve scream like a little girl. It seems that, as he approached a trash can, 2 cats exploded from it scaring him half to death. I continue to give him a hard time about his screech, but the truth is I would have screamed even louder. We weren’t able to find these particular cats homes, but at least we gave them a good dinner.
A few days after our first visit, as Steve and I were heading toward South Point, we stopped at the Manuka State Wayside Park to eat lunch. There, we were greeted by an incredibly friendly little tortoiseshell who decided to share our lunch.
She stole my heart right then and there. Steve and I looked all around, but there were no houses in the area that she could belong to, and there were 3 other ferals at the park that were much more skittish. They seemed to be a colony. Steve and I still had a full day ahead of us (as you’ve probably already read), but we decided to stop back at the park on our way back. If she was still there, we’d take her with us to find her a home.
So, we went on our way to the green sand beach. After that adventure, we stopped at a store to buy some kibble and a can of food, then continued on to a nearby black sand beach. There we happened upon a mother cat with her 6 young kittens. They all scattered as we approached them and there was no way we could catch them all. One tough moment came when we got the bag of kibble from the car. The mother had taken off, but she came running when she heard us shaking the bag. At one time, she was obviously someone’s pet. I was even able to pet her. But none of the kittens would come close. So, we left several piles of food around the park and went on our way to fetch the little tortie.
The night was only going to get longer and much more emotional. As we were driving along the dark highway, we saw a dog limping across the road, just barely avoiding another car. Steve and I pulled over and found the dog lying on the side of the road. We approach her very cautiously, but she seemed to be in a state of shock. She had been hit by a car. She had some lacerations on her body and there was something wrong with her hind legs. So, we picked her up and put her on top of our rain jackets in the back seat of our car.
I didn’t think we were still going to stop and get the cat, but Steve pulled into the park a few miles down the road. The cat was still there, eating out of a garbage can. We lured her to us with the food, grabbed her, and shoved her in the box we had picked up earlier at the grocery store. She was none to happy about the situation, leaping out of the box and running around the car. The dog was wondering what the heck was going on. And I was just an emotional mess, not feeling at all able to deal with the whole situation. But we got the cat back in the box, and started off down the road.
We contacted the Hawaii Humane Society on Steve’s cell phone, and finally got a hold of the emergency on-call employee. That was when we heard the bad news, and were officially introduced to Hawaii’s stray animal problem. The Humane Society employee told me that, because the dog did not have a collar, it was considered a stray, and stray animals that weren’t claimed within 48 hours were put to sleep. In the meantime, the dog would receive no medical care for her injuries. Steve and I were just supposed to drop her off in an outdoor cage, with no food or water, and someone would get her in the morning. I was stunned and heart-broken.
There was no way we were going to take the cat to the Humane Society to meet that fate, but we didn’t know what to do with the injured dog, so we took her to the shelter. I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. Here Steve and I had thought that we were going to find this dog a warm, safe place where someone would care for her. Instead, we dropped her off to what would basically be certain death.
We took the cat home and tried to get some rest. I’m going to cut through the next few days as quickly as possible. At first, we thought we were going to have to bring the cat back to the park where we found her. But before doing that, we decided she needed to be spayed and get all of her shots. So, we made her an appointment at a local vet’s office and dropped her off the following afternoon. I had to give her a name for the vet records and decided on Pele, because her orange and black fur reminded me of lava as it begins to cool.
In the meantime, we called a few local rescue organizations to see what we could do. We also tried to find out what our options were if we wanted to ship her back to California. We quickly became very emotionally invested in this cat. She was one of the friendliest cats I’ve ever met. Finally, we were put in touch with the Animal Rescue Coalition of Hawaii. Although their mission is not necessarily to place stray cats, Mary Walker, the leader of the organization, was willing to help with both the dog and Pele. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow for us to save the dog. Honestly, I have nothing good to say about the Hawaii Humane Society. I feel that they failed in their mission in every possible way. I wrote a letter to the editor of the West Hawaii Today newspaper, which I don’t think was ever printed. But if you’d like to read it, you can click here.
We brought Pele home after her surgery, her shots, and her micro-chipping and cuddled with her for one more night.
The next day, our last full day in the islands, Steve and I drove up to Waimea to meet Mary. She had a foster home for Pele. I cried almost the entire drive there; I truly had fallen in love with this cat. As it happened, after we gave Pele to Mary, she met a friend of hers in the shopping area where we had met. This woman had just recently lost one of her cats and decided then and there to adopted the purring Pele. She seemed like a very nice woman, and, as it turned out, she’s quite well off. Steve and I spent a lot of money on Pele to make her as adoptable as possible and wound up giving her to the richest woman in Waimea! We agree, though, that we’d rather see her in a home where she’d be well taken care of and spoiled rotten, than in a home where it was a financial struggle to care for her.
This particular picture is sitting on my desk at work.
I am aware that this will probably sound hyperbolic and probably pretty silly to many people. But please understand that my cats are my children and I love them deeply. I very much miss Pele and think about her often. In many ways, I feel like a parent who put her child up for adoption. I really wish that there had been some way for me to bring her home with me.
These experiences taught me many things. First, I have a great respect and am very grateful for the Marin Humane Society. They fulfill their mission of humane treatment for animals without regard for whether or not an animal is a “stray”. If an injured animal arrives at the Marin Humane Society, it will receive treatment. Second, I know that I can never actually work in animal welfare. I’ve often thought that I’d like to find a way to combine my work with my love of animals. But I become too emotionally attached much too quickly. Steve and I agree that I would be a wreck if I had to go through these experiences on a daily basis. And third, before we go on any future vacation, Steve and I need to spend some time researching the animal welfare organizations of the area to which we are travelling. When we start planning our honeymoon, part of that preparation will involve finding out what kinds of services are available should we need them.
As Steve says, I have a tortie in every port!
Speaking of which, here’s a couple of pictures of the stray tortie my mom adopted last fall. They have become very close. Her name is Molly.
There’s so much else that has happened this year with my kitties, but I think I’ve spent quite enough time here already. In the next installment, I’ll tell you about the pet playpen we recently got so Cassady and Ezra can spend time outside with me!