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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: September 23, 2020

Make Room for the Queen

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I have been volunteering at an animal shelter for almost two years. My big fear was that I would want to bring every needy animal I met home; but I've learned some things I didn't know when I started, so that hasn't been an issue.

One of the insights I have now is that I can achieve way more working at the shelter than I can do hauling home every sweet critter who pulls at my heartstrings. Besides the fact we already have six animals, I have learned that teaching a dog to walk politely on a leash, helping a fearful cat or kitten learn that human contact is enjoyable or providing exercise so that an active dog does not look like a raving lunatic when a potential adopter meets them helps more animals than the one or two additional we could take here at our home.

But I have finally caved. We recently added "Queen Elizabeth" to our home and our hearts. As always when I write about my volunteer work at the shelter, I will change a few irrelevant details to protect the privacy of the person who surrendered this cat.

It started with the initial phone call to the shelter, which I happened to answer. A woman was calling to see if we could accept her sister's cat. Her sister, who lived alone with the cat, was entering a care facility for dementia patients in just three days. and the cat would be homeless.

The woman sounded stressed and sad. It was easy to understand a lot of arrangements and decisions had to be made in a short time and her mind was most likely focused on grieving that her sister could no longer live at home alone safely. The cat was a task, but it was one the shelter could help with and ease one of her many burdens.

We can't always take animals on such short notice, but we were in luck, our intake person was able to accept the cat quickly. I wrote down a few details we needed immediately, cat's age, approximate body weight and a few other initial facts. When I asked the cat's age she said around eight, and when I asked the weight there was a long pause. "Well, that's one of the problems, we don't think she was remembering to feed the cat. It's pretty thin"..maybe six pounds""."

When I hung up, I felt sorrow for the sister. I gave her credit for trying to give the cat a soft landing rather than taking it for "a ride" and dumping it somewhere. It's a hard fact that seniors and their beloved pets often outlive each other, with difficult consequences for both. It has been proven that elders with pets outlive their peers who do not. For a senior, a pet provides meaningful companionship, structure and a responsibility that gives purpose.

Several days later I came in to the shelter. There was the new resident "Queen Elizabeth." She was a domestic shorthair, a bit frail and thin. She was obviously very confused about her new surroundings, with lots of new people, a din of dog barking from the kennel room and the smell of many strange cats around her. But she greeted me without fear, rubbing along my hand and arm. Here she was, through no fault of her own. And likely grieving the loss of her human companion and lifelong home. When I pulled her file and saw the records from her previous vet I was shocked. She wasn't around eight years old".she was 15.

Queen Elizabeth quickly became a volunteer favorite. But the problem was, although she was in pretty good health considering her age, few people want to adopt a geriatric cat, as dear as she was. The fear of looming vet bills would scare some off; some wouldn't want the heartbreak of getting attached to a sweetheart who wouldn't be with them for a long time.

But she couldn't spend her remaining time in a no-kill shelter. She deserved better, and at my house we have a "senior cat suite" vacated by our dear Emma, who departed from us last fall at 17 years of age. When I broke the news to Mike, he congratulated me on making it almost two years without bringing an animal home. (My husband is a saint.)

Queen Elizabeth is settling in well at our house. She's eating like a lion, and adores her heated cat bed. When we work on the computer, she emerges from her beloved warm bed to keep us company and get petting. We will love her as long as she lives. It would be crazy for us to take a kitten that might outlive us, but chances are very good we can see the queen through to her end.

I was able to drop a personal card to the woman who surrendered her. I told her if the owner ever asks about her cat, she's safe and in a good home. I hope she doesn't miss the queen, but if she does, I hope the spirit who watches over animal lovers will visit her in a dream and grant her peace. All is well with her feline companion, and they will meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.

An acquaintance once pointedly told me she felt my time would be better spent on taking care of our country's needy people instead of working at an animal shelter. What I couldn't articulate to her then, that I could now, is that the countless people helping animals do help people.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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