Over the Rainbow Bridge
I recently had an email from Emily Gates a rescuer and animal lover who regularly pulls dogs from the Franklin County Dog Pound. Emily is also part of a group called Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs.
On Thursday, September 26, at 6 pm, Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs will hold their first annual Remember Me Thursday Candle-Lighting Ceremony.
Here is the information from Emily’s press release:
“The Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs are uniting with animal-lovers and animal welfare organizations globally to participate in a Remember Me Thursday candle-lighting ceremony. The candles, which will be lit at the exact same day across the world, will honor the millions of pets who lost their lives without the benefit of a loving home. By uniting in this way, on one very special day, the worldwide awareness campaign hopes to shine a light on the millions of healthy pets still awaiting adoption and encourage communities to opt to adopt and reduce the millions of orphan pets euthanized each year. Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs invite the community to the Remember Me Thursday candle-lighting ceremony, Thursday, September 26th, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., taking place outside the Franklin County Dog Shelter, 4340 Tamarack Blvd, Columbus, Ohio, 43229, (behind Menard’s on Morse Road).
“Remember Me Thursday is a global awareness campaign championed by Mike Arms, President of the Helen Woodard Animal Center. It asks organizations and individuals to dedicate the last Thursday of September, annually, to remembering the millions of healthy orphan pets who lost their lives over the last year without the benefit of a loving home. Last year, at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center, 4,739 dogs and puppies, 565 cats and kittens were put to death at the shelter, and 3,144 dogs were adopted. Thus far in 2013, 2,597 dogs, 210 puppies, 118 cats and 41 kittens were euthanized and 2,427 dogs were adopted.
“Individuals can get involved by attending the candle-lighting ceremony at the shelter, by lighting a virtual candle on-line at www.remembermethursday.org; changing their Facebook profile pictures to the Remember Me Thursday icon all day, September 26th; spreading the word about Remember Me Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels using #LIGHTFORPETS; and most importantly by always adopting and encouraging friends and family to do the same.
“Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs invite the community to be a part of the movement at this very special Remember Me Thursday candle-lighting ceremony. A video will be shown, candles will be lit, and people will honor the lives of those cats and dogs who were thrown away by society and put to death at the shelter. Over 50 people are expected to attend.
“’There are approximately 1 million people in Franklin County, many of whom have pets but only 30% of these pets come from shelters or rescue groups,” said Emily Gates, one of the organizers of the vigil. The rest come from pet stores, puppy mills and breeders,” she said. “Thousands of beautiful, healthy orphan pets die at our shelter every year without the benefit of a loving home, simply because the public is not aware of how truly amazing these animals are. We believe the shelter can do much more to get these dogs seen at events, through the use of social media and radio and TV appearances and get more dogs adopted.’
“’Tragically, the Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs see so many wonderful pets that are simply abandoned because their owners lost their homes, had to move or didn’t understand the time and care that a pet requires,” said Todd Patrick. “The shelter can lower euthanasia numbers by partnering with community groups and working to help the dogs or cats stay in their homes instead of entering the shelter. These pets can be anything from purebred or pit bull mixes, well-behaved or needing some training, very young or entering their senior years, but many of these loving animals don’t get a second chance because the shelter won’t go the extra mile for them.’
“The Remember Me Thursday candle-lighting ceremony starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.”
For information on the Remember Me Thursday candle-lighting event call or email Emily Gates at 614-406-9423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can LIKE Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs on Facebook HERE.
You can also let Advocates for Franklin County Dog Shelter Dogs know you will be attending the Remember Me Thursday event, by joining HERE.
Read the official Remember Me Thursday poem HERE.
About Remember Me Thursday:
Animal lovers and organizations across the globe unite on the last Thursday of September to light a candle in remembrance of the millions of orphan pets who lost their lives without the benefit of a loving home and to shine a light on the millions of orphan pets still waiting for their forever homes. The Remember Me Thursday global awareness campaign is championed by Mike Arms, President of Helen Woodward Animal Center, and creator of both the International Pet Adoptathon and successful Home 4 the Holidays program which, in partnership with national animal organizations, has placed 8.3 million pets in homes since 1999. He is joined in partnership with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, which represents over 150 animal welfare organizations in New York, New York and by animal organizations worldwide. For more information, please visit www.remembermethursday.org.
Back in February, a lady wrote to me asking if we could take in her two cats, Midnight and Tiger. Her grandmother was ill and they were moving to a facility that would not allow the cats. Since the boys were in the 6-8 year range, she feared that if she took them to her local “dog pound,” they would just be killed because they were older.
I offered to post the boys on our Petfinder site, as I do for everyone. She sent me photos and something about their images pulled at my emotions. The photos showed a chubby black cat and his tiger striped buddy. They were the most generic of all cat types–their colors the colors of thousands of other cats in need. And to go with their generic looks, they had the most generic names–Tiger and Midnight. How many times had I heard those same names used for tabby and black cats?
But for some reason, I could not get their pictures or names to leave my mind and I kept checking in with the woman to see if she had found them a safe place to go. Sadly, they got overlooked online and no one inquired about adopting them.
In the final few days before she had to move and take them to the pound, I took Midnight and Tiger from her. She didn’t even live in our area. She lived on the East side of Columbus. I never met her in person. I only spoke with her one time after she dropped them off at the Capital City Spay and Neuter Clinic to be evaluated and get updated on vaccines. She wanted to make sure they were okay.
I must thank that woman, because, boy, did she give me two wonderful kitties.
Midnight and Tiger went home with me as my fosters. They were both lovers and it was easy to fall in love with them. Tiger was laidback and quiet, always head butting me and soliciting a scratch on the head. Midnight was a talker. He loved his dinner and he would enthusiastically greet his food as if it was a long lost friend. He was a bit on the portly side, running on thin legs to meet you and ask where you’d been and request a rubdown. His favorite place to hang out was in my bathroom closet in his cup bed. I would come in often to find his head leaned over the side of the bed, eyes closed, perfectly at peace with the world. He would meow at me, lifting his head in greeting, and then go back to sleep.
I loved those boys. They were more special than their photos showed.
I only had the boys with me for a few months. I had worried that no one would want them because they were older and because I wanted to keep them together. They had been pals their whole lives. I could not separate them. They had to be adopted as a pair.
In the time I had them, they both got dentals from Dr. Tom Klein at East Hilliard Vet Services. Midnight, more than Tiger, had a mouth full of problems. He had a snaggle-tooth and several other teeth that needed pulled. I think his poor mouth hurt and after the teeth came out, he seemed to feel so much better.
Everyone who met the boys fell in love with them, as did their new family the Formans. After Midnight and Tiger went to live with Jeff and Monica and their son, I knew they had found their forever people. Monica kept me updated on the boys and donated any unwanted food that they wouldn’t eat to our Pet Food Pantry.
Just about a month ago, Monica wrote me to give me sad and completely unexpected news. Midnight had been having some digestive problems and Monica had been working on his weight and various foods to help him. It turned out that the issues he was having were due to cancer. I was devastated. I never expected anything like that. He had just found a home. I’d put him through all the vet care routine I thought he needed and nothing had showed up while he was my foster. I felt awful.
I asked Monica if I could visit my boy one last time. But sadly that was not to be. This morning, October 20, Monica wrote to tell me that Midnight passed away.
Perhaps that is better. I will always now imagine Midnight, curled up in his little cup bed, eyes closed, happily sleeping, at peace and unafraid. He did not die in a cold, unfamiliar cage at the “dog pound,” crying for Tiger who would not have been with him. Instead, he spent his last days with his friend, loved and spoiled among people who cherished him–the ending all cats should have.
Thank you Monica and Jeff for taking these boys into your life. The Formans had just recently lost another beloved cat and I cannot imagine having to go through this kind of loss again so soon.
Thank you Midnight for the happy memories you gave many, many people who loved you.
Leo Albert came in to our lives back in February with the cold and snow. I first reported on him and another “Miracle kitty” at the beginning of March in a blog posting (you can read his story HERE). Because this sweet little guy was feline leukemia positive, we had nowhere to put him with our other negative kitties. Feline leukemia is easier to transmit between cats than FIV. I put the word out that we needed a foster home without other cats or with dogs. No takers.
Then on one of my PetSmart cleaning days, I happened to be talking about Leo Albert (who was just Albert at that time) to our good friend Brian as he checked me out. Brian made a passing comment that didn’t hit me until later. He said, “I don’t have any other cats.” When I finally realized what Brian’s words meant, I sent him a message to see if he was saying what I thought he was saying. Yes, he would be willing to foster Albert (a foster stint that eventually turned into an adoption). Shortly after Brian’s birthday at the beginning of March, Bobbie and I took Leo Albert to his new home. You can re-read that story HERE.
Brian and his mom had always had cats, but it had been a little while since their last one had passed on. Carol and I routinely bugged Brian about adopting from us, but until Albert, Brian had always waved our suggestions away.
Leo Albert became the king of the household. Brian was always regaling us with stories of his antics and showing us photos on his phone. If you happen to be friends with Brian on Facebook, you will see that he has one whole photo album of pictures of the LAB (Leo Albert Blain).
But Leo Albert’s happiness was to be short lived.
On November 26, I had a text from Brian that he had to take Leo Albert to see Dr. West because he was not eating. Dr. West was running tests and discovered that his white blood cell count was up. In fact, Dr. West told me that she didn’t know how Leo survived as long as he did with those white blood cell numbers.
I know how he survived. Brian kept him alive. He gave him his antibiotics faithfully. To get him to eat, Brian bought small pouches of the most expensive soft cat food PetSmart carried and took it home and chopped it up in a blender. He then fed Leo Albert a tasty gruel in small bites until he had eaten most of the concoction. Leo Albert continued to get better with Brian’s loving care.
At the beginning of December, Leo Albert started having trouble walking and he began to spend a lot of time lying in his litter pan. He was still eating and Brian was cleaning him up every day and night, because he was having accidents that made a mess of his backside.
Leo Albert was on a downward spiral that Brian could not stop.
On December 17 around 2 pm, I had a text from Brian who had taken Leo Albert back to see Dr. West. The text said: “At 1 pm, Leo Albert Blain was put to rest. The vet and I agreed it was for the best.”
Leo Albert had lost the ability to use his back legs and his bladder was also blocked. We are not sure if he had some type of nerve damage due to the feline leukemia or what exactly was causing the problem. But Brian did not want him to suffer any longer.
Today Brian brought Leo home. He made him a small coffin and plans to bury him in the spring behind the house. Leo Albert was only a little over a year old. He spent nine happy months with Brian and Brian’s mom. I could not ask for a better life for our little guy. He got to experience love, a home, and the joy of being a wanted cat–things he would never have had without Brian.
Thank you, Brian for making one of our kitties your own.
On Sunday, August 29, we attended the Blessing of the Animals ceremony in Goodale Park presented by King Avenue United Methodist Church. A friend of Chuck and Carol Gaul, Charlene Bohn, attends King Avenue and wanted to remember the Gaul kitties that were killed in the recent house fire at the beginning of August. Charlene asked parishioners to donate cat food to B and O to honor the Gaul kitties and she also presented eleven flowers at the altar in remembrance of the beloved felines.
Carol and Chuck came for the service. Carol carried the box that contained the cremated remains of her eleven cats. I brought Rascal, Carol’s other foster, who has been staying with me since the fire. Rascal was the only survivor because he was at PetSmart waiting to be adopted the day of the fire. For this brief moment, the twelve cats were once again reunited.
Several other friends of Carol and B and O showed up for the ceremony. Bobbie, Debbie, Brian, Allen, Dr. Kim West, Susan, and Carol’s daughter and son-in-law all came to lend their support and show their love. While we were there, Kristin sent a text from Canada, where she was attending a wedding, to tell Carol that she was thinking of her. We were surrounded by animal lovers and many, many beloved animals. The dogs’ barks and howls added to the joy of the event. It was so nice to look around and find happy furry faces everywhere.
Charlene made a brief announcement about Carol and Chuck and why the church had decided to collect the cat food for B and O. Then when it was time for the Blessing, everyone took their animals down to the gazebo and received prayers filled with love and emotion. A pink vase sitting on the gazebo steps was used to collect flowers to remember beloved pets that were no longer with us. Carol walked forward and put her flower in the vase, all the while clutching the wooden box with the remains of her feline family. It was very emotional and there were tears, of course.
I want to thank Charlene and King Avenue United Methodist Church for a lovely service and for remembering the Gaul cats during this time when animal lovers were gathered in gratitude for the pets in their lives. I also want to thank Debbie, Brian, Allen, Dr. Kim West, Susan, and everyone else who came out to show their support for Carol and Chuck.
To see all of our photos from this lovely day, visit our Facebook page: B and O on Facebook
Shortly after the fire that took the lives of the Gaul kitties, I had an email from a friend of Chuck and Carol’s who wanted to honor the eleven cats lost in the smoke. Charlene Bohn was heartbroken to learn that Carol had been through such a devastating loss and she felt she needed to do something to remember the Gauls and their beloved felines. Charlene wrote to tell me that her church has an annual Blessing of the Animals and she planned to bring eleven flowers to the service to honor Carol’s babies. Charlene wanted to know if I felt it would be appropriate to ask her pastor if some type of donation could also be made to Black and Orange Cat Foundation in remembrance of the Gaul cats.
My response was a resounding yes. When I mentioned this kind gesture to Carol, her eyes filled up with tears and she was pleased beyond all words that someone was remembering her cats in this way.
Just this week I had another email from Charlene about the Blessing of the Animals and I wanted to let everyone know about it so they could also participate in this lovely service to honor Carol and her cats. Charlene spoke to her pastors at King Avenue United Methodist Church (299 King Avenue in Columbus) and they agreed to collect cat food for Black and Orange as a way of helping other cats like Carol’s (all eleven of Carol’s cats who were lost in the fire were rescue cats–one was her latest foster, Charlotte, who we were hoping to place in a wonderful home).
The Blessing of the Animals service will take place at Goodale Park in the gazebo on Sunday, August 29 at 11 am. As the web site states, “all creatures, big and small, are welcome!” So bring your own beloved companion animals out to celebrate and receive a special blessing as a way of honoring the Gaul feline family. Following the service, there will also be a picnic at the Gardener’s cottage.
As Charlene wrote, she is very “excited about this opportunity to help and to bless the memory of the Gaul kitties.”
If you would like to participate in this lovely remembrance of eleven very beloved cats, I can think of no better way than by attending this service and asking that your own special animals be blessed.
The Blessing of the Animals custom comes as a way to celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi, who loved all creatures. To read more about this custom, visit the Dearborn Animal Shelter web site and scroll down until you see the picture of Saint Francis and the word “Custom.” This explains nicely why our animals deserve the love and blessings we give them and why this custom honors Saint Francis.
While we may bless our animals in this lovely celebration, most of us know that we are the ones who are truly blessed to have them in our lives each day.
The image shown at the top is “Sister Frances Blessing 5 Cats” (you can’t see all five cats in this version), which was designed by Jean Batzell Fitzgerald. You can purchase the image on t-shirts and see other artwork she has created to honor cats at her web sites: Cat Art Gifts and Kitty Cat Designs. She took an image of Saint Francis and modified it to be a woman blessing cats, which I felt was very, very appropriate to honor Carol’s kitties.
As many of you may have read on our Facebook page, B and O Board member and dear friend, Carol Gaul, recently lost her home and her beloved cats in a house fire. Several of her permanent feline family members had been one time B and O kitties that Carol kept when they were not adopted. Her little “black boys,” as she always called them, were rescued from a tree stump when they were only 3-4 weeks old. There were four all black kittens (all male) and Carol took care of them until they could go through our PetSmart routine to be adopted. Two of the boys found a wonderful home, but after the other two did not, Carol and her husband, Chuck, decided to keep them. The “black boys” were an endless source of joy to them and I was always being regaled with stories of their antics.
D. D. showed up at the shop that Carol and Chuck own in 2009. D. D. stood for “detroit diesel,” a type of engine that Chuck often worked on. D. D. was the office cat for a while until Carol decided she wanted to try to find him a permanent home. Since he was a little bit shy, she took him home with her to work with him more. He loved romping with the other cats, but never completely overcame his shyness. Rather than take him back to the shop after it became clear that he was too shy to go to PetSmart, Carol decided just to keep D. D. with her since he loved the other cats.
Miss Charlotte was Carol’s most recent foster. Charlotte showed up at Carol’s house one day this summer wearing an old flea collar that had worn the fur off of her neck. She did not mind the neighbor’s dog or the other cats outside and followed Carol around the yard while she was gardening. Charlotte purred and wanted attention and was so loving that Carol knew she needed a forever home. With her funny little “mustache,” she was also adorable. Carol took Charlotte to clinic and got her fixed and then we placed her at PetSmart for several weeks. Charlotte was a bit afraid at PetSmart, but was doing much better by the end of her stay. Jumping out of her cage, she would weave around your legs, preening and prancing. Because she had not been adopted after three weeks, Carol took her home to give her a break. We never like to stress the cats out by keeping them in the cages very long.
Just two weeks ago, at the end of July, Carol took Charlotte out of the PetSmart cage and put Little Rascal in her place. Little Rascal had been dumped at the park behind Carol’s house and showed up looking for food. He was such a sweet kitty that Carol took him in and worked with him to help him overcome his shyness. Rascal is currently at PetSmart and that is the only reason he is still alive. He is the only survivor of Carol’s cats. Because he replaced Charlotte in the cage, however, Charlotte did not survive.
I just keep thinking if only these guys had been adopted, if only Charlotte had stayed at PetSmart, if only… It is very hard to look at the photos and remember what sweet cats they were. None of them was more than three years old. They had very short lives, but also very good lives because of Carol.
Someone called Carol’s house “the Hyatt for cats”–a place where they were spoiled and loved and treated like royalty. Without Carol, they would have been starving, unloved strays their whole lives. Because of Carol, they were beloved members of the Gaul family, no matter how short their stay.
Carol said that the night before the fire, all of the cats gathered with her and Chuck to watch t.v. The girls sat with Chuck in his chair, one perched on the back of the chair around his neck. The boys all climbed into the chair with Carol. Even Bubba, who was not a lap cat, hung out in Carol’s lap. Carol said it was as if they knew. Then most of the cats followed them to bed.
In the smoke and the darkness, Carol could hear the cats as she tried to find a way out. But she could not save them. She and Chuck barely made it out, climbing to safety via a ladder that was rushed to the house by their neighbor, Greg Pinney, Plain City’s fire chief.
The sheriff’s department kindly collected the bodies of all eleven cats and took them to Dr. Allen’s office here in Plain City. Alice Hostetler made arrangements to have them cremated and they will remain together in death as in life. One of the cats was found under Carol’s chair, a place of safety, where just hours before they had all gathered for a final evening of companionship.
I would ask you to please keep Carol and Chuck in your thoughts and prayers over the coming weeks. Carol’s cats were her family and she lost all of them in one day. It is never easy to lose a beloved cat, but even harder to have them all taken in such a tragic and incomprehensible way.
In August of 2008, I helped our vet tech at Northstar Animal Hospital find a home for a kitty she had rescued from her brother-in-law after he tried to kill the cat with a 12 gauge shot gun. Ginya was keeping Miss Dolly, a gorgeous long haired dilute calico, at Northstar, where she roamed the offices doing as she pleased. But Ginya wanted to find her a wonderful home after the horror she had come from.
So I posted Dolly’s photo on our Petfinder site, thinking it would not take long to find her a home since she was declawed and very loving. An application came in, not for Dolly, but for two kittens we had at the PetSmart on Sawmill Road. When I began my initial background check on the potential adopter, I learned that her lease required that she have a declawed cat. Since we do not believe in declawing with Black and Orange and the two kittens did still have their claws, I began trying to figure out which declawed cats we had that might be suitable. Miss Dolly instantly came to mind.
I contacted Ginya and she wanted to make sure this was a really good situation considering all that Dolly had been through. I called the adopter and she did not know about the declaw portion of her lease. She was willing to adopt another cat that was already declawed and she and Ginya began making arrangements to meet.
Everything else on the application looked great. The adopter was a police officer. She had a younger son, but he was only with her every other weekend. Ginya wanted to make sure that the son seemed mature enough to be around Dolly, so she also met the son and the adopter. The adopter did not have a vet, because she had no other pets, so she agreed that she would just continue to bring Dolly to Northstar so she could see Ginya.
After Dolly had been in her new home for a few days, I made a home visit to check on her. The apartment was clean and Miss Dolly was clearly at home. She sauntered around the room, sniffing at a vase of fake flowers and watching television with the adopter’s son, who was having his lunch at the coffee table. All seemed peaceful and happy.
I took photos while I was there and sent them to Ginya, telling her that this was a very good situation for Dolly and she did not need to worry about her any longer.
I didn’t think any more about Miss Dolly until March 12 when I had an email from another rescue group, telling me that they had one of our cats. What? Surely there was some mistake.
The email informed me that a lady had brought in a cat that she had adopted from Black and Orange. The rescue group told her she should contact us, as we would want to get our own cat back, but the woman did not want to do that. Since they were afraid the woman was just going to dump the cat if they did not take her, the rescue group let her relinquish the cat to them, even though they were full.
That cat was Miss Dolly.
The email further stated that the woman said she had no time to care for the cat and that her daughter was “not nice to the cat.”
Okay, hold on a minute. Daughter? There was no daughter. Only a son.
After getting the email, I immediately wrote the rescue group back and explained that Dolly was posted on behalf of Ginya and I would need to contact her about Dolly, since I knew she would want Dolly back. I also did a bit of investigating to see if there were things I was not remembering. Was there a daughter? No, looking back through my records, I found the application which only mentioned a son.
The next email from the rescue group was even more upsetting. It said that the adopter had actually “surprised her daughter who didn’t know Mom was listening outside her room. The daughter was physically abusing the cat. Teachers at school had told her the child was a bit of a bully, but she didn’t realize how bad the kid was. Mom was crying and distraught and felt the best thing for Dolly was to get her out of the home asap.”
The email further said that Dolly was nervous, but after evaluating her, the rescue group felt she would come out of it and be fine in a few days. Kindly, they agreed to keep Dolly until we could figure out what Ginya wanted to do. Ginya had, in those two years since Dolly was adopted, taken a job at a vet clinic in another town and was no longer in the Columbus area.
When Ginya finally spoke to the other rescue group, it became clear that the daughter was actually torturing Dolly in ways that they did not want to go in to in too much detail. The cat, however, was obviously very scarred and traumatized. The rescue group agreed that they would keep Dolly and try to find her a home until Ginya could make arrangements to get her back in at the vet clinic where she was now working.
I felt terrible after hearing all of this. Obviously the daughter was from a new relationship that the adopter had entered into. How could I have known that Dolly would be placed in danger? I checked everything out so carefully.
But the worst news came just this week. Ginya wrote me to tell me that she was finally going to be able to take Dolly back. The vet clinic was empty so there was room for her. She had called the rescue group that had Dolly, very excited about getting her beloved cat back, the very first animal she had ever rescued.
Just after that happy email, I had another email from Ginya telling me that Dolly had died from the whatever had been done to her by the adopter’s daughter. She had kidney failure and elevated liver enzymes and she could not be saved. Ginya further told me that one of the rescue group’s volunteers had quit because they were so upset by what had happened to Dolly.
Ginya, of course, is distraught. Both of us tried so hard to make sure this was the perfect home for Dolly. How can I ever know that a situation will be okay for a cat we adopt out 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years down the road? How can I know that new people won’t enter a cat’s home and harm it? How can I ever trust myself with such an important decision–placing a cat in a home where its life depends on my instincts and judgement?
While I know I cannot foretell the future, that I am only going by the information I have on hand, I still feel deeply saddened by what happened to Miss Dolly. She deserved so much more. She deserved a life of happiness and ease after all she went through. With every cat we place, I try to make sure that is what they get. I am so sorry I made the wrong choice for Dolly.
With all of this on my mind, I sent an email to Dolly’s adopter trying to figure out what was going on. She immediately wrote me back, telling me that she didn’t have a daughter and that she had only relinquished Dolly because she was working a lot of overtime and did not have time for her. She said she felt bad because Dolly was alone most of the time. She emphatically stated that neither she nor her son had ever hurt Dolly. Could there be a mistake? A mix-up? Might the rescue group be talking about another cat?
Hope sprang anew. Perhaps Dolly was not dead! An error had been made.
And so I sent over Dolly’s photo, asking if they were sure this was the same cat. I also forwarded the emails from the adopter. But once again I got the same story. And once again I was assured that Dolly had died.
What to make of all this. Was Dolly abused? Was there a mistake? We probably will never know, but my heart goes out to that poor cat. Finally, though, she is in a place where she will be at peace.
If you spent any time at BarkPark, the dog park that donated one million dollars to area animal welfare organizations and was heaven on earth for many dogs that had never known happiness until they passed through its gates, you will clearly remember Bert. Bert was the dog who always stood at the edge of the BarkPark pond, front feet and legs partially submerged in the water while his back end usually stayed firmly planted on land. Sometimes, he would get all four paws wet, but he would never venture far from the shore. From that position at the water’s edge, Bert would bark a canine song of happiness, a song that expressed the exuberance of every other dog in the park.
I had an email this week from Bert’s mom, Marcia, letting all of Bert’s friends know that this beloved dog passed away on April 6. Bert had been battling lymphoma for eight months. Bert died sitting outside gazing at his pond, while Marcia and her husband, Lennie, held him in their arms.
Although, BarkPark closed at the end of the season in 2008, Marcia plans to hold a memorial BarkPark to celebrate Bert’s life, which touched so many people.
We send our thoughts and prayers to Marcia, Lennie, and the rest of their canine family as they mourn the loss of a very special dog. Good-bye, BarkPark Bert.
To read more about all the good BarkPark has done (and continues to do) for local animal welfare groups, and to see more photos of very happy dogs, visit, www.barkpark.org
Before I go into the story of why I have an angel unchaining a dog on a cat blog, I want to explain that this image is featured on the 2009 Christmas card for the group Dogs Deserve Better. Dogs Deserve Better is an organization I support whole-heartedly because of their work to get dogs off of chains and into homes. If you’d like to purchase the cards and find out about the group, please visit their site: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/2009cards.html
I was trying to do exactly what Dogs Deserve Better advocates–help a chained dog find a better life. And while I did not succeed, someone else higher than me stepped in to do what I could not.
This story begins about two weeks ago with an email. An email that came to me via a contact at Columbus Dog Connection. A lady who lives in my area had written Columbus Dog Connection because she was upset at seeing a dog constantly chained. She wrote:
“There is a dog that I think is being neglected. I contacted the dog wardon and he stopped by. Then he (the dog warden) remembered this guy asked him months ago to take his dog. The dog wardon said because the guy has a dog house for the dog and water, (I hope he’s feeding it), the dog warden can do nothing. So I drive by that house almost every day to go anywhere and that dog is outside, sun, rain, sleet, snow, wind. He is always chained up. And most of the time he is just laying there. It makes me sad. Last week I drove by and he had a ‘free kittens’ sign out. So now there are a bunch of animals being neglected.”
The contact at Columbus Dog Connection emailed me to see if Black and Orange could do anything about the “Free Kittens” being advertised. So I drove by the house, which is quite close to where my parents live, to check on the situation. The dog, as the lady had written, was chained to a a large stake near the barn with a small dog house next to him. He had worn a large semi-circle of grass to bare dirt. His chain was heavy and I thought appeared too short. I also thought, isn’t that the same dog that used to be there when I lived at home with mom and dad?
Now I haven’t lived with Mom and Dad for quite a while, but I remembered driving down this little back road and seeing a dog chained in the yard years ago. It made me sad then. It made me even sadder now to think it was the same dog and he had been there all those years.
I decided that not only would I do what I could about the “free kittens,” I would also try to get the dog out of that situation.
Since I am more used to cats than dogs, I asked my friend, Monica, to help with the situation. We gathered a leash and treats and set off with the plan of taking the dog home with Monica until we could find a more permanent place for him or taking him to our local shelter where he would be safe and out of the weather.
When we got to the house, the husband was out in the yard and we quickly asked him about the dog (who we learned from other sources was named Squanto).
“What do you want with an old dog like that?” he asked us.
We discovered that the dog was 13 years old (so it probably was the same dog I remembered from my college years at home), a purebred Siberian Husky male, extremely gentle and friendly, and completely deaf.
What a miserable life. Chained and deaf.
The dog was also microchipped, dashing my hopes of taking him to the local shelter as a “stray”, because they would have scanned the chip and tried to reunite the dog with the owner.
The man warmed up to us after discovering who I was and told us he would need to talk to his wife (who knew me) about the dog. She was out of town for the week and would be back the following Sunday. I made arrangements with him to take the female cats, including the mother of the “free litter” in to be fixed once his wife returned home. I also tried to get the “free kittens,” but, he informed me, they already had homes.
We left without the dog.
Monica and I had a week to find a place for the dog to go. We contacted rescues and sanctuaries. Husky rescues didn’t want him because he was too old. So we tried rescues for old dogs and handicapped dogs and everything else in between. But with no luck.
On Monday, I called to confirm the appointments for the cats with the wife, who was now home. She was thrilled at the prospect of no more kittens and told me I could stop by to get them later in the day. She would be home by 4:30.
When I got to the house, promptly at 4:30, hoping they would let me have the dog even though I really had no place to put him yet, I noticed in passing that Squanto was lying on the ground in his semi-circle of paced dirt.
There were two large grain semis parked by the barn close to where Squanto was lying.
When the lady came out of the house to give me the cats for the clinic, she said, “One of the semis backed over the dog earlier today.”
She shook her head. “The dog was deaf, so he didn’t hear the truck and didn’t know to get out of the way. Well, that’s what happens.”
There were still granary people out at the barn, moving past the semis and the dog, as if he didn’t exist. I was horrified.
The lady continued, “We just talked about the dog last night. We were going to let you have him. But now he’s dead. Could you tell your friend?”
I had to run for my truck before I burst into tears.
Who would leave a chained, deaf dog in a space where a semi was backing up? Who wouldn’t tell the semi driver to be extremely careful because a deaf dog was behind them? Poor Squanto, deaf and on the chain, could not hear or even get away from the semi that killed him.
Just as upsetting to me, was the fact that this happened earlier in the day, but the dog’s body was still there, chained to the stake. No one had moved him. No one had covered him over with a sheet or blanket.
I did find out later that the husband had not been home when the semis arrived and thus, no one had warned the semi drivers about the deaf dog. That also accounted for the dog lying where he died for so long. As soon as the husband got home, he did remove Squanto’s body.
These details made me feel slightly better about the situation. And I also want to state that these are not bad people. They just do not have the same beliefs as we do about animals. The wife did tell me how sad she felt and I truly believe, in their way, they loved the dog and did all they could for him.
But this is the reason there is a need for education about chained dogs and the fact that animals are sentient, feeling creatures.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, when I was a child, our dogs were always chained or penned. It horrifies me now, but everyone can change.
I feel so sad that this dog lived 13 years on a chain and then died in such a gruesome way. I feel sad that Monica and I could not help him.
But someone else did help him. And that is why the picture of the angel unchaining the dog started this article. Because that is exactly what I think happened to Squanto.
Nicky was royalty. Named for Czar Nicholas, because he was a Russian Blue, the quiet, gentle, gray cat, who managed to slip in to all our hearts, silently slipped away from us last week. Nicky died because his heart was just too big.
Nicky was one of several kitties that our foster, Debbie, called her little “artists’ colony.” When she found them at a local metro park, deserted because the house they were living in was slated to be torn down, they were the starving artists. But with Debbie’s work and love, she turned Nicky and his family into happy, content, and well fed cats.
Nicky was a gorgeous cat with big eyes and soft fur. He had a love of toes and was constantly brushing up against feet. Debbie said he was the cat with a foot fetish.
He was only about two years old and his best friend was little Sadie, who may have been a litter mate or cousin. Sadie and Nicky were always together–cuddled up in a chair, sleeping on a blanket. When one of them went to PetSmart to try to be adopted, both went, because we wanted them to be adopted as a team.
And yet, although we had numerous applications for Nicky, although he and Sadie went to PetSmart off and on over the last year and a half, Nicky never did leave Debbie. Not until last Friday.
Nicky and Sadie had been in the cage space at PetSmart for just over two weeks. They had started out in separate cages, one on top, the other on bottom. But they both seemed so depressed without each other that a volunteer, cleaning the adoption center, put them back together in one cage. They were quite content after that.
On Thursday, October 15, the volunteer who was doing the weekly evening cleaning in the adoption room, called to say that Nicky was breathing in short gasps. Debbie hurried to get him, thinking both he and Sadie were stressed from being at PetSmart and needed a break. She took Nicky home, gave him treats and some food, and he seemed to be breathing easier.
Getting up to check on him later in the night, Debbie discovered that her beautiful gray boy had finally gone to his forever home.
Debbie had an autopsy done on Nicky to see what caused such a young cat to die. It turns out Nicky had the equivalent of congestive heart failure. The left side of his heart was enlarged and was working as hard as it could, but it could not keep up and fluid filled Nicky’s lungs. Our Nicky’s heart was just too big for his little body, was working too hard.
I thought about why such a beautiful, happy, and sweet cat never got adopted, why he kept waiting and waiting for someone to take him home. I think I know the reason. Czar Nicholas didn’t want to leave Debbie.
He had found his home.