When I was growing up, my family was fairly poor. Rent was usually late and while my sister and I never went hungry, the big, old houses we lived in were often cold. Because there really wasn’t much money left over for more than our basic needs (now don’t get me wrong, I had Barbies and Nike shoes, because my parents spoiled me and used credit cards and lay-away—-my mom was a lay-away nut), our pets got absolutely no vet care.
Our family was what I cringe at now: we had a dog on a chain in the back yard and none of our gazillion cats were fixed. I loved kittens and couldn’t wait for the resident “mamma kitty” to have a new litter each year. Those poor cats were always so thin and so tired and they wore their little bodies out year after year giving birth to kittens that were always sickly and never lived long–either hit by cars on our busy road or killed by a marauding predator.
I can hardly bear to think about the cats in our care that received no care at all. None of them were vaccinated or saw a vet. The only veterinarian I knew was the one who visited my grandpa’s pigs to make sure they were healthy enough to eventually make a fine set of pork chops. My grandpa always took the best care of his pigs and eventually had to get out of the business because he could not stand to kill them.
I have to confess, I feel so much guilt now over the lives of those poor creatures from my childhood. The one and only time my mom took a kitten to the vet when I was a child, it was dying. I sobbed and begged and followed her from room to room asking her to save the kitten. Finally, she placed the small limp body in her car and took it to the local vet who euthanized the lifeless animal to put it out of its misery. When Mom came home empty handed, I was devastated.
Because of this less than auspicious past, when, as an adult, I started learning about all the homeless cats and dogs in our county and state, I began to wonder what I could do to help.
My initiation into rescue came when my husband and I moved into our home on a country road. The neighborhood cats were constantly coming over for a meal. None of them were fixed. The first time kittens appeared at our garage, I knew I had to do something. Thus began a life committed to spaying and neutering and reducing the number of unwanted kittens in my backyard and eventually my community.
While this story began on a sad note, it proves that everyone can learn from their mistakes. The only way we, as rescuers, are going to make an impact is to educate the very people we often lump into a category of “those people.” Once long ago, I was one of “those people” and now today, I am a rescue person.
We can all change. The animals are counting on us to change others in order to save them and change their lives for the better.