Monday, December 12, 2011

A Matter of Timing

This week's report: twenty-two animals adopted from our shelter in one week. With about fifty animals finding new homes just this month, we've had a whirlwind December thus far!

This tremendous success was dominated by the feline faction. Only one dog--Border collie mix Piper--found a forever home last week.

Even the smallie sector has the dogs beat! Gerbils Peanut & Pumpernickel went home together, as did hamsters Cayenne & Paprika. And we must acknowledge Fiona the bunny, who was fortunate enough to be a failed foster case (staff member Susie DiDonato took this bunny home the first day she arrived, named her Fiona, and refused to return her).

But the felines … You know, when we've got a lobby full of adorable kittens tumbling over each other and mewing piteously, it's truly remarkable that we adopted out an equal number of adult cats.

Fortunately, we found new homes for all but one of our nine kittens last week! Congrats to Magic (one of the ferals I wrote about last week), Helo, Nora, Orion, Athena, Moxy, Chief, and Starbuck! We've now got plenty of room for this week's deluge of cuteness.

And the adult cats? Gabby, Katie, Lucy, Chopper, Kenadie, Bailey, and Salem all went home.

That's only seven. The eighth cat is our featureed adoptee this week: Sammy!

Sammy arrived in mid-September, relinquished because his owner had to move to a new home that didn't allow pets. A three-year-old, long-haired, solid black, fiesty guy, Sammy is the type of kitty who's not reserved about his feelings. He let us know right away that he prefered not to socialize with his own kind … but he didn't feel much better about having to live by himself in a Tokyo cage, either.

                                                                              (Tokyo cage)
Sammy also did not like to be picked up. He wanted to come out of the cage during play time, but as soon as the solicited person lifted him out, he promptly protested with his teeth.

He's a kitty who knows what he likes (and doesn't). And there's nothing wrong with that, by us--because Sammy's preferences were always clear and consistent, allowing us to understand and predict his behavior (it's only when an animal's reactions seem totally inconsistent and unpredictable that we start to feel less safe around them).

Though discriminating, Sammy was also ever charming. He was always perky in his cage and engaged visitors, and when out of the cage, he loved meeting new people, running right up to them with fluffy tail lifted like a high-flying banner. (Unfortunately, this often encouraged said people to stoop and sweep him up--which they soon regretted).

As our Halloween black cat promotion came and went, and Sammy was one of the few remaining sable felines in our care, it started to look like he was going to be a tough adoption case. Especially when November had passed, too. What's more, his disapproval of Tokyo life was only increasing, and feline supervisor Kayla sent out a special call to staff and volunteers asking them to give Sammy extra time out of his cage. The last thing a fiesty guy needs is to become irritable on top of it.

Ironically (serendipitously?), his new companion person was spending time with him all along.

Claudia Walsh has volunteered at HSCC for five or so years now. An expert in morning animal care--cleaning, feeding, socializing, and tastefully refurbishing the living spaces of our available cats--Claudia shows up every single week to (above all) give the kitties moral support. She is an excellent interpreter of feline communication, has a special fondness for the "hairy" cats, and is adept at choosing the perfect color of blanket to best show off a kitty's coat. Because after all, the cats must be "ready for showtime"!

Claudia has volunteered in other ways, too. For example, last year, we decided it was about time to replace the lumpy, wrinkled, mismatched sheets we draped each Tokyo cage with (to give the cats privacy and a barrier from sneezed germs) with something fitted. Not only did the old system look sloppy and unprofessional, it was a pain in the neck to have to constantly clip and reclip the sheets in place as they inevitably slid off the cages. Claudia took the matter into her own hands. She raided our enormous store of shelter sheets, and came in the next week with a prototype that was simple and effective.


The following week, she organized a group of volunteers to help her cut sheets into "kits" to make construction of each cover more efficient. After that, week by week, she brought in more and more perfectly constructed, attractive, and FREE (aside from her time) cage covers. Not only has staff time been drastically reduced in awkward cage draping, our lobby now looks a lot more neat and tidy, and our cats have better health and privacy with perfectly-fitted covers.

Claudia is also a master quilter, and generously agreed to donate one of her creations to our recent Black Cat Soiree fundraising auction. Claudia made an absolutely beautiful piece for us--fittingly, a quilt with a cat pattern!--and her quilt attracted the most bids in the Soiree silent auction of any other item. In fact, it was the only item to go for MORE than its retail price!

Last Monday, Claudia arrived for morning animal care in tears. Her beloved Miss Lydia, faithful feline companion, had succumbed to chronic ailments over the weekend. We all felt like we knew Miss Lydia personally, as Claudia had aptly described her antics in colorful detail each week. It was easy to see that the thought of returning to an empty house was more than Claudia could bear.

Some people need time after a pet's death to decompress before adopting a new companion. Not Claudia. Where she recognized an opportunity to reach out to another animal in need, she took it immediately. That very day, Claudia scooped up Sammy (very carefully) and brought him home.

We've since heard about Sammy's transition in his new home. True to his discriminating nature, Sammy held his bladder for nearly 24 hours because he refused to use the type of litter Claudia prefers. (Obviously, this relationship will not be about what Claudia prefers!) Claudia, in fact, was forced to race out early the next morning to find exactly the same kind of litter Sammy had used here (plus a new litter box, of course). As soon as she poured the new litter, didn't Sammy run right in and relieve himself! Crisis averted. She also reported an initial snobbiness about food selection, but fortunately, that seems to be wearing off.

Thus we have a case of person and animal mutually meeting each others' needs. It's so often like that, isn't it? In the long two and a half months he was here, waiting optimistically in a little cage, Sammy's answer was right there all along, feeding, cleaning, and brushing him every Monday morning, practicing a bestowal of love that neither party yet realized was destined for a lifetime. It was simply a matter of timing. It's comforting to extend that concept to those animals who are still patiently waiting in small cages, glancing hopefully at those who pass by. It's just a matter of timing.

                                                    (Lucky waiting for her new home.)


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