Monday, December 19, 2011

A Warm Parka

Let the Christmas countdown begin!
The holidays have treated our cause well this year. Not only have we received very generous responses to our recent event and holiday mailings, we've also more than doubled our sales this year at the downtown Holiday Store (which, I might add, has been continually stocked with new merchandise--all donated!). We also had two instances this month of feral cat colony caretakers presenting humane investigator (and cat trapper) JoAnn with sizeable donations of appreciation following the TNRs. On top of all of this, 56 animals have found new homes this month alone! That's five smallies, six dogs, 18 cats, and 27 kittens who have traded a kennel or cage for a cozy living room this season--and for the rest of their lives.

Yes, we're feeling very positive about the future for animals at the moment. We're feeling especially good about the futures of the animals who were adopted last week!

Aussie-mix puppy Ariel was the sole dog to find a new home. But the kittens made up the numbers! Perseus, Hubbard, Munchkin, Justin, Maisie, Bunny, Pumpkin, Millie, Acorn, and Hopper are (hopefully not) climbing up curtains right now. (Only 14 kittens left who are still in foster care … a far saner number than 50.)

Regarding cats, Reese, Addacat and Tony are all outgoing, fellow-cat-lovers who met their perfect matches.

That leaves just one small cat who's not outgoing, and who's intimidated by other animals, who quite unexpectedly found her perfect match, too. The featured adoptee this week is … Parka!

Parka is an eight-year-old gray Tabby with a vanishing temperament--by which I mean she seems to wish she were invisible. Permanently glued inside a deep cat bed, it was typical to see only the tips of Parka's ears. She was, in fact, so immobile, that at one point we became worried she'd lost the strength to walk.

Parka was relinquished to us in August because she was having a bad reaction to the dog in the home. Apparently, Parka became either scared or jealous of the dog as it grew to adulthood, because she started defacting along its common paths through the house. As you can imagine, such a situation is hardly sustainable.

Parka's former owner had taken her in five years ago as a stray. And she was already quite shy at that point. But what was Parka's story before that? She came to us with the oddest behaviors: she loved petting and asked for it, but pinned her ears and flinched each time a hand came near. She seemed too embarrassed to ever lift her tail or rise up higher than a crouch, and she often performed somersaults of pleasure when stimulated--when most cats would be standing with everything raised high in proud delight.

It was almost as if Parka felt she didn't deserve to be loved. She wanted it so badly, but was inwardly restrained to the point of shrinking muteness, with nothing but a beseeching look in her green eyes to hint at her feelings.

Parka was overlooked again and again in her Tokyo cage. And the months went by … August, September, October.  At the beginning of November, feline supervisor Kayla decided to stage an intervention. She was moved to a staff office, where we hoped she'd get more exercise and come out of her shell. She did both to some degree. Staff discovered the full extent of her hidden cuddliness, and though she spent most of the days sleeping in a drawer, we did sometimes catch her cruising the floor after hours. There was progress. But not on the adoption front. And now that Parka was living back in the administrative area, it was even less likely that she'd be noticed.

Another intervention at the start of December: Parka was moved to volunteer coordinator Shayla's office, just off the lobby. She's get seen there … right?

Last Thursday, a 90-year-old woman named Edwena emerged from a shuttle in our parking lot, and made her way into the shelter with the help of a walker. She had lost her cat Hannah two months earlier to old age, and sworn at the time that she'd never have another one. But, as she told adoption staff Amanda, "I'm just so lonely." Edwena had to have another cat. And she had her mind set upfront on one of two, whom she asked to meet. Amanda introduced her to both of the cats, and then helped her fill out an adoption form for either one. Edwena just wasn't sure, though, who it should be. She paused at the front desk to consider. And then her eye caught a sign our shelter manager, Allie, had made to make our vanishing cat a little more visible. "Looking for warmth?" it read. "Try a Parka!" Something about the sign struck Edwena, because she immediately asked Amanda, "Where's this Parka kitty?" Amanda led her to Shayla's office, where, in a moment of affection, Parka had forgotten her shyness and was somesaulting with happiness on Shayla's lap. "That's the kitty," Edwena announced. "Write it up!"

By this point, Edwena's shuttle had returned for her. I ran outside to ask the driver if he could wait ten minutes while Edwena had her exit interview. He graciously agreed. I sat with Edwena for a few minutes while Amanda drew up her paperwork. She told me about how much she loved cats, and how empty and quiet her home had been since Hannah left. She told me that Parka will love her apartment, because there's never any noise--except when the fire alarms were tested. "But I already know what I'll do," Edwena said. "I'll take her to Cats Vermont for the afternoon, and I'll go to the hospital and read. And then, at the end of the day, I'll bring my kitty home." Edwena's eyes welled up a bit. I could see that it felt good--right--for her to make plans involving a cat.

Parka's adoption fee was covered by Purina Pets for Seniors, which is an excellent program run by Purina that subsizes pet adoptions for the elderly. From Purina's website:
"Companionship offers a multitude of benefits. For senior citizens, it can contribute to a healthier outlook on life, promote a feeling of safety, and improve health, including lowering stress and blood pressure"
We are given $2000 a year by Purina to cover adoption fees for people like Edwena.

So we packed Parka up and set the box on Edwena's carrier, just between the handlebars. A perfect fit! The driver helped cat and woman aboard, and off they drove to their new life together. And so Parka--the vanishing kitty--was adopted to fill up a home. And Edwena found her conviction ... and her cat.

That's the good news this week.

Happy, happy holidays everyone!


Director, Development & Outreach

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