Thursday, April 19, 2012

Meeko Shall Inherit Your Heart

Welcome to fully-fledged spring!

Canine Supervisor Robyn, Feline Supervisor Kayla, and I saw the flowers blooming in Mystic, Connecticut last weekend at the New England Federation of Humane Societies Annual Conference, which drew hundreds of folks involved in animal welfare--from animal control officers, to volunteers, to tiny animal rescue organizations, to employees of the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA.

We found a great majority of the workshops fascinating. Topics that made us think: open adoptions; pit bull advocacy; animal enrichment; how to tell the difference between feral cats and frightened domestic cats. A lecture that sparked extensive conversation was entitled: "Shelter-ers or Rehomers?" That topic deserves an entire blog in itself, and I'd like to write about it soon.

But for now, let's discuss our animals who've gone from the shelter to a home!

Two dogs found homes last week: Quigley, a nearly blind Golden mix (sweetest guy ever), and Millie, an adorable, floppy, small breed/Terrier mix.

Eight cats went home! Congrats to Queenie, Shamus, Shanti, Parka, Luna and Sebastian. In amazing news, Curry is finally in a home! This seven-month-old cat grew up here in our shelter, in an isolation room. Sadly, over the course of his entire kittenhood, he exhibited chronic vomiting.  Our medical supervisor, Jen, and visiting veterinarian, Dr. Susan McMillan, tried EVERYTHING to fix this little guy. In the end, a raw food diet stopped the vomiting, and he was finally made available for adoption. We're overjoyed to know that he's finally living life outside of a cage.

And we're just as happy about the adoption of our featured adoptee … MEEKO!

Many of you have seen Meeko featured on our Facebook page, if not met her in person, because she's been here a very long time. At least, much longer than Siamese kitties usually remain unspoken for here!

Meeko was relinquished to us in late February because her owner passed away. A beautiful Chocolate Point, Meeko is typical of her breed in that she has a BIG personality! And unfortunately, the particular bent of her personality is not especially adaptable to life in a shelter. Meeko has no tolerance for other animals. And is not unendingly patient with multiple human strangers handling her. After a week of "hissy/swatty" behavior with staff attempting to clean her cage, our feline supervisor moved her into her own office for closer observation. Fortunately, free of the company of other cats, Meeko came out of her shell and showed her social side. Kayla quickly learned that Meeko has her preferences: no scratching of the hind end; limited petting; a fondness for men over women; no hugging, please … but overall, Kayla observed nothing of alarm. Still, the thought of placing her in a Tokyo cage in the lobby, next to other cats in Tokyo cages, with volunteers taking her out of the cage to clean each morning … just didn't seem conducive to Meeko's success at the shelter. So the cat moved in with our volunteer and events coordinator, Shayla.

Shayla has a special place in her heart for Siamese and was excited to meet Meeko. The feeling was not completely mutual. After a week in the little office, Meeko yearned to expand her horizons and began jumping the gate. Shayla reacted by leaving her door closed … after which Meeko learned to take advantage of unwitting strangers who mistook the intentions of the blue-eyed cat winding between their legs for affection. She only needed six inches of open doorway.

Meeko's favorite thing in the office was a peacock feather--which object of sport just happens to be all the rage among our cat population these days. But Meeko's no blind follower. She genuinely loved that feather. Staff would watch from the front desk as Meeko suspiciously eyed the feather, daring it to mock her just one more time. When fed up with its cheekiness, she'd raise a chocolate paw and ferociously go to work, smacking its silky head again and again with an alacrity enviable of any boxer at the speed bag. Afterwards, convinced it had learned its lesson, she'd jump aloft Shayla's chair and gaze fondly at the chastened feather with heavy-lidded eyes. That single blue and green feather hanging in Shayla's office provided Meeko the extra bit of physical and mental stimulation she needed to make it through four weeks in a small space. But its significance would play a larger role yet.

Meeko had quite a few interested visitors, but her lack of cuddliness seemed to turn those folks away. Seven Days lent a hand by publishing Meeko's photo in the paper--which garnered quite a few calls of interest. But as soon as the callers learned of the cat's intolerance for other animals, they lost interest. Until last Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, a couple from Hardwick came in specifically to meet Meeko. Perhaps it's the fact that they live amidst acres and acres of undisturbed woods that lends them a "back to the earth" quality. Their cat had died, they said quietly, and they were ready to find a new cat. They'd seen Meeko in Seven Days. And had known instantly she was the one.

Shayla told them Meeko couldn't live with other animals, expecting the usual disappointed response. But no--they had no other animals. It was no problem. The man explained that when he first saw Meeko's photo in the paper, he grew nervous that they couldn't get to the shelter fast enough to adopt Meeko before someone else did. But then a thought came to him distinctly: Meeko is your cat and will be there for you when you are ready. His fears were calmed.

Shayla introduced them to Meeko, and watched warily as the man began to pet the Siamese without apology--pushing every button Shayla knew Meeko has. Finally, the inevitable: Meeko said "No!" with her teeth. But it wasn't her usual impatient fussiness: she communicated gently, with patience, and rubbed right up against the man again afterwards as if to say "No hard feelings!" Shayla couldn't believe it. "He was able to touch that cat more in ten minutes than I've been able to in a MONTH!" she said. And he just kept saying, "This is my cat. This is my cat!"

After a few minutes, the man turned to his wife and asked what she thought. "I don’t think I need to weigh in," she replied. "She's clearly yours."

The man left the room to fill out the paperwork, and his wife made an overture to Meeko. Shayla explained that Meeko is very male-centered--had never lived with a woman and seemed much less interested in befriending women. "You could try offering her your shoe to sniff--she likes shoes," Shayla suggested. The woman did not merely hold out her foot. She took off both of her boots and laid them on the floor. Meeko sniffed the boots--and then dropped to the floor and began to roll over them and over them. Shayla swears she caught a look of admiration for the woman developing in Meeko's eyes. 

"I have money in my pocket for this cat today," the man announced when he returned. "That's great," Shayla said, "But please know there are multiple steps to adoption that usually require a couple of days to complete." Not for this couple. Within an hour they'd completed the adoption process--including obtaining a glowing reference from their notoriously hard-to-reach vet … and we had an appointment open for their exit interview.

"Do you think she'll be a good mouser?" the man asked Shayla, as he waited for Meeko to get packed up. "We have some mice in the house."
"Oh yes!" Shayla replied, remembering the peacock feather.

Meeko's horizons expanded exponentially that very afternoon.

"But the craziest thing about all of this?" Shayla said to me in a credulous voice as she excitedly related the details of Meeko's adoption: "This man has a peacock feather braided into his hair."

That's the good news this week.