Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Tale of Recent Crap

One of my passions in life is animals. A home just isn’t a home without pets. And that’s plural – pets – as in more than one.

A few of the most infuriating and frustrating injustices for me are the number of homeless animals, the number of abused animals, the number of animals in shelters, the lack of funding to place animals, the irresponsibility of some pet owners, and worst of all, the number of innocent and loving pets put down every day.

Put it all together and you’ve got the makings of one helluva tough rescue champ, eh?

Yeah, I always figured so. But I might be wrong. This all might be a mistake.

Why?

Well, because the other folks in rescue efforts are driving me a little batty, and I’m not liking it. That’s putting it mildly.

This has been the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever stepped in.

It all started when, after years of wishing I could do more for the animals than donate a few bucks here and there, and network to find homes, and then visiting one of the worst shelters in my area and nearly dying from the filth, I volunteered to do some painting at an orphanage. It’s traditionally an orphanage, but now it’s called more of a “boys’ home.” It used to be where children went if they ended up with no family, or if the only family they had became ill, hospitalized, disabled, etc. One man speaks on a documentary film about the establishment and recalls staying for a “few years” with his brother when his mother became too ill to care for them. Eventually, she got better, and they went home.

That was back in the 50’s & 60’s.

Now? The clientele has changed. The children are all male with no exceptions. An estimated 90% of them were removed from their homes because of their guardians getting busted for drug use, or worse, sexually abusing the children.

The older “dorms” are not used. They don’t work for the current breed of children in this facility. Newer dorms HAD to be built several years back. Dorms that really are “dorms” but are situated in such a way that a desk resembling a nurse’s station in a hospital can see all 10 doors of all 10 bedrooms at one time, and enforce rules such as: only one child in a bedroom at a time, and all children must knock ON THEIR OWN DOOR before entering. Nice, eh?

Well it got me thinking… The facility also does foster care. They get tiny ones that are too young to put in “houses of 10 inmates each.” Why not foster? Say, six years old and under?

I came home and asked my husband what he thought, and he didn’t have to use words. He just wasn’t down with it. This really isn’t out of coldness. He didn’t even have to explain himself. There are a ton of reasons why this might not have been the brightest idea I ever had. First, I am all alone all week. I’d be required to manage our household, care for our dogs, run all errands, take care of family obligations, work, and then manage to handle a child and do runs to and from daycare before and after work. That’s a lot. It’s a lot even before you throw a child into the mix. And he knows he’s not around to help out. He can’t be right now. Then you can move on to the burden of cost, the fact that many of these children are really troubled, and will hoard food, torture your pets, and set your house on fire if given the chance. Despite this, I’d still be willing. But I ended the discussion there, because these things need to be joint decisions now that we’re married.

But then it hit me a few days later on the way to work. Why not foster animals? I’m already active in the rescue network. It’s something I’ve always thought of doing. I don’t need his support to do it, because I have pets at home already. I was inspired. I’d contemplate it for a couple weeks, and possibly get into fostering last-chance animals from the shelters until we could find homes. I’d seen the rescue groups at the local PetCo’s and PetSmart’s in the area. Piece of cake. You have an extra animal or two in the house, you volunteer a few hours every weekend to attend the events, field some phone calls, and that’s it. I was so versed in the belief that I was too busy with work and school that I forgot school was over with and I have time now.

So that was it. I mentioned this to my hubby, who I knew wouldn’t have any issues with it. He’s as big an animal lover as I am.

A couple weeks later, an urgent cat came across my screen. Nobody had any room for it. It was surrendered by a young girl who was leaving for college, and her parents made her get rid of the cat. Her contact number is still available, so questions can be answered. The cat is just simply gorgeous, so I’m sure a home can be found. I raise my cyber hand and volunteer, figuring I’ll just join forces with a local PetCo team and work those details out later.

I make arrangements to procure said feline on Tuesday night, the week before last. These arrangements are made the week before. Just before time to go after this cat, and after I’ve agreed to foster it, I get an much appreciated email from one of the women in the “networking” distribution list, who invites me to join her rescue organization, which I will leave unnamed at this point. She further says that I can “probably” show the cat at PetSmart on Saturday, but she has to “clear it with the big boss.” (No kidding, that’s exactly what she wrote….)

I pick up the cat on Tuesday immediately after work, stopping on the way to purchase a cat carrier to keep the cat contained, safe, and preserve my leather seats. Initial expenditure for this cause: $48 and some change.

Now the rescue group this gal has invited me to join has partnered with local vets in the area, and vet bills go right through the organization. It’s a nice deal, and I’m already willing to take another cat or two at this point because this is going to be great!

First problem: none of the vets the rescue organization uses have any appointments available for me. One local vet who was not on the list had one Saturday morning. It could work… I can have the cat at the vet at 9:30, and then to PetSmart at 11. No problem. Even if I have to shell out the money for the updated vaccine in advance, it’s still okay. So the appointment is made, and then it gets even better. I find out that the rescue has worked with that vet; they just don’t “prefer” it. An authorization is faxed in to cover the cat’s costs, and I’m rollin with getting this cat a home.

Now Saturday morning, our shepherd also had a grooming appointment at our vet across town. So my husband took the dog for her appointment, and I packed up the cat and headed my way, and we worked out where to meet and how to handle the day. This was going to be a breeze.

I get to the vet, and the whole way there I’m trying to help him out with this last minute “problem” where the vet claims my dog was there “too late” and they can’t groom her. This vet is 45 minutes from our house, and I made the 9:30 am appointment myself, in person. I get disconnected, try to call back, and find they have the after hours message playing. So I can’t get anyone. By the time I get through, my husband has left with our dog and is heading back home. I was livid. He was EARLY. Considerably early. The details were just unbelievable with what they said to him while he stood in the lobby with the dog. I end up hollering at the receptionist on the phone while in the corner of the other vet’s lobby with the cat in tow. They call for me, and I have to get off the phone, only to go in, get the cat examined, and find out she’s PREGNANT. WTF?

That’s right folks, she’s in a family way. Expecting kittens. Hopefully not too many of them.

While pregnant, she cannot be vaccinated. Great.

Without an updated rabies shot, she can’t be shown. Great.

I take the cat back home, return her to the second floor, and she resumes eating ravenously, which is exactly what she had been doing when I originally scooped her up to leave in the first place.

I’m not detoured at this point. I’m still going to work with this, and get her and each one of her kittens loving homes. The vet tech was kind enough to give me some printed info on kittens, and I was going to learn how to do this and get it done. One thing I was not going to do, however, was take on another foster cat with Prego Cat at home.

Still touched with appreciation that this woman invited me to join her group, making the whole foster and adopt out function so much easier, I figured the least I could do would be to show up and meet them in person and offer a helping hand if they needed it. So I showed up. They were wonderfully friendly people. I explained why this cat wouldn’t be shown for adoption for a few months, at which time we’d probably have a whole cage full. The reaction was not what I’d expected. They wanted to know if I was going to spay her anyway.

Anyway? How to they spay her with kittens inside of…. Oh. I get it.

I was speechless. Dumbfounded. Horrified. I’m pro-choice for PEOPLE. Live, human, bipedal, people who can think and reason and CHOOSE. This cat? And her kittens? I’m supposed to choose death over life FOR them? I don’t think so. But I listened, and kept my mind open. A gal there who was not the one who originally invited me, explained the population concerns, and the ones being put down at the shelter, etc. etc. which I knew about, and I did understand and appreciate her position. As her position applied to kittens who were inside a mother at a shelter, or left on the steps of a vet, etc. But as far as how her position applied to a cat who was in my house? With all the space and warmth and necessities available?

They had way more volunteers on site than they needed, so I headed off, deeply disturbed. As I bid them farewell, the pressuring began with when I was going to get this cat into a different vet that they preferred to see how far along she was, and whether they could come get the cat from my house, etc. I told them I was heading out to Ann Arbor for the weekend, and wouldn’t be available.

I called the one person who has more experience working with animals of any species than anyone, and asked him about this. He said he’d have a seriously hard time doing what they were advising, and unless he had to, he wouldn’t. That sealed the deal for me. I was trying to be diplomatic and figured I should get an opinion, given that these other volunteers had been working in the trenches for far longer than I had.

Ann Arbor was a good time. We had a “farewell” party for our cousin who left for Iraq.

Monday morning I didn’t even get a chance to settle in before the emails were flying into my in-box. What did you decide to do? Are you getting the cat in today? Can we pick her up? Can we meet you after work? Should we come by at 6 am tomorrow?

And let me just say that the emails were sooooo thick with information on how the PRESIDENT of the rescue org feels. The one gal even admitted that the President had YELLED at her for not “demanding” the cat that same day so they could spay it.

Remember that I agreed to take the cat in long before I was offered to or agreed to join this group, so how this “president” assumed jurisdiction over this live animal, I have no idea, but clearly she had.

I responded to one of the emails with this:
Hi M. Good to hear from you. I hope you had a good weekend, and had good luck on Saturday!

I understand how the folks with (insert rescue name) feel, and I respect that position. It's very logical. It just doesn't work for me ethically. The whole reason I began to foster was to preserve life. The fact the so many other lives exist that need help doesn't really change that for me. I have to look in the mirror every morning. Maybe a few more years in active rescue involvement will harden me a bit, but it's doubtful.

I'll take care of things from here. I've started to look into groups that function as "no kill" organizations to join forces with once they are all born and eventually weaned. I've actually got three of them potentially placed already, so I'm off to a good start. It will be a bit of work... But a labor of love I guess. I'm shocked by the number of folks in the community already who have offered to help with the birth and all the details. I also have a cousin who is studying to be a vet, and has delivered a few litters of puppies. She hasn't done kittens yet, but she seems to really know her stuff. She's coming by to see the queening box I set up and just give me a thumbs up on how I’ve gotten things arranged for the cat. So I've got quite a support system put together in two short days. :O)

Best of luck to (insert rescue org name)! Please thank P for me too, for her kind offer to go above and beyond with taking the cat for vetting. I was very impressed with the cohesive way that you guys all function. I've added you to a corporate list I keep of local charities and non-profits that we pull from when we're allowed to do fund raisers at work. If there's every anything I can do for you guys, please don't hesitate to give me a call.

All the best,
Espresso Bean

It was the best I could do. The bit about placing kittens already is absolutely true. I jumped right on it. In fact, as I write this blog, I’ve got a fourth one potentially placed. The mother cat is so small; there may not eve BE that many to place.

What happened next was a flood of condescending emails with strict instructions on how to PROPERLY foster and adopt out a cat, and a very strong, clear message, than if I was not going to abort these kittens immediately, I was not welcome in their group.

So I did as I was asked. I took my ball and went home.

But not before receiving a bunch more emails, including one from the president herself with a horrifying note about how many dead animals are in the cooler at the shelter she volunteers at, etc.

Anyone who has ever read my blog before knows that I’m a very logical person. I am an engineer, and I think like an engineer. So I took the time to step back and really consider what these gals had written to me, with all emotion aside. I decided that they were correct if the following were true:
1. I had no intentions of following through and placing the kittens.
2. I had no funds to get care for and food for these kittens, as well as support the mother, who is truly eating us out of our home.
3. Having these kittens would slow or prevent other rescue activity on my part.
4. I had plans to run directly to a shelter and pick up 4 additional existing live cats to foster, and had changed my mind based on these future kittens.
5. These kittens would likely take homes with people who would have otherwise gone to the shelter and picked up an adult cat.
Now certainly I’m taking care of the situation and funding it. The mother has everything she needs. I’ve stayed active in my normal networking activity despite this issue. I had no plans to bring home a brood of adult cats to deal with at once, and subsequently changed my mind. Last, but not least, I feel very strongly that the market for adult cats is very different from the market for kittens.

Thus, I concluded, they are all full of it. I can see where seeing animals put down would harden you and make you a very strong proponent of sterilization. I happen to be a fan of it myself. But I think they are a bit overboard.

Worst of all thoughts while contemplating this whole scenario, is the wonderment of what would have happened to a person who did not have a very strong backbone, and who had not spent much time in rescue, and was getting involved for the very first time? What are the odds that this person would have just walked away from the whole effort altogether?

That makes this “president” a sorry excuse for a leader and an activist in my world. She has never met me. I could have been an impressionable 17 year old girl on a mission, who ended up scared, badgered, belittled, horrified, and instantly finished with any future volunteer efforts.

And if you think it ends there, it doesn’t. There’s a whole separate chapter that started before this one finished. The word got out on the street that I had a home for a couple foster cats, and the email box was exploding all weekend while I was at the vet learning the foster cat was pregnant, then getting puzzled by folks who advertise being a “no-kill” organization. Most of the animals on these incoming messages were not attached to a rescue organization, so whoever took them had to take care of the costs up front and hope to be reimbursed later. Not really a problem, but I’d rather be partnered with an existing non-profit group for support with application forms, screening, footwork, etc. A cat came up that someone from a rescue group fell in love with, so she covered all the vet costs for this poor guy, who had every issue under the sun, complete with a necessary observation stay at the vet.

This was a golden opportunity. This cat had no extra costs attached, he needed a home, and he was a way to get partnered with a no-kill rescue team. Excellent. This was something to think about , if it could work out. So I responded to one of the messages and asked if there was anyone to help with transportation, as this cat was a good hour away.

I began receiving messages addressed to someone with a different name than mine, who the authors clearly knew, and they went ahead and set up a relay to pass this cat from person to person until it was in Clinton Twp. Clearly, the woman they were writing to, who has the same first initial but different name, they believed was the one who sent the initial message.

At this point in time, I’m so fed up with the people involved who make things really impossible for the animals. I’m sick of the politics and rudeness, and I’ve only just begun.

I write back. “I’m not XXXX. I think this was meant for someone else. I merely asked if there was anyone who helped with transportation. I do not live in or around Clinton Twp. As a matter of fact, disregard the inquiry completely. I’m not sure how the confusion started, and now I’ve got a pregnant foster cat on my hands anyhow.”

I get a forlorn note back from one of them. It says she’s sorry for all the confusion. She thought I was someone else. She hopes someone else steps forward because the shelter where this cat was just pulled from is putting cats down every four days.

So of course I agree to take him if we can figure out transportation, which incidentally worked out fine. The author of the forlorn note lives by my work, and works by the shelter and vet involved with this cat. So we meet in the middle, and I take this cat home. He’s a cool cat. The cats get along. Things are going to be good. He needs a few days to recoup after all the vet work, he’s looking malnourished, his eyes are a little irritated from the ear mites and fleas he had while in the shelter, and he’s got missing fur from his tail. So I let him settle in.

Then starts the emails wanting pictures of him and a biography. Stat. I responded with a statement that I’d wait until he was looking a little more healthy and had finished his antibiotics at least. Not to mention, I reminded them that I was studying for the LSAT, and had less than a week left.

Next was a call from the author of the forlorn note to check up on the cat, and tell me that the woman who runs the little rescue who funded him called her to see if she thought I’d mind if she comes over to hang out and meet the cat. I was polite. I told her I wouldn’t “mind” per se, but finding time to make it happen was a whole challenge unto itself.

Folks, I’m running around trying to sell a condo, keep things together while my husband is out of state all week every week, and I’ve got a whole lot on my plate. I don’t have time to see the people I consider friends and family, much less have my space invaded by strangers who want to see a cat.

The following day, I receive an email from N, the one who asked about coming over. The email essentially asked in a very forward manner when a good time would be to come by. I replied appropriately, and haven’t heard from her since.

So cat #2 is really starting to come around. His fur is coming back. He’s lookin good. It’s just about time for his photo shoot, and a wonderful biography to hit the Internet to find him a home. I wrote to the forlorn note author and the woman who wants to come over to hang with the cat, and asked them both when the next adoption events are.

The responses, eventually, made clear that this rescue is a Dachshund rescue, not a cat rescue. It’s made of two people. They don’t show animals at events.

Their expectations, clearly, are that I will show this cat out of my home. I think it might have been nice to share that imposition up front.

I’m about done with this mission. It was supposed to be all about the animals, but the people just make it nearly impossible.

Now I’ve got two extra cats, one of them pregnant, and a whole slew of people driving me crazy. I got so sick of calling vets one by one when I have time during the day that I just created a fax and mass faxed it to 12 different places at once. This whole thing has gone from a good cause to a ridiculous mess in minutes.

1 Comments:

Blogger None333333 said...

I hate to laugh but as a member of a rabbit rescue group I can't say I'm unfamiliar w/this.

Our group is no kill but they have spayed pregant females before, usually because they have limited space for fosters and are beseiged by hundreds of 'dump calls' from bored rabbit owners. However I think if someone volunteered to take on the babies they would be OK w/it.

Rescue groups seem to have a high number of childless women who are very persnickety about the way the 'children' are handled. Almost to the point of being obnoxious and putting people off.

My current foster was pregnant but got spayed. She's none the wiser and has merrily celebrated by tearing up my carpet. But she was one of a huge bunch and if I hadn't volunteered to take her in she wouldn't have had a home at all.

One advice for kittens - I used to volunteer at a public animal shelter. Kittens that were surrendered to the shelter were spayed/neutered, given shots, and adopted out very quickly, usually over the weekend. So bringing them to a reputable public shelter may be a win win situation.

Mon Nov 13, 02:40:00 PM GMT-5  

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