The Spirit of December
I read recently that the spirit animal for December is the deer, and it made perfect sense. Santa’s reindeer come immediately to mind, but because deer shed and regrow their antlers every year, they also remind us of the natural cycle of loss and regeneration, something we think about as one year rolls into the next. And like cats, deer are elegant, graceful, and highly sensitive creatures, so it’s no wonder I love them.
For me, no month summons up more memories and emotions than December. It’s such a resonant season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice. December is the time when many of us look back on the past 12 months and forward to what’s next. So, in that spirit, I’m taking a look at 2023 to share just a few of the moments that will stay in my memory forever.
In January, a very special nugget named Angel Taylor, a rescue from Oman, went to her forever home. When I learned about this horrifically abused kitty — who’d been beaten, lost an eye, and had her ears chopped off — I reached out to @street_cats_of_oman to ask if I could help. After almost 20 hours in cargo, this lovable Tortie was met at JFK by my partners at NSALA — on the very day that the amazing Taylor Swift sent a significant donation to Beth’s Furry Friends in honor of her birthday and to help me rescue even more cats and kittens! And that’s how a little cat from Oman got the wonderful name of Angel Taylor. Today she is thriving in a loving home with another Oman rescue, Moo. As their family says, “Despite all the trauma and pain of their past, they’ve shown the capacity to love and trust again.” My heart fills every time I think of little Angel Taylor.
In early March, six-month-old Pashie arrived from Budva, Montenegro, nearly 5,000 miles away! He has CH (Cerebellar Hypoplasia) and weighed only four pounds when he arrived. CH is a painless neurological disorder that some kittens are born with. He wobbles when he walks and has no idea he is a bit different. It didn’t take long for a wonderful family to spot him and take him home where he’s enjoying his first Christmas. When I think about his journey, it almost feels like a miracle.
If you followed me this year, you know the story of Delores. This gentle soul was born a perfect kitten, then handed over to a life of misery about 14 years ago. She spent all those years in a dirty bodega in New York City. A huge-hearted customer pleaded with the owner to let her take her to a vet. Well, that was that! In April she came to me.
Medical exams showed a lot of problems, stemming mostly from a poor diet. Plus, she’d never been spayed! She also had severe abnormalities in her internal organs, probably from multiple traumas. But from the second she arrived, she was a love, and with time she began to gain weight and thrive. Today, she is living a wonderful life in New Jersey, watching snowflakes out the window for the first time, sleeping in sunspots, and being adored. I love you, little Delores! Your journey from darkness to light inspires all of us.
In August, baby house panther Jess was my tripod foster kitten. She was born with her left hind leg much shorter than the others. Everybody who met her fell in love, including two handsome admirers who could not resist her charms. She was adopted in September and had a successful amputation of her short leg to protect it from damage. But nothing stops this nugget. She’s living with a pet-loving family in New Jersey. For Halloween, she was an adorable bumble bee — she did not object to her costume — and these days she’s investigating all the Christmas decorations.
November brought an abandoned senior to my attention, 11-year-old Cleo. This gentle lady was dumped by her family in her golden years, just as she was getting sick. When she arrived at Animal League America, we learned she had severe arthritis and ocular cancer. We agreed that this mushy lap cat deserved to be with a family who would love her until her last moment. I posted her story, and one of my incredible Instagram friends contacted us and adopted Cleo that very day. Nothing makes me angrier than the cruel abandonment of senior cats, and nothing makes me happier than seeing a kitty like Cleo get another chance to be loved. I’m so grateful to be part of the NSALA network of rescue.
And then there’s the story of Ralph the Rooster who’d been living on a patio in Glen Clove, Long Island, for more than two weeks. I posted his situation and in a matter of hours, he was safe in the arms of my friend John Di Leonardo of Humane Long Island. John told me that poor Ralph was wearing a cruel “no crow” collar that strangled him every time he tried to use his voice. The kind homeowners who found him fed him berries and fell in love — but they knew he was in trouble. That’s when they reached out to me. Though Ralph was abandoned, he is one of the lucky ones! John told me that as many as 6 billion (!!) male chicks are killed around the world every year, simply for the crime of not laying eggs!
In early December I received an update on Ralph…and oh, what a beautiful update it was. Handsome Ralph went to a foster home where his caregivers fell in love and adopted him. Look at Ralph now…
Ralph just after his rescue.
Ralph now, flourishing and proud.
As wonderful as it was, 2023 was not without deep heartache. At the moment we are concerned for our Poopy Pebble who, at just five years old, is experiencing good days and bad as she fights a combination of very serious medical conditions. We love this naughty little princess more than words can say and we are doing everything we can to make her feel comfortable.
On July 1 we lost our precious Jessica Rabbit Stern, who’d opened a whole new world for me. I never knew I could love a rabbit so much until she came into our lives. She didn’t suffer. And it was quick. But we were beyond devastated and miss her all the time. I know Jessica felt love from every direction and I am grateful for that. If love alone could have saved her, she would have lived forever.
Then this happened: At about the time that our beloved Jessica left us, a little “ghost” was spotted alone and terrified near a dark and busy street (below left). When his rescuer contacted me, it seemed as if Jessica had orchestrated the whole thing from her hutch in heaven! Some of life’s coincidences feel like more than mere chance. That’s how I feel about the way that Stephen Heavensent Stern arrived in our lives. There is no replacing the loved ones we lose, but there’s joy and meaning in loving what comes next.
I’m happy to share that this year more than 200 cats and kittens found forever homes through my program…with more than 2,147 adoptions since I began my program. But the work goes on, with hope and promise that 2024 will bring even more heartening stories of rescue. At the moment there are more than 20 kittens in my program along with several sweet and deserving adults, all of them hoping for happy endings like the ones in this blog. They need every one of us to make their dreams come true. So wherever you are, I hope you will include helping homeless animals in your New Year’s resolutions. They need us as much as we need them!
Happy Holidays and love from our family to yours,
P.S. Next year will be an exciting one for everyone involved with North Shore Animal League America as we mark our 80th anniversary — an incredible record with more than 1.1 million lives saved. Stay tuned for updates about special events and programs that celebrate and advance our no-kill mission.