They Are Family. Period!
Meet Sundance. She’s about 15 years old and a complete sweetheart, very trusting and lovely. In fact, she’s an absolute dream…who almost became an unbearable nightmare! When the New York Police Department found her, she was stuffed in a crate and left on the curb with the garbage. (Thank you, NYPD!) Honestly, who throws away their senior family member? It’s a haunting question that I ask myself much too often these days.
Sundance is here with me now and I’m thrilled to have her. I know that a loving home is waiting for her. To paraphrase that old saying, one man’s garbage will soon be a forever treasure. But when I look into her magical eyes, I can’t help thinking of all the other animals just like her, once cared for and then discarded like trash.
At the moment, there are four other adult fosters in my program whose stories sound horribly similar to Sundance’s. Each was clearly someone’s pet. The most dramatic example is Peach, 22-year-old Tortie (left) who was dumped in a shelter because she was “too much responsibility.” The former owner also told the shelter that Peach will turn 23 on June 1. What monsters! Well, we will celebrate Peach on her big day and promise her a loving future for whatever precious time she has left.
“Too much responsibility.”
These words are simply infuriating, especially right now with May being Responsible Animal Guardian Month. I believe that having a pet is a privilege that we earn by being responsible. So, what does it take to be a responsible animal guardian? I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve come up with five characteristics that define responsible pet guardianship. I bet you can add some of your own, so here goes:
Loyalty. Pets are family members. Period! Once you bring a pet into your life, it’s a lifelong commitment, even when times get tough and the pet becomes ill — perhaps especially then. And you don’t dump your pet on Craig’s List because you’re moving. (left) This is the ultimate disloyalty masquerading as compassion. Shame on them! I put this mustachioed darling in touch with interested adopters, so her future is looking brighter.
Financial Stability. Being a responsible pet guardian requires having the financial resources to care for your companion now and in the future, which means planning for your pet’s care should something happen to you. How many of my fosters come to my program because their people did not make plans? Too many! Our pets depend on us for everything, from quality food to proper grooming to health care, which begins with spay/neuter, the most responsible thing you can do for your pet — and the entire pet population. Pets do not live on love alone. It costs money to truly love a pet.
Empathy. This covers a lot, but what it boils down to is trying to see the world, including yourself, from your pet’s perspective. In other words, recognizing that each pet is an individual with personal preferences and desires. It’s important to see who they are and to love them for all the things that make them unique.
Time. The awful post at right says it all. Think about it: an 11-year-old cat, whom the shelters won’t take (shocking!), is interfering with their travel plans. Oh, my! Frankly I would not want to be attending that family reunion in Michigan with this person, especially if I were “older” and inconvenient. Time is the essence of life. So besides giving love, affection, and care, it’s crucial to share time with pets and provide the physical exercise as well as social and emotional stimulation they need to be happy. If your work or social obligations are already overwhelming, a pet is probably not a good fit for you, at least not right now. Time is the most precious gift we can give to those we love, and that means our pets too, including the 11-year-old ones!
Patience. Just like the people in our lives, our pets can exasperate us. Maybe your cat likes to claw the furniture. Well, don’t get mad: get a scratching post. Or maybe your cat isn’t the lap cat you thought he’d be. Well, nobody’s perfect. Patience gives us a perspective on life, helps us see what matters most…and it doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor.
Speaking of nobody’s perfect, patience and a sense of humor have definitely been key to life with our resident troublemaker, aka Naughty Poopy Pebble.
Three other adults in my program — Sammi, Raggedy Andy, and Sushi the Silver Persian — all arrived under different circumstances, but each suffered pain and loneliness because of their owners’ irresponsibility.
Sweet Sammi Sam Sam (above) has been with us for a while now, waiting patiently for a family to love. I told you in February that he’d been abandoned by his “family” and lived in a cold barn for six months. Since he arrived, he’s only become more lovable. He’s a clean and quiet houseguest who likes to lean against humans and get head massages. Gentle Sammi has one quirk, though: He hates being picked up. People ask how we get him into a carrier.…lots of tricks to accomplish that! I know that somewhere there’s a cat-experienced person who wants a loyal, lovable companion and will find Sammi irresistible.
When Raggedy Andy (below) was rescued, it was impossible to know who was trapped inside all that painfully matted fur. We estimate that this friendly, tiny cat spent six or seven years (!!) outside…alone and on his own. Once he was freed from that mass of fur — it came off in one, big, ugly piece — we discovered a small, affectionate cat inside who loves to be brushed. He had to have most of his rotted teeth removed, which is already helping him enjoy his food and fatten up. Raggedy Andy is a loving work-in-progress who surely had a home once. How he arrived at such a sad state of affairs, we’ll never know. But one thing is certain: he will never be hungry and lonely again.
Sushi, a gorgeous 2-year-old Silver Persian, was surrendered to me when his human could no longer care for him. He’s absolutely delicious, and he loves other animals. Unfortunately, he has signs of Urinary Tract Disease. (FLUTD) He’ll need to be on a special diet, and his new family must be on high alert to observe any straining-to-pee behavior. He was treated with antibiotics and the problem seems to be 100 percent resolved, but the clinical signs of FLUTD can come back, so he needs a special adopter who can monitor him closely. He’s amazing with other animals, and I’m thinking a dog sibling would be great for him so he isn’t tempted by other cats’ food.
Besides being Responsible Animal Guardian Month, May is also National Pet Month, National Foster Care Month, National Chip Your Pet Month, and Pet Cancer Awareness Month, all of which reflect what it means to be responsible to the animals in our lives. For me, May is also the first month that truly feels like the beginning of summer. I love summer, but I know that it presents special responsibilities for pet parents. For some helpful summer safety tips, visit North Shore Animal League America’s website.
I want to add that I apply topical flea/tick treatment monthly on my cats, even though they are strictly indoor pets. We have an enclosed, screened-in porch that they enjoy in the warm weather. In fact, we all enjoy it together.
Wishing you a wonderful month and a great summer of love with your families, including the precious four-footed members
P.P.S. NSALA has also posted a wonderful article about the “Benefits of Senior Pet Adoption.” Think Sundance, think Peach, think about being a hero!