The Season of New Beginnings
I read somewhere that September represents endings and new beginnings, which makes sense. Summer ends, autumn begins, vacation ends, and the school year begins. Speaking of new beginnings, there are currently two young nursing mammas in my program, with a total of nine nuggets. Once the kittens are weaned, we’ll have 11 new beginnings to celebrate.
Besides Mama Poppy and her five Poppyseeds, there’s Mama Hanna and her cute quartet. Plus, I just sent gorgeous Mama Chelsea Grey and her five to their forever homes.
I love kittens, but gosh, I have such mixed feelings. I wish September meant the end of kitten season. But of course, it doesn’t. In fact, I’m currently awaiting the arrival of Mama Wilma who delivered seven (!) babies at Animal League America not long ago.
Sadly, the world does not need more kittens and puppies. Every time I run out of room in my program, my heart breaks. My colleagues at North Shore Animal League America do so many important things to address the pet overpopulation crisis, including rescuing dogs and puppies from the horrors of life in puppy mills. Because September 16 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day, I thought I’d tell you about our puppy mill rescue program.
Collaborating with a longtime Colorado partner, National Mill Dog Rescue, we send our mobile rescue units to sites throughout the Midwest to scoop up pure and mixed breed dogs and puppies who would otherwise be killed or discarded because they can’t be sold or can no longer breed…after years of producing litter after litter. Some are less than perfect. Maybe they have an underbite, or cherry eye, or some “flaw” that makes them “unsellable.” Many have been so badly neglected — and have lived in such squalid conditions — that they’re sick or have behavioral issues. This is where we step in. We make repeated trips west to bring them to Long Island, nurture them, and give them a fresh and loving new beginning.
Two people I admire so much are Karla Scaramuzzo and Ted Moriates, the hands-on rescuers who work so hard and drive thousands of miles to bring these dogs to safety, giving them hope, shining a light on puppy mill abuses, and demonstrating why “adopt, don’t shop!” is more than a slogan.
Above, Karla and Ted are unloading dogs rescued this past August from commercial breeding facilities. The tenderness and care they show these animals are the first signs that their lives have changed forever.
In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness Day, I want to tell you about Brandy. She is one of the 50 dogs we rescued last month from a commercial breeder in the Midwest.
A beautiful 5-year-old Beagle, Brandy never learned how to trust and love, never felt the grass beneath her paws or the gentle touch of a kind human hand. But once she arrived at the safety of our campus in Port Washington, New York, she slowly but surely emerged from the emotional shell she’d created to protect herself. Staff says she let several people into what they called her “special people club.” She also loved to join her friends for walks and playtime in our dog park, as well as for a tasty treat or two. Even so, she was still on the shy side though everyone who knew her agreed that this truly amazing dog would be a wonderful companion for a lucky adopter. And then, during the second weekend of September, that lucky adopter appeared and adopted Brandy. She is home!!
Home is just the most beautiful word in an animal rescuer’s vocabulary. It’s what we work and hope for, and September gives us plenty of opportunity to find those homes. Almost immediately after Puppy Mill Awareness Day comes Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, September 18-24, which Petfinder started in 2022.
At the moment, I have a few “less-adoptable” cats and kittens in my program. But I don’t think they’re less adoptable. I think they’re “perfectly imperfect.”
Whenever I hand over a foster to a forever family, I always feel a bit sad. What do I do? I immediately pick up someone who needs me, and that’s how I found gentle, sweet Possum! She’s blind in both eyes, but honestly, she hasn’t noticed. And if you didn’t know better, you’d swear she was fully sighted. She follows me everywhere and wants me to carry her wherever I go. She is so special. Her ruptured eye will be surgically removed when she’s a bit bigger. I’ve placed so many blind or partially sighted cats and kittens over the years, and they always do so well. And I know Possum will thrive, too. She went home forever on September 9!
Heaven is a 13-year-old beauty who was dumped by her “family” and found matted, emaciated, and sick in a sealed box!!! Like everyone, I wonder how people can do such things. This is outright animal cruelty. It makes me sick. It’s horrible at any time but after 13 years?!? Maybe her family wasn’t directly involved. Maybe it was someone trying to hurt her family. I keep trying to understand, but I can’t. In any case, she is now safe forever. Like my other senior kitty, Delores, she doesn’t like the company of other felines, but they both love people. Their willingness to forgive us humans is humbling.
Jess, my little tripod foster, is so sweet and gentle. Her left hind leg is much shorter than the others. That’s just the way she was born. When she’s a bit older, she’ll have that leg amputated to protect it from being damaged. But nothing stops this nugget. Besides being an absolutely delicious delight of a kitten, she is one of the liveliest, most social nuggets I’ve ever fostered. No matter where I find her, she’s always with other fosters, playing, hanging out, or napping. She makes a great impression on everyone she meets, including a couple of handsome admirers who stopped by recently.
The summer of ’23 was filled with new beginnings…and sad endings. At about the time that our beloved Jessica Rabbit Stern left us in July, a little “ghost” was spotted alone and terrified near a dark and busy street. (See the video here.)
When his rescuer contacted me, it felt as if Jessica had orchestrated the whole thing from her hutch in heaven, which is how he got his name, Stephen Heavensent Stern!
So thank you, Jessica, for sending us Stephen Heavensent. Without you, I would never have known I could love bunnies as much as I do!!!
P.S. Animal League America has two events I want to tell you about.
First is the seventh annual Walk & Wag 30-Mile Facebook Challenge fundraiser. This year, it’s a completely virtual event that anyone can take part in from any place in the world. It began on September 1 and will end on October 7, so there’s still plenty of time to make those steps count and save lives. Visit animalleague.org/walkandwag to learn more.
Next, it’s my pleasure to invite you to join me for our annual Celebration of Rescue on Friday, November 17! As chairperson for this year’s live and virtual celebration, I’m excited to be part of a night that will support and expand our no-kill promise to Rescue, Nurture, Adopt, and Educate. I love this event for many reasons, including the fact that Howard and I announced plans for Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center during this event in 2014. It was a historic night for animal rescue and so meaningful to us. As always, this year’s Celebration of Rescue will be exciting, surprising, and inspiring. To learn more visit animalleague.org/celebration.