Not long ago I read a story online about a panicked baby African elephant stuck in a mud hole. Short-legged and a bit clumsy, she was just too small to climb out, despite the determined efforts of her distraught mother. But help was on the way. Seeing the pair’s predicament, other members of the herd lumbered over to the mud hole and pitched in. They put their trunks together and helped the muddy baby scramble to safety and rejoin the group.
It’s called teamwork!
Okay, so here I go, stretching the metaphor: North Shore Animal League America is my herd. We work together to save cats and dogs who, like that beautiful baby elephant, can’t do it on their own. And we can’t do it on our own, either. That’s why we need each other; and that’s why we so often succeed.
In fact, every delicious nugget you meet on my Instagram account — every story of rescue and adoption — every healed body and mended spirit — represents the hard work, compassion, and creativity of countless people.
The story of a cat named Hudson illustrates perfectly what I’m talking about. It starts with a police officer who happens to find a gorgeous all-black, longhaired feline wandering on Hudson Street in Manhattan. The officer’s girlfriend happens to be the extraordinary veterinarian who adopted my beautiful blind nugget Buddy, superstar of “Yoda Finds a Buddy.” They approach me for help. Frankly, I’d have taken Hudson in a heartbeat, but she definitely does not like other pets. So I turn to my “herd” at North Shore. No big surprise: They say, “Yes!”
So Hudson goes to Long Island where she faces the challenges of shelter life, including an extreme makeover buzz cut to help her skin heal from painful sores caused by matted fur.
Hudson is not happy, and it’s not just the buzz cut. She’s a sensitive soul who’s endured more than we’ll ever know. Our pet behavior team moves her from the busy cat room, with its sensory overload, to a large cage in the Ark, where anxious cats go to settle in and prep for adoption. When a cage-free opportunity opens up in an office, Hudson moves in. She loves her officemate, receives visits from hoards of devotees, and soon relaxes. As one of our dedicated volunteers notes, “This is probably the happiest she’s ever been in her whole life.”
But with construction for Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center on the horizon, Hudson is going to lose her office space, which means yet another move. This time we all agree it should her big move, the one that takes her home. Thanks to time and TLC, Hudson is ready to fly.
So up she goes on my Instagram account, and snap! Do I love Instagram! In just six days, this stunning beauty with golden eyes and more-than-a-touch of cat-i-tude finds just what she needs: Stasia, a woman with years of feline experience, no other pets (her beloved cat, Sylvester, had recently died at age 20), a quiet home…and most important of all, an open, patient heart that needs to shower love on this particular “Diva.”
The herd made it happen.
And then there’s Popsicle, another beneficiary of teamwork. Popsicle first arrived at North Shore 17 years ago as a kitten. Ten years later, her owner, unwilling to care for an ailing senior, dropped her at our Medical Center. (Really?!? After 10 years?!?) Our doctors diagnosed her with Irritable Bowel Disease and began successful treatment.
We immediately realized that Popsicle couldn’t tolerate other animals, so our feline enrichment manager moved her to a quiet place on our campus. Meanwhile, our foster team began looking for foster situations. During the next seven years, Popsicle lived in two excellent foster homes. She spent three great years at the last one, until, sadly, her foster mom became ill and had no option but to return her to us.
Back in the shelter, this poor little Tabby, now 17 years old, was frantic — overwhelmed by the drastic change in her environment and routine. When she began to lose her hair, our medical team diagnosed stress-induced alopecia. Once again, our feline behavior specialist moved her to the Training Ward (sometimes called the “spa”) where fearful felines thrive under her care. In no time, it seemed, resilient Popsicle regained her equilibrium, responding to adoring visitors with purrs and head butts.
That’s when one of our creative volunteers made a video of this tiny senior and posted it on Instagram. (Did I mention I love Instagram?) The post was reposted — again and again — and just a few days later, the perfect couple — Danielle and Christine — took Popsicle home as a senior foster so she can spend her precious golden years in peace and quiet, surrounded by love.
I count myself lucky and honored to be a member of Animal League America’s formidable team. As I’ve watched many animals go home, I’ve often thought about the way in which North Shore has given me and my passion for rescue a home, too — a place where I can contribute and make a difference.
Everyone at Animal League America (Cindy, Dorit, Kate), plus Buddy’s mom and her fiancé, all my Instagram followers, and every compassionate, hard-working rescuer I’ve met because of North Shore: Thank you! You know who you are, and I hope you know how grateful I am to be one of you.
Together we make an invincible herd!
Speaking of Teamwork…
Go, Team Animal League!
They say that the person who starts a marathon is not the same person who finishes it. And it’s true. Those 26.2 miles are transformative. And when you do it for a great cause it means even more.
Running the 2010 New York City Marathon was one of the most exciting and fulfilling events of my life — not only because I actually finished it, but also because our team ran for Animal League America and its no-kill mission.
I can’t believe the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon is coming up on November 5. Once again — as it has since 2008 — Team Animal League will be an inspiring presence come Marathon day. Boy, do I remember the training and preparation that went into getting in shape for that tough run. I can’t begin to say how much everyone at Animal League America appreciates and admires this year’s dedicated athletes.
When they cross that finish line, they’ll know in every aching muscle and joint that they’ve saved lives and helped advance a project near and dear to my heart, Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center. And if they’re anything like me, they won’t be able to tell the difference between the sweat and the tears of joy.
Please support these terrific people and help them reach their goals by making a donation to individual runners or to the entire team. Visit animalleague.org/2017nycmarathon for details.