A Concern for Animals Far and Near
In November, Esther Merten will fly to Lapland. She’ll live in a glass igloo for a few days and watch the northern lights. She also plans to see reindeer. Esther is 84 years old.
Such adventures are not unusual for this intrepid Bloomfield, N.J., resident. Since retiring from a 50-year career in nursing, she’s traveled to Australia, Fiji, Italy, Canada, Spain, and Greece, among others. In China she saw the great pandas. In Gibraltar she met the famous Gibraltar Apes, the only wild monkey population in Europe. No matter where she goes, Esther notices the fauna and hopes the animals are well cared for.
Her concern for animals, especially those close to home, led her to support North Shore Animal League America. “Animals everywhere need our care,” she said. “I like that North Shore offers so much, including a veterinary hospital right on the grounds. And no-kill is important to me, as is adoption. I often see North Shore’s adoption vans here in New Jersey. North Shore is also good about advertising pets, and very strict about who adopts them. And they go to disasters to help. That’s important. Really, North Shore does everything, and they’re nearby. I can see they use my donations well.”
Although she grew up with a dog, Esther is really a cat person. “I had seven cats in my adult life,” she said, “always one at a time. They were usually strays or from neighborhood litters, and I kept them indoors. Indoors was safer for them and less worry for me.”
Among her favorites was a Siamese named Hank and a fluffy grey cat named Bashful. “He started out bashful,” she laughed. “Then he got unbashful and was always on my lap. Not enough people realize what good company cats are. I read how cats bring down anxiety in people with dementia in nursing homes and assisted living. Cats give us a lot in life.” Esther’s love for travel has made having a cat impractical just now. But someday she hopes to adopt another, a senior who needs her time and attention. Not that she’s without an occasional animal in her life. She enjoys visits from her cousin’s three cats, and this past summer she “fish sat” for Nemo, a neighbor’s tetra.
“Fish are hard,” she said the day Nemo arrived for his vacation. “You can’t tell how they feel. Sometimes you can’t even tell if they’re sick. I don’t have great luck with fish,” she added. “But I’ll try.”