My "when I win Lotto" dream is to travel across the country by car - huge luxury car that spews tulips into the atmosphere. Upon my return from the Magical Tour I will immediately move to my lovely farm and begin to collect all the needy animals of the world.
Until then I do what I can.
Back in Brooklyn there was a terrible stray cat problem. The usual cause - one careless human doesn't spay or neuter and lets the cat go outside. Male cat of careless human meets female cat of another careless human and a never ending cycle begins. At the beginning I did what most well meaning people do - I left food and water and tried to provide some shelter. This was a bit difficult since I rented and any spot I chose wasn't really my spot. I didn't realize for quite a while that the landlady was feeding them too!
A neighbor was involved with a small animal rescue group and she taught me the merits of trapping and at least having the tomcat fixed to cut down on future generations. I also put together a flyer telling everyone where they could have their cats spayed or neutered for low or no cost. A shelter on Long Island agreed to take kittens since they are "more adoptable".
Trapping a tomcat is not for the faint hearted - I just realized that the haz-cat suit I used to socialize Siren was really a later version of my Brooklyn garb - long sleeves, pants tucked into socks and gloves. Kittens were easier to handle but harder to find. My most infamous rescue was when I got stuck climbing a small fence. My pants caught on something halfway over and there I was - splayed across the fence with my ample butt pointed toward 2 lanes of busy traffic. One of the neighbor's kids called for my son to help - I almost died of embarrassment and laughter as I listened to my son saying "where is she!? - where is she!?" - "you can't see her!" screams neighbor's kid, "her whole butt is in the driveway!"
I guess this didn't scar me for life since my son and neighbor's kid had already seen me in less than flattering poses - you haven't lived until the entire junior varsity football team walks in just in time to find you stuck in the Thigh-Master! Again with the pants - they were stuck in the coils and my attempts to free myself had turned me into a pretzel - not the thin ones, the big meaty ones you get at the hot dog stand.
"Yo Jeff, your Mother is a freakin' riot" - my epitaph?
I have little rescue experience with dogs - it's not that I'm a cat person - I'm really an elephant person - they're the most spectacular creatures - both fierce and touching. Working long hours, living in small apartments, traveling a lot - cats just adapt better to that than dogs. I am aunt to many dogs and for awhile I transported dogs from a shelter in Brooklyn to a larger, better equipped shelter on Long Island. We'd play the radio and I'd sing to them and tell them a better life was just miles away. I'm pretty sure that calm and loving transition from one temporary home to yet another helped. They seemed to enjoy the ride. Of course, as any cab driver will tell you, there's always one who doesn't appreciate the service.
One of my last trips as driver to the dogs was late at night. All day I had caught glimpses of a large dog dodging traffic and wandering aimlessly - looking for something familiar I suppose. I was exhausted from walking around the neighborhood searching for him and it was getting dark. The lost and frightened expression on his face was haunting me and I decided to just sit on the front steps - the stoop as they call it in Brooklyn. I still had the little bag of cold cuts in my pocket - a sampler platter - a good hostess should always anticipate. I sat there drinking a beer, clutching a leash and crying. I'm so glad I left the gate open. He walked right in and stuck his head into my pocket! "Now you stop by! You bastard" - I was so relieved - no matter how late it was by the time I got him situated I would sleep. Knowing he was out there would have been torture.
The shelter's intake office was closed - although he appeared friendly and calm he was very large and my apartment was small and full of teens and cats. A friend near the shelter on Long Island agreed to put us up for the night. I could take him in first thing in the morning. He ate, he drank, he did his business and settled down for a nap in the back seat of my car. The radio was playing quietly, the windows were open a bit and traffic was light - it was almost midnight by now. My big buddy was asleep and all seemed right with the world. "Grrrrrrrrrrr" and then up pops his giant head. "Grrrrrrrrrrr" - a low, ominous sound from deep in his throat. I guess he had a bad dream and woke up in a strange moving car - at that moment all I could think of was how and where to pull over. I was cursing myself - what an idiot to not have put a halter on him, how stupid to be alone. From the rear view mirror I could see he looked upset and I spoke to him quietly as I looked for a well lit place to stop. "It's me buddy, we're going to a good place, I'll give you some water in a minute" He stared at me blankly and then sank his teeth into my shoulder, just the shirt - not my skin. I really cursed myself now! What a way to die - would we crash as he ripped my throat open or would I slowly lose consciousness on the shoulder of the Long Island Expressway.
I finally found a wide enough shoulder. I wanted to get out of the car and leave him in it! The car coming to a stop made him loosen his grip and I slipped out. It took a few minutes to calm down and plan (and cry) my next move. After talking to him through the slit in the window for a while I slowly opened the door and offered water. He licked my hand, drank the water and looked at me as if to say - "I don't know what came over me". I climbed into the back seat and hugged him. We made the rest of the trip with him sitting right up front, next to me, his leash wrapped around the back door handle - enough give for him to be comfy and enough restraint for me to stay calm. We never did stay at my friend's house - she had small children and I didn't want anyone to become stressed. Instead my big buddy and I slept in the car in the shelter's parking lot. His head was in my lap and I'm sure I was snoring and dribbling when the security guard woke me at 7 AM. He laughed at the sight of the two of us and told me that "this was a new one"
Big buddy was adopted within a few days and lived to be almost 15. His parents sent me photos and he always remembered my birthday. He never once had a moment of aggressive behavior - it really must have been a bad dream. I'm thrilled that I didn't call the police or animal protection - the ending would have been so different.
I've decided Siren needs a sibling. There's a good chance Siren disagrees but we'll work it out. I will foster with an option to adopt. Win-Win. If Siren takes to the foster then our home is ready, if not - then one more cat becomes socialized and loved on its way to a home.
I've been playing with this decision long enough - writing about Siren, thinking of all the animals who have touched my heart and sifting through Magnetbabe's site (Field Lines - link is on my "I love to read" list - check her out!) has inspired me. I haven't done enough lately and my soul feels it.
I searched through quotes to find a title for this post. Here's a few that touched me.
"Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. "
"Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures."
His Holiness The Dalai Lama
"Lots of people talk to animals.... Not very many listen, though.... That's the problem. "
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh