We Can Do More Than We Think We Can

What does it take of us to help an animal in need?  A bit of time, perhaps, and some inconvenience.  We’ve helped one animal to suffer less.  This small victory does not have a widespread impact, but it certainly changes the world for that one animal.DSC_0135 2

It’s easy to bypass an animal in distress, a lost dog, a stray cat, injured creature, a starving animal.  It’s easy to turn away and to assume that others will do something.  Most of us don’t do anything.  It requires giving of ourselves or our time in some small capacity, and we’re busy, busy, busy.  I believe that each time we turn away, some small portion of our humanity is eroded.

Years ago I made an agreement with myself: when I see an animal in need, I will do whatever I can to remedy the situation.  I’ve found that “whatever I can do” is generally more than I had originally thought.  This has led me to capture stray dogs and humanely trap stray cats and deliver them to the SPCA, to gently instruct children and others in kindness to animals, to intervene when I see human cruelty to animals, to become a vegetarian, to inconveniently arrive late at meetings when I’m rescuing an animal.  I sleep better at night for all this.

My dream is to have a widespread impact on humane treatment of animals.  If each of us engaged in some small gesture of kindness, of help toward animals, so much suffering could be reduced.  Will you join me?


Why Do I Inconvenience Myself to Help an Animal in Need?

56149118_3d9b94d590Why do I inconvenience myself to help an animal in need?  I’ve been known to be late for meetings, wading into the field alongside the road to call a skinny, scared dog to me and deliver him to the SPCA so that he can be helped, reunited with his owners or placed in a caring home.  I’ve been known to humanely trap a feral cat, have her spade, release her, and provide ongoing food, water, and shelter to her.  I’ve been known to adopt a rescue cat, a rescue dog.  I’ve been known to telephone for help and wait by the side of an struggling, car-struck deer until animal control arrives to put it out of its misery.  I’ve been known to contribute to neutering costs for people in financial hardship.  Why, I’ve been asked, why?

The reason:  because I feel deeply, can empathize with the feelings of others, and I care about the suffering and experience of individual animals.  Of course animals can feel pain and fear.  Of course they can suffer.  I have a commitment to myself to do what I can to help, and it turns that with minimal effort, I can do a lot more than I originally thought I could.  Doing so allows me to live in peaceful alignment with my values.  Yes, it can be a nuisance at times, but it’s worth it.  In the bigger picture, it doesn’t require that much of me, really, to help a creature to experience less pain, less hunger, less thirst, less bitter cold.

What if each of us committed to helping an animal in need?  It’s so much easier to turn away, but that small sense of satisfaction that comes from bringing relief to another sentient being is a reward in and of itself.  I am immensely grateful for the ability not to turn away.




Part III – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

DSC_0225For part I:   https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

I do not understand why Gracie doesn’t want to play.  She runs from me, and when I tackle and bite her, she doesn’t reciprocate.  She just hisses and yells.  I suspect she needs training on how to play, so I do it again and again.  I keep waiting for her to clobber me, but she never does.  Mostly she skulks around trying to avoid me, looking left and right before exiting a room.  My surprise attack is one of my favorites, but she doesn’tDSC_0219 seem to like it.  Her lack of playfulness makes no sense to me.  I overheard my people say that I have no skill in alternate perspective taking.

DSC_0348Eventually, I get bored with Gracie—there’s only so much enjoyment one can derive from being hissed at.  I turn my attention to my people, swatting them as they go by my perch and occasionally chewing on them if I’m more rambunctious than usual.  I mean it in the nicest possible way, of course, and I keep my claws sheathed, but they don’t seem to like this.  What’s wrong with them?  Over time they’ve started referring to me as Bothersome Bean instead of Mr. Bean.

There is one game my people and I have enjoyed: fetch.  It originally went like this: they threw a toy for me, I chased it, I dropped it, they walked over, sighed, picked it up, and threw it for me again.  This game had minimal appeal to me because it was always on their terms (strict) and their timetables (limited) and, sadly, they became bored with it quickly.  I changed up the game, and they seem to have caught on: I bring them a toy—pop-off milk carton rings are best (and they smell of fragrant milk and remind me of my early youth)—they throw it, I chase it and bring it back to them, and they throw it again.  They’re able to do this even when they’re busy doing other things—and they are always busy doing, doing, doing—so this suits me perfectly.DSC_0096 - Version 3

I can happily play fetch for 20 minutes at a stretch, panting all the while.  I’ve heard my people complain that this does not seem to tire me out, and they also complain about “my behavior” in general.  They think there might be something wrong with me—as if biting Gracie were an issue.  They know nothing.  Still, they’ve tried many, many things with me: admonishing me, ignoring me, distracting me, and implementing ideas various people have suggested.  Nothing works because there is nothing wrong with me; it’s they who are the issue.  They just don’t understand.  Even the Jackson Galaxy (My Cat from Hell, on Animal Planet) website jingle tries to tell them.  It goes like this:  “You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat.  You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat.  You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat. . . I’m just misunderstood.”

I know this: although I am Bothersome Bean to them and to sweet Gracie, I know I am essentially good, and I trust that I have found my forever home with them.  They said so.

to be continued…
Part IV: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/10/04/part-iv-in-the-middle-of-winter/

Do you have ideas on how to gently stop kittens and cats from biting?  Please share them with us—via our contact page or untoldanimalstories@gmail.com  Thank you!

Erna’s Garden

purple tulips ID-100139402Erna’s home carried the scent of roses and crisp cotton sheets.  The kitchen was sunny, with flowery curtains billowing in on the wind.  It was as if the worn oak floorboards themselves contained comfort.

These days Erna’s gardens are overgrown with tassel-topped grasses waving in the wind.  The shutters and gutters are slightly askew, and moss grows on the white clapboard.  Sometimes I come to watch the weeping willow’s arms sweep the pebbly driveway, and to remember.

I knew Erna long before she knew me.  From the woods where I lived I watched as she carried a basket on her hip to the clothesline. . . as she tilted her face toward the sun and closed her eyes. . . as she weeded the garden and gathered an armful of flowers for her table.

One afternoon I sauntered over to her as she was pegging out the laundry.  “Oh!” she said, “Oh!  Wait here.”black and white cat ID-10029960

She came back with remnants of a pork chop and a small bowl of waterEach afternoon after that I visited her.  She sat next to me on the patio as I ate, talking about anything that occurred to her.  I think she was lonely.

Cold weather came early that year, and the wind bit through my fur.  One day, as I waited for her on the patio, Erna held the door wide open.  “Well, come on,” she said.  I walked in and made myself at home.

By day I kept her company in the kitchen as she worked, her shoulders soft and rounded, her hands moving in and out of shafts of light.  She hummed tunelessly to the soft, repeating clang of the wooden spoon in the mixing bowl.

By evening we sat by the fire in winter, and by the open window in summer.  Erna worked with her hands, always, making afghans, quilts, and linen napkins, always in shades of green.

By night I slept on the window seat under the dormer, the stars glimmering overhead.

In time, Erna became ill.  People came and went from the house.  I slept curled by her feet, keeping an eye on her, caring for her as I could.  She passed away anyway.  I watched them carry her from the house, but it wasn’t her.  I sensed her around me, free.

A neighbor woman took me home with her.  I’ve made my life there with her family, and it’s a good life.  But sometimes I like to come here to Erna’s garden, to sense her, to feel our life together.

•Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of chaiwat & foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

•Interested in having your story/rescue story published? untoldanimalstories@gmail.com