For this month's Blog the Change for Animals, I asked two of the most inspiring women I know, Liz Mugavero (author of the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series) and Kim Fleck to write about their lives devoted to rescuing animals.
Liz: When I was in my early twenties, my mother called me at work one day and told me about a litter of kittens abandoned on the side of the road. She called me because she knew I loved animals. Despite that love, I was clueless. But I knew I wanted to help. So I drove to her house and dug in the bushes until I got all the kittens. She had already adopted one to her neighbor, so there were three left. Easy breezy, I thought. Call a local no-kill shelter, tell them the story and bam! They’d be waiting at the door with open arms in anticipation of these adorable little faces.
Told you I was clueless.
I called a few area shelters. The story was the same - they were full; sorry, it’s kitten season; we’re not open to intakes. Some were nicer about it than others, but it didn’t help me. I still had three babies I didn’t know what to do with.
Without a lot of options, I found a semi-solution. I gave one of the kittens to a friend who worked at Petco and took the other two home. I thought I might still attempt to find a shelter for one of them and keep the other, since I already had two cats.
That never happened. Pumpkin and Gypsy are now 11, and they are wonderful cats. Pumpkin takes showers every day and purrs every waking minute. Gypsy is a big muffin who loves everyone. I couldn’t imagine life without them, and I certainly couldn’t imagine how anyone could have thrown them on the side of the road like trash.
That’s when I decided to volunteer. I needed to understand why the shelters were so full, why kittens were being turned away. I wanted to help abandoned cats and kittens find new homes. I wanted to make a difference. That was 10 years ago. Since then, helping animals has been a mission.
Kim: I look into an animals eyes and I feel a connection I can’t explain, but I know in my heart animal knows exactly how I feel. This connection has been at the core of my being since I was little. I would spend a great deal of time in my dog Frisky’s doghouse petting him, hugging him and telling him my deepest secrets. At my grandmother’s, I would take off to the neighbor’s with all the ferals and community cats and sit with them for hours. I was content. I was at my happiest just being in their presence. But many of them looked sick, hungry and helpless. I knew someday I would be the person who would help.
As a kid, I would tag along on my older brother’s bow and arrow hunts and pretend to want to carry his quiver; when he tried to shoot the chipmunks or squirrels I would instead screw up his shot. But the animals lived. I coddled the hurt chickadee in my jacket and drove him to a wildlife center, hid the stray dog in my dorm room, fed the cats outside my apartments and donated to all the rescues I could. I became a case manager for at-risk youth, an art teacher and a special education teacher. I taught children about humane education, spay/neuter and the link between animal, domestic, child and elder abuse. I volunteered and fostered for many animal shelters and took my students to volunteer. I worked with a tough population of middle- and high-school students, some gang involved and all with various emotional, behavioral and learning concerns. The connection between children who feel abandoned and animals who are abandoned is unbelievable. I get chills thinking about it now and smile whenever I think of those moments with those kids.
Liz: There have been so many animals along the way that we’ve helped, I’ve lost count. We’ve participated in feral cat clinics, TNR projects, legislative efforts, petitions, foster care, adoption counseling, and even visited Best Friends Animal Society for a vacation spent volunteering. Today we focus on the animals from Brooklyn and Manhattan in urgent need of homes.
Kim: I have a soft spot for feral cats, dogs from the south and senior animals, and a strong desire to see our nation become no-kill.
Liz: We have so many happy - and sad - stories, and lost friends we will always remember. For me, it’s Red, the flame-point Siamese we rescued. Abandoned as seniors with his deaf friend, we took them in. Red immediately decided I was his person. I lost him after eight short months to a blood clot in his heart. I still have his collar in my office.
Kim: My cat TC, a feral colony rescue, saved me when he walked into my carrier. He smiled all the way home. He pushed his paw out into the palm of my right hand and I held it. We spent almost eight years together. Sadly, on Feb 1, 2011 I lost him to lymphoma. This is why I am so heavily committed to rescue: I want all the TCs and other animals to have wonderful lives where they are respected, loved, and cherished for the amazing beings that they are. I want a world that will have so much compassion that it will stomp out cruelty and ignorance. Helping animals and those who love them will always be at the top of our agenda.
Kim and Liz: We’ve also become more involved in dog rescue. We adopted three South Carolina dogs in the past three years. Shaggy, the schnoodle, is on track to become a therapy dog. Don’t worry - we’re still helping cats too!
We think it would be great if everyone got involved - give a few hours a month to a local shelter, or simply learn more about spay/neuter and why it’s important. It can make all the difference to an animal.