By Zachariah Atteberry
If you ever wondered if you have made an impact by socializing an animal or by being with them for a short period of time, you have. The presence of another beating heart means a lot to a scared dog or cat – and is often the thing that will help boost their confidence enough to be adopted. If you volunteer, donate, or help save stray animals – you are doing a good job and you are making a definite improvement in each life you save.
And sometimes doing what is right and raising strays includes the ultimate thing that is hard, giving them up or away to new homes when it is in their best benefit.
Dear Crystal – My Previous Foster Cat
I am writing this with a heavy heart tonight as I have finally found you a permanent home. I am finding it hard to sleep on the first night and have the urge to share my positive experience of fostering you with others. You, like every other cat, was unique and had a lesson to teach me in the short time you was with me. I needed you at a depressing part in my life, just like you needed me when you was depressed and unsure of yourself. We built each other up and became close friends. The way you silently asked me for help is what made me fall for you so hard. And even though there are hundreds that I have saved, you left the biggest paw print on my heart. You was and always will be my favorite foster cat.
I know the beginning was rough when you were flea ridden, tick infested, and sick. I can recall you sneezing so much and coughing so bad that you almost died. And you must have had over 10 ticks in your ears alone. Having lived outside for a year obviously had a large and disastrous toll on you both physically and emotionally. You isolated yourself in the very back of the cage while at the shelter and did not want to have contact with anyone. The covers became a fort for you to shield yourself, and the litter box was a comfort item for you to hide away from the world. Some days it was not obvious that any cat was living in the cage at all. You were so petrified that you refused to move when I put food in the cage or when I tried to clean the cage. The fear was almost overwhelming for you.
I remember petting you even when you hissed at me with your ears flattened against your head and your tail swishing side to side. I whispered to you that you were a good girl and could see a deeper innate beauty despite that you were skinny and matted from being sick. I took a few cat scratches and bites in the process, but it was worth getting you to trust me when I slowly introduced myself to you. The scratches on your ears and the bite marks on your leg indicated that you was a stray for too long. I offered you a can of cat food and slowly worked my way up to grooming you each day with a two sided flea comb. It became a normal routine for us. You started to cheer up and allowed me to include cat toys into our daily routine which clearly built your confidence.
I could sense your frustration when I had green and red claw caps temporarily placed on your claws as a safety measure. I did not believe in declawing but you were so bad at being held when I first met you. You would flip every direction which was bad for customers. You probably realize now that it was to your benefit while I trained you to accept handling and teach you how to use scratching posts.
It was only when I held you that I realized you was pregnant. Over the next few weeks I worked on killing the ticks, fleas, and curing you of your cold so you could have a healthy kitten born into the world. It was fortunate that you were cured right before your kitten was born. It surprised me you only had one. The kitten was so chunky and fluffy just like you was, with large blue eyes that shined like diamonds under the light. I brought both of you home so you could have your baby and so I could socialize you more properly.
Little did I know that I would adopt out the baby to a new home and keep you for a whole 9 months. In those 9 months you went from 5 to 10 lbs, and became the most healthy and affectionate cat. The way you purred, licked as a way of affection, and slept on my computer desk is what will be missed most. I held you close to me, cuddled you, and played with you for hours before the new owner came to pick you up. I reminded you that even while we had to say goodbye, that we would still see each other again one day. Friends come and go, but we keep them in our heart. That is life. I can tell that you were going to a good home by the way the owner filled out her application. She had a good apartment, a good job, and her last animal lived to an old age. The biggest thing is that I exchanged many emails with her and she traveled 3 hours to get you.
I did not keep you because I can only have two cats permanently. And I always want to keep one spot open for another Crystal – be it a cat or dog. There will always be others that come in too sick to move and too depressed to believe that the sun was built for us to enjoy and that we have the right to breath air and be happy. Right around the corner would likely be another cat who would need a few months of rehabilitation to reach their best.
Never forget how much I loved you and the crazy antics you did when you finally became confident and trusting. And I never regret having met you and having the honor to raise you up as the cat you could always be. Sure my heart hurts now – it takes a lot of courage to decide to break my own heart in order to do what is right and good for you. Your new owner said she would send me a picture and an update in a week about how you are doing. I will tell her to tell you that I still love you and miss you.
Until we meet again.
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