Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back Story for Current Blog Sale (and a Big THANK YOU)

Some of the gang, past and present


I thought I might explain why I have not discounted items as deeply as I did in my sale last year. It's not about recouping bits of what I had spent but about giving my local no-kill animal shelter every cent I earn from the proceeds of this sale, because my shelter has already given so much to me and to those I love.

When I was much younger, abandoned or stray pets lived in one of two places--outdoors in misery or at the SPCA. While it is true the SPCA tried to do the right thing (my best friend's mother was executive director of the shelter in my town, so Bitsy and I were able to practice horse whispering and we romped with goats and roosters), these shelters quickly became overrun with intakes. Sadly, when new pets came in, the current residents were usually euthanized, with the assumption that since they hadn't been adopted, they were no longer a worthy investment. Around the same time, most vets would euthanize an animal simply because its owner had tired of it, was moving, or whose child developed an allergy. Again, I am sure the intent was to prevent the needless suffering of an abandoned animal or a pet suffering from neglect (or worse), but it still breaks my heart to think of a perfectly healthy animal being destroyed for no real good reason. Thus, I am so incredibly grateful for the no-kill shelters that have sprung up seemingly everywhere in the last 15 years, as well as for web sites like petfinder.com, who are hopefully putting an end to mass-market pet stores and puppy mills. 

I have had many a pleasant (and also sad) dealings with my local shelter the last 10 years. In late 2003, when the cat I'd had since 1987 was getting old, my new husband and I decided to adopt. I wanted a Maine Coon cat and it was through a colleague that I first heard about petfinder.com, which led me to my local shelter, a place that provides services I had never imagined possible.

We adopted our first shelter cat, Elias, from them in 2003 (all my other pets had previously come from friends), and that was the first time I learned that cats could get AIDS—because the beautiful Maine Coon cat we adopted was FIV positive. And so we began adopting these unwanted boys, and even though most of them have died by now (usually from something else, due to their compromised immune system, like cancer or diabetes or kidney disease), I do not regret for one second the short times they blessed our lives. Also, FIV+ cats can perfectly coexist with non-infected cats; none of our other cats has ever developed the autoimmune disease.

Through our repeated adoption process, I quickly learned that over 90% of the "employees" associated with those shelters are volunteers! And that the adoption fees and donations don't line the pocket of corrupt executives. The money does pay for the 5% of employees who actually do make shelter work their jobs, but the rest of the money goes toward food, bedding, medicine, and even surgery, because (at least at my local shelter) no animal is too wounded or sick to not try to save.

My current blog sale honors Wink, who died peacefully at home this past Christmas. Before we adopted him, he'd been a tomboy living on the city streets, subsisting on the grease from discarded pizza boxes, and probably lots of mice and rats. He never did lose his taste for pizza and he'd go bonkers of potato chips if we let him anywhere near them!

The cat we'd adopted before Wink, whom we named Pig (RIP), also came from the shelter and also had been living in the city. He had obviously been badly injured, likely hit by a car, as when the volunteers discovered him, he was hiding in an abandoned building, dragging his badly broken leg behind him up on the rafters (!) to get away from the kind people who tried to capture him (which they eventually did with a butterfly net, since he became too smart for the food traps).

My shelter adopts hopeless cases, such as my Pig, and sends them to surgery, where altruistic veterinarians give the shelter discounts. With Pig, they put a pin in his leg, kept him warm and happy while he mended, assessed his temperament, and then put him up for adoption, where the fee is a ridiculously low $125.

A few years back, I asked what happened to the cats that were too feral to live in homes. Volunteers capture them, and the vets neuter them, and snip the corner off one ear. The shelters then release these cats back into their colonies, many of which are in wooded areas. The ear snip is done so if volunteers encounter those cats again, they are much more easily identified as already neutered, and they can leave that cat in peace. Cats that aren't quite so wild but which still won't make ideal pets, go to live on farms where they enjoy a life of sleeping on bales of hay in the sunshine and catching mice that would nibble at the grain. The luckiest cats might even get fresh cow's milk.

I apologize for the gushy estrogen spill, but I am so in awe of my shelter, and I adore my cats. Strays really do make the best pets because they are so grateful, and all they want to do is eat, sleep, and cuddle.

Some of our cats developed unusual, highly-amusing personalities, once they'd settled in. Among those oddities:
  • Pig had a blocked tear duct, so he was always dripping over everything. He grunted (thus his name) and we gave him Hollywood, royal, and porn nicknames: Porker Posey, Duke of Pork and Pork Piggler.
  • Winston took exquisite care of his fluffy tail, and his happiest moments were those he spent making bread on it with almost-imperceptible movements, staring out into the distance with extreme concentration. This ritual was A Very Big Deal. I'd pet him, and the moment I stopped, he'd run off and lick his fur back in place.
  • Grendel had terrible balance and would tumble over every time he groomed himself, which was constant because he was quite fluffy. We probably should not have laughed, but you would have too. Had we known his personality earlier, we might have called him Tweedledee or Weeble.
  • Mr. Wenskins is a beautiful-but-vapid supermodel, who is so gentle with us, but when other cats bicker, he races in to bayonet the wounded.
  • Flopsy has his own special fleece pillow that he kneads vigorously while sucking a corner. I guess one day he hopes mama's milk will come out. Click here for an example!
  • We are certain Hannibal had previously been captured by aliens. He always has that spacecraft-butt-probe look, he's psycho around the other cats, and he pees in the tub (which is fine by me; a squirt with cleanser and a quick rinse, and we're good to go—wish he'd teach the other cats).

Though there have been many other cats and dogs in my life, here are the cats I adopted from the shelter, past and present:


Chloe at left, not adopted (RIP Dec 2005) and Elias at right (RIP March 2004) our first shelter adoption



Grendel the Tumbler (RIP March 2005)

Pig (RIP April 2007)

The following collage deserves a bit of explanation, as the below cat may or may not be dead. Big Gray Al adopted us from the woods behind our house. The shelter loaned us the trap and then we went through them for the adoption process. In the following photos, I had opened the windows from the top because the day after BGA came home after being neutered, he tried to escape, and I was afraid he'd rip the screen. Unfortunately, a mere two weeks after we adopted him, he did manage to break through a screen, and that was that.  :(


BGA was determined to get back outside. Unfortunately he did. Missing since Aug 2006



Wink (RIP Dec 2011)


Happily we still have some healthy cats, alive and well, as we adopted yet more. Because you can never have too many lipsticks or too many cats, you know?


Mopsy (aka Muffin, adopted June 06)


Mr. Wenskins (aka Hey, Supermodel, , adopted June 06)


Hannibal (aka Pee Pud or Psycho Kitty Hosebeast, adopted Jan 06)


While we were working with the shelter on Hannibal's adoption, I noticed the most squee-worthy kitten in the world. I (wrongly!) assumed she'd been adopted--I mean who WOULDN'T race to adopt this cutie? She had been captured from a feral colony, thus the little snip in her ear. While she was recuperating, her foster mom noticed that she wasn't as wild as the other cats from the colony, and that's how India came to live with us.  You could call her an impulse buy. ;)


India (aka Puss Kitten Meow Face)

And then there was the night my husband woke me from a dead sleep to tell me Big Gray Al had come back! It was almost exactly a year after his disappearance, and sure enough, there on our porch was BGA! We worked with the shelter to capture him, and then we took him to the vet for a checkup, since he'd been living wild for more than a year. Imagine our surprise when the vet laughed and told us his testicles had grown back. Not BGA, but almost surely a cat from the same litter.


Flopsy

Oh! And we mediated between the shelter and my parents, who live out of state and wanted to adopt a Bengal stray, rescued after found living in a wild cherry tomato patch.



That's what this blog sale is all about. So a HUGE, heartfelt thank you to those of you who helped make this gift happen.

32 comments:

  1. You are doing such a good thing. Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures. As animal lovers, we can all do more:)

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    1. I agree, but I sometimes try not to think about it too much. I can become so unhinged when I think about an animal suffering. For example, there's another grey cat mooching around the yard. He appears to be unneutered, as he's big and his coat is thick. In other words, he's butch with shoulders like a rottweiler. I suspect he needs a home, but I just cannot take another cat in this house. It's not that I don't have room or love, but there comes a point where most of your cats are boys that the dynamics get really messed up. Bringing Hannibal home has made me think twice about future cats, as he truly is psycho and intensely jealous. All I need to do is talk cat talk to another feline and he comes running. If he could crawl into my womb to have me birth him, he'd do it. lol

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    2. Aww, thanks for sharing. You have such a big heart and you have already done so much for these animals. I understand it must be so hard when you come to the point when you can't take just one more...Have a great week!

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  2. These are lovely Zu, I spent the blog sale admiring your photos and products and diligence. Thanks for sharing these photos. I have 3 rescue cats, a mum and her 2 daughters but alas they are not of the cuddly kind, just the demanding "oh are you opening a tin of catfood?" kind :)

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    1. Jan, how nice that you were able to adopt a family.

      Wink, who recently died, was not what you'd call a warm cat. He tolerated us and let us brush him and certainly feed him, but he isolated a bit further when Pig died a couple years before him. They were best buds and for a short time we had just the two of them. Bosom buddies, but Pig was like the kindly uncle, sweet to every cat, dog and human. He just grunted and snorted at everyone. Our feline version of a Pug.

      When we brought home India, she and Wink instantly bonded. I have no idea if they could recognize they were both cow cats, or of the runty girl just aligned herself with the alpha male, the way weak prisoners get themselves a protector, lol!

      India was even more feral. We have had her 3.5 years, and only recently does she run away from us about half the time instead of all the time. I think having Wink around helped keep her a bit wild, since he wasn't overly social, but now he's gone, she's forced to be more interactive, like the rest of our cats, who compete to sit our laps.

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  3. What a compassionate and loving person you are. Loved seeing your past and present menagerie.

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    1. Thank you, Susan! Sometimes I think I like animals better than people. ;)

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  4. What a sweet post! I had no idea you had that many cats.

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    1. Heh. I'd have more if they weren't such a social-life damper.

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  5. Hi Zuzu, I am so glad you told the story of your blog sale. I think the story of animals in shelters cannot be told often enough; I don't know if people realize that so many animals are euthanized each year, just because there aren't enough homes. It's especially poignant for people who've adopted shelter pets and have experienced the love that 'secondhand' pets provide :) I'm so glad your blog sale is going so well, it's really big-hearted of you to donate your personal beauty stash towards a good cause!

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    1. Thank you Dovey. I was hoping the numbers of euthanized animals had decreased. I guess I have my head in the sand. I would adopt them all!

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  6. That is so wonderful. As an animal lover, I am happy to see the creative ways they can be helped. I wish I had known this - I would have looked at your blog sale. I forgot all about it. thank you for doing this.

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  7. How touching - I love animals!! Most of our pets have been from friends who were moving or could no longer keep them for some reason; we have adopted a cat and a dog from local non-kill shelters as well. I wish they could all get loving homes.

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    1. The pets at my shelter live with their foster parents until they are adopted. And sometimes they don't get adopted, so they just become pets. No animal is ever put down there.

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  8. Zuzu, they are such beautiful beautiful kitties and what a wonderful cause you are contributing the funds to. I had to control myself because I am on the verge of a stash explosion, but I really enjoyed shopping your amazing blog sale. Looks like you had a successful event (and looks like tons of work!). I'm sure all the animals at the shelter will be enjoying the fruits of your labor for a long time.

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    1. I hope so! I was thinking, now that I am spending less time on my stash, I might have a little time available to do some volunteer work for them. I'd love to work with dogs, too.

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  9. Kudos to you, Zuzu for being such a lovely and compassionate person.

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  10. You are such a compassionate person.

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    1. Thanks, Ammie. I didn't realize you'd said it twice. ;)

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  11. Due to current finances (lack thereof) I was not able to buy any of your beautiful products. But I think the part I enjoyed the most was reading this post about the shelter and your adopted "fur-loves!" I, too, have only rescues at home. We have 4 cats and 1 dog and my husband always worries that i'll bring home another! I volunteer at a local no-kill animal shelter in Denver called the MaxFund and spend a lot (too much?) of time at their cat shelter. I frequently have to bite my tongue when around friends who have bought their pets from breeders. With so many animals being given up (or "gotten rid of") for the above unacceptable reasons, I do not understand why people continue to think that buying an animal from a breeder is a viable option! Ok, coming back down from my soapbox, I just really appreciate what you're doing to help your shelter. And I truly loved, loved your photos of your beautiful cats! Thanks for being a compassionate and thoughtful person!
    Shelley

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    1. Re breeders, maybe it's a kind of high-end snobbery. Or perhaps owners want to participate in shows. It's not for me. Too many animals need a home.

      I have been around lots of purebred animals and lots of scruffy mutts and toms, and the BEST pets with the most awesome personalities are the animals who had it rough for a while.

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  12. It is so wonderful you are doing this. I anticipated your sale for so long that I was kicking myself to discover I missed it's launch when I was away. I figured I was likely too late to get anything so I didn't even bother trying. Now that I've read more into what is behind this sale I feel terrible not taking the time to go through and make requests on the chance they may have gone through after all! I wish I wasn't so allergic to kitties. Hubby is too. When I lived with my sis I got an allergy shot every week so we could keep the two kittens one of the clients at my sister's vet clinic where she's an RVT found on the side of the road. She still has them. Brutus and Popeye. We called her popeye because she literally had an eye that was popped out. She used to rub it on you. So gross but adorable at the same time when she fits in the palm of your hand. They eventually removed it so Popeye became Poppy the one eyed kitty. Brutus is just fat! LOL I miss kitties but now that I have an entire family of allergy sufferers my days of kitty love are over. :-(

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    1. Poor Popeye! I had bad allergies for years, and I was on the pharmaceutical gambet from Seldane to Allegra to whatever and finally Zyrtec. I had grown up with cats and dogs, so developing an allergy to them just before I turned 30 was very strange. That allergy lasted more than a decade, and then it just went away. I no longer need antihistamines or asthma inhalers. I guess I redeveloped my immunity. Either that or my body just gave up and said, "It's clear you are going to continually assault me with dander, so I may as well let you breathe." :D

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  13. Thank you for sharing more of the back story! And the pics - you've definitely captured their personalities in some of the pics. All of those cats have been so lucky to have you & your husband as their 'family'! I come from a long line of dog lovers! Most of our pets have been either rescued (they adopted us) or come from a shelter. You are so right - strays just want to eat, sleep & cuddle. It is awesome that you decided that this is what you wanted to do with your blog sale. I am pleased that I was able to contribute in a small way to this shelter by way of your blog sale.

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    1. Thanks! As for their personalities, Hannibal ... with the tuft of fur in his mouth (color looks like it came from Flopsy) is such a freak! But he's my freak who sits in my lap at night and presses his wee face into my chest. Some of his mannerisms are almost human. Especially the psychopath kind.

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  14. This is a very touching story and cats are amazing!!

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  15. Thanks for sharing these stories.
    Hannibal's eyes are gorgeous!

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    1. Aren't they? He's such a beautiful boy with the best guyliner.

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  16. Beautiful, Zuzu. I myself am not quite a cat person - I think they're beautiful but can't quite see myself having them around - but I feel this way about dogs :). Dennison is adopted from the shelter (also a no-kill shelter, which makes me happy) and although it has taken some patience, he is doing much better than he was. I love seeing animals get rescued and adopted and this has put a smile on my face.

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    1. I love dogs, too. Had them all my life until I started living in the city and working a bazillion hours a week. It just wasn't fair to keep a dog cooped up all day (dogs pine for you far more than cats do), so I got cats for company. I would love to get a dog now (I so want a snuffling black Pug and a Golden Retriever), but I am not sure how the cats would take it. ;)

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  17. Fantastic post,

    I would love a cat and plan to get one (or may be two) from our local cat and dog shelter.

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