Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We are family

Whilst driving home from a TNR (Trap, Neuter Return) job an industrial area, I noticed the tell-tale signs in a vacant property by the train tracks . . .a makeshift shelter covered with a ratty tarp, a couple of blankets getting soggy in the rain and some food dishes blown about by the wind. These were the remnants of someone’s efforts to care for a group of stray cats. The humans were long gone but of course the cats, survivors in the face of adversity, were still there.

I began visiting them, caring for them, with the intention of sterilizing them to prevent further expansion of the colony. Clearly none were fixed as there was a mix of adults and juveniles. Within a few weeks and with the help of traps, donations and a vet, that had all changed, and over the next few months as they learned the routine the younger members of the now-stabilized colony would come to greet me as I drove up. One group of siblings in particular, led by a male with his three sisters, came to accept my affection as would any house pet, but for these cats home was the harsh reality of an unforgiving industrial zone. So brazen did they become that I would have to slow my car to prevent running them all over in the parking lot. I wondered if the cars of the neighboring auto repair business employees drew the same attention from the cats. Regardless, the cats were endangering themselves with their growing trust of humans.

Then, after having greeted me every day for over a year, the male stopped showing up. Several weeks passed. I had to accept that something had happened and that I would never see him again. Did someone take him home? Perhaps, but it was not likely. Did he misjudge the wheels and end up crushed on the road? That was more believable. Was he poisoned by the antifreeze which was sometimes left in uncovered buckets? Certainly that was a possibility. Did he get locked in a storage shed and starve? Possibly, since this group of cats was living in an unusually dangerous area. The siblings had developed a trust in me and I a bond with them, and the loss of one was a severe blow – another hole in the peppered armor I have fashioned around my heart to allow myself to continue this necessary work in the face of similar losses. The possibility of the other three sisters suffering the same unknown fate one by one was something I was not willing to passively stand by and witness. They were tame to me, so I took them home with no plan in mind except ensuring their immediate safety.

After some time at my house I learned their true personalities. Wendy, the black one, is unashamedly gregarious. Trish, like her disappeared brother, is a gorgeous silky long haired tabby and white, shy at first but a good friend once you have gained her trust and as feminine a cat as you’ll ever meet. Serena is a patchwork of black and white, a gentle sweetheart who simply prefers the company of her sisters. The three of them have been together their whole lives and are perfectly content. Wendy and Trish, though happy with each others company, are not particularly amused by other cats, and though they would adjust to life in a single cat household this would leave Serena alone, shy and unadoptable, her family gone, an unacceptable injustice to a delicate and deserving soul.

So, we are looking for a family with a pet-less home willing to jump in and start an entire family all at once! Darlings all, Wendy, Trish and Serena each have distinctly different personalities and make a diverse, low maintenance trio who will give warmth to any household willing to give them a chance. After the disappearance of their brother, they have become as tight as any sisters could be. It is a bond to be honored and preserved. If you listen carefully you can hear them sing: “We are family. I got all my sisters with me.”

If you believe that you're the family for these sisters, email adopt@utahpets.org!

Jonny Woodward
Feral Fix Coordinator

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reflections on the 15th Annual Strut Your Mutt

The very first Strut Your Mutt was 15 years ago. I remember the day well, even though at that time No More Homeless Pets in Utah didn't even exist and I had no idea what Strut Your Mutt was.

On that day 15 years ago, I was traveling down 700 East, transporting cats to an adoption event for CAWS, a small non-profit rescue group founded by myself and Susan Allred. The day was dreary to say the least; a downpour of rain battered my car as I drove past Trolley Square and noticed a big "Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Strut Your Mutt" banner. I knew of Best Friends, and had volunteered with them on a couple of occasions back in those days. I remember feeling deeply sorry for them. "What a bummer," I thought, imagining that the event was rained out.

These days I know a lot of people who participated in that first annual Strut Your Mutt. Gregory Castle, a founder of Best Friends Animal Society and President of No More Homeless Pets in Utah was there. Julie Castle was there, as well. In fact, Julie created Strut Your Mutt in Utah and was a major force in growing the event from a few hundred to a few thousand participants. She helped start No More Homeless Pets in Utah and made the event a major brand for the organization.

The 15th annual Strut Your Mutt had a couple of things in common with that very first walk: The weather was horrible and Julie Castle was foremost in the minds of event organizers. Julie currently works for Best Friends Animal Society as the director of community programs and services. Though Julie is usually at the event, this year her absence was notable-- she is battling stage 3 breast cancer and could not attend the event. The event committee strutted in her honor, though. Castle's Canine Cohorts we called ourselves and we proudly wore pink for Julie. Despite Julie's battle, she is still actively advocating on behalf of animals and isn't letting cancer deter her from her determination to end the killing of cats and dogs across the nation. We know Julie will strut next year, and for many years to come!

In this year of reflection, I would like to also honor the following individuals, who have meant so much to us here at No More Homeless Pets in Utah in our 10th anniversary year and beyond:

Jared Matkin: Also recently diagnosed with cancer. Jared is an amazing volunteer for both No More Homeless Pets in Utah and Salt Lake County Pit Crew and we wish him the best during his recovery.

Forrest Hillie: Devoted adoptions volunteer who lost his mother Anita Lee Benson way too early.

Julie Memmott: Amazing contributor to our mission since the beginning, who also lost her dear mother, Margaret Johnson, this year.

Johannes Steinvoort: A supporter we never met in person, he was a devoted animal lover throughout his life, and cared for feral cats. He left us a generous bequest that we are so grateful for.

Susan Coulter: Susan was in the midst of helping to raise funds for this year's Strut when she died unexpectedly. We feel so blessed to have know Susan, who so poignantly shared with us what her little rescue dog Gizmo meant to her. Here is an excerpt from Susan's Firstgiving fundraising page:

"Strut Your Mutt 2010 on 22 May will be the 3rd time Gizmo and I have participated in this Walk. It is our way of saying 'Thank you!' to No More Homeless Pets in Utah/The Utah Coalition for Animals--Gizmo was in one of their shelters. Gizmo was an abused dog. With a lot of love, patience, and hard work, he overcame his background to become the cheerful, loving dog he is now. The Veterinarian estimated that he was 2 years old when I got him; he's now a healthy, happy, energetic 6-year old. We are a terrific team. I was looking for a companion, but Gizmo showed me that he can warn me before I have a Grand Mal seizure. He also guards me during and after a seizure, while I'm unconscious. Now Gizmo is my Service Dog, and rides on my lap wherever I/we go. (I am in a specialized power wheelchair.) We are also trained as an Animal-Assisted Therapy Team."

These are just a handful of the dedicated individuals that put so much of themselves into the cause of saving homeless cats and dogs. I offer my sincere gratitude to every one of you who are working towards a time of no more homeless pets in Utah--and across the country.

Holly Sizemore
Executive Director