For the last five days or so, my life has revolved around the health of a small cat. I haven’t slept much and I haven’t gotten too much done during the day. My time has been devoted to helping a little girl named Amelia get well.
When she received fluids and had other treatment at a vet clinic Friday, she had to stay overnight. They warned me that she was so weak that she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. But when I called at 7 a.m., she was alive, although still very weak. They told me I could keep watching her and hoping for a miracle or I could put her to sleep. They didn’t necessarily encourage that, but it was clear that they didn’t believe she had a chance. I couldn’t give up on her.
The vet didn’t want me to move her home until the last possible second Saturday, so I picked her up right as the clinic closed at noon. In talking with the vet and the vet tech who was working with her, neither believed she could make it through the weekend.
After a weekend of ups and downs — progress and then collapse — all I can say is that she’s still with me. I’m still doing all I can to give this little girl a chance to recover.
Some people don’t understand the intense connection that some of us feel for cats and dogs. And some people love animals, but don’t understand why some of us are so intent on rescuing the ones who aren’t wanted instead of getting some “pure” animal that’s been bred to be “perfect.”
But I find that there are many people like me — who also have a need to rescue the unwanted and unloved animals. Some of them are a little crazy. (OK, some of them are a lot crazy.) But they all have hearts that are bigger than their homes. And I think most of us are rescuing ourselves by rescuing the unloved and unwanted.
Why do we rescue animals? We all have different reasons. Each animal has a different story about how it came to live with us. For Amelia, I had eaten dinner alone at a Golden Corral one night 13 years ago. I had recently divorced. I already had five cats and three dogs. But as I was leaving the restaurant, I heard a plaintive meow from underneath a car.
I went back into the restaurant and got scraps from a table that hadn’t been cleaned. I used those meat scraps to lure this dirty little kitten out from under a car. I thought she was gray with black markings, but she was really just filthy. She turned out to be white with black markings. She was so far away from any residential area where it seemed that a mother cat should have been that I decided she was an explorer. I named her for Amelia Earhart. (Here’s the longer version of the story, which I wrote two years ago.)
In a very real sense, the animals that I’ve rescued over the years have rescued me as well. They’ve taught me things that are hard to explain. They’ve been sweet and loyal and honest, in their own way — more so than the people I’ve known. Especially in the last four years or so, when I’ve desperately been searching for a purpose again, they’ve given me reasons to live and thrive.
They needed me. I needed them. It was a perfect symbiotic relationship. I’ve taken care of their physical needs and I’ve loved them. They’ve given me love in return.
I’m not the first one to talk about this idea, of course. I encountered it most powerfully about five years ago in Ken Foster’s book, “The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind.” It’s a powerful tale of how three dogs came to live with Foster at different times — and ended up helping to save him. If you love animals — or if you’d like to understand their effect on some of us — it’s a powerful book and I recommend you read it.
I’m going to keep working with Amelia right now and trying to nurse her back to health. She and her feline brothers and sisters are the only family I have right now. (I’ve had as many as five dogs before, but I’ve slowly lost them to old age and disease, so it’s just cats at my house for now.)
I don’t know whether Amelia can pull out of the crisis she’s in now. We had some fleas in the house two weeks ago and her problem started after I used an off-brand flea treatment that the vet says has caused similar problems in other cats. Her situation is grim now, but she’s already lived three days past when the vet thought she could.
I found Amelia 13 year ago and rescued her. I cleaned her up. I took care of her. I gave her a home and food and love. But in a way that can only be understood by those who love the animals they’ve rescued, she’s done far more for me than I’ve done for her.
People who don’t understand why we rescue cats and dogs sometimes look at people like me and feel sorry for us or think we’re making a mistake, because of the financial burden and time commitment that the animals require. There would have been a time in my life when I felt the same way — back before I had animals, back when they seemed like a burden — but today it’s those people I feel sorry for. They have no idea of the joy they’re missing.
Amelia and the others have rescued me and given me purpose when I needed it. I love her for that — and for many other reasons. I’m going to do all I can to save her now. She deserves that.
Note: Amelia died Monday afternoon after this article was published.