For all my life I have loved animals. I grew up on a farm with horses, cows, goats, sheep, mules, burros, ducks, geese, turkeys, peacocks, dogs and cats. You name it we had it on the farm. There were acres and acres of land to wander and lakes to fish in and a world full of wonder and joy for a kid. It was nothing for me to grab a cane pole, dig up some worms and take off on the back of whatever horse or mule close by, followed closely by the beagle pup I grew up with and be gone most of the day fishing or exploring the woods. Then I would hear my Mom calling the cows to come back to the barn for milking. I would know it was time for me to come home and help her throw down hay to the cattle while she milked the cows. It was hand milking then … not all this mechanical stuff nowadays.
But my favorite memories were of all the cats in the barn waiting for a squirt directly into their mouths of fresh warm cow’s milk. The cats would have milk all over their faces where Mom had squirted milk in their anxiously waiting mouths. I would watch as the other cats would clean each other’s faces to get the remains of the milk. My Mom would take in every stray there was anywhere nearby and take care of them. They all were fixed and taken to the doctor and lived much loved lives. My Mom knew them all and loved everyone. It was a great life and, even though, we were very poor, I would not change anything about those wonderful times.
There was always an animal to take care of and my Mom would have a baby sheep or goat or puppy or kitten in the house bottle feeding them and helping them to grow big and strong. One of my favorite memories was my Mom hanging clothes on the clothes line out back. At the time we were taking care of an impish little black sheep. The incline of the back yard was a down slope and as my Mom bent over to get clothes out of the basket to hang on the line here comes the black sheep. He was barreling directly for my Mom and, before I could get the words out of my mouth, the black sheep ran directly into my Mom’s behind. Mom sent rolling down the hill and the sheep was standing at the top of the hill bawling its head off. I swear the sound was almost like laughter. Needless to say, my Mom was furious with that lamb. Meanwhile I was laughing so hard I was crying and when she saw me she broke into laughter herself.
I tell you this story to help you understand that because of my Mom and her big heart I, to this day, cannot turn away from any stray or hurt animal. I have always had a house full of my favorites, cats. When we moved here and I heard about Cats Are Us I knew I had to help them in some way or another. Becoming a foster parent for Cats Are Us was the way I decided to help out. I have never regretted it for one second. However, being a foster is not always easy and fun. My first foster was adopted very quickly but the second took a bit longer. When someone was finally interested in adopting her and I had to take her to meet her new Dad; it was the hardest thing I think I have ever done. Then many more followed and with each a piece of my heart became attached to them. I still cry when I adopt one of our foster kittens and probably will every time.
However, I had a joyous moment about two weeks ago that made every tear worthwhile. I cried even more only this time they were tears of joy. While helping out at a Pet Smart adoption event, two of my kittens I had adopted out previously to a very nice husband and wife came to visit. I had no idea they were there and when the director told me I had company and I turned around. Well, I just could not believe my eyes and the tears just flowed. Both the kittens looked so happy and their new Mom and Dad were radiating with pride. I felt like my grandkids had come to visit! I don’t know that I have ever known such joy in my entire life. I will never forget that moment in time.
Still you must be prepared for some heartache with fostering as well. Just recently I took in four little kittens that needed bottle feeding. They were very young but looked healthy. Looks can be deceiving sometimes. My friend and I went to bed and during the night the kittens became very sick. We lost them one at a time and I cried barrels of tears over each one. I buried them in the back yard and placed a rock over their graves. I almost decided I just could not foster anymore because it was just too hard to lose one. These were my first I had actually fostered that had lost their lives. But one little boy still hangs in there. We call him Tiny Dancer. He is getting more and more strength with each day and he looks at you like you are the most important thing in the entire world to him. I still cry over losing his brothers and sister but I know I have saved so many more from being lost, hungry, hurt or killed and they have all known love they may never have known except for a foster parent.
Last week we had a little kitten that tested positive for FIV. I could not take him into my house because I have other cats that might contract the illness. It was almost certain that he would be put down. But a miracle happened when the doctor’s daughter found a foster parent who could take him and keep him until he was old enough to re-test and maybe the anti-bodies would be gone from his little system and the virus would be gone along with them. Now Moose is being diligently cared for by an extremely caring foster parent and her family. Moose is being loved and nurtured by the whole family. Not only is the family saving a life but they are teaching amazing values to their children about the care of all creatures on our planet. Moose was given a chance at life because of a foster parent. I don’t say this to pat myself or Moose’s foster parent on the back but to pat ALL foster parents out there on their backs.
All of you who take the older cats who have just about run their last race or have handicaps or are so scared because they have never known what the love of a good human being is like. You are special and never let anyone tell you differently. You give love to an animal that may have never known it except for you. You are the voice of the voiceless. You are what make the human race really human. Fostering a kitten is not easy but it is heart-warming and fostering an older cat and finding it a forever home is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can ever have. And thank you to all the folks throughout the years who have given their hearts and their homes to adopt an animal from us. You are our champions!
I want to say thank you to all of you who help at Cats Are Us. No matter whether you help clean a litter box at the rescue or help at the adoption events or foster cats or donate time or money or run around like a mad woman like our director does making sure everything runs smoothly and no creature (not even a cricket) falls through the cracks. Sometimes it gets hard and you want to throw in the towel but you all keep on going. Volunteers … every one of you … YOU make our Cats Are Us work. Without you there would be NO rescue and many, many lives would be lost along the way.