Lea Wait, here, admitting to a (probably unusual) paucity of personal history with pets.
As a child my family, and then I, had parakeets. The first one was Happy. He talked (“Hello, pretty bird! Mommy is a pretty bird!” and often was allowed to fly around our large Victorian home. We knew that if we clapped, he’d come from wherever he was (nibbling the wallpaper on top of one of the windows? Sitting in the crown of the ivory statue of Charlemagne who stood on a mantle in our living room? picking up pieces of thread from my grandmother’s sewing table?) One day my sister Nancy, used to Happy’s riding on her head, walked out the back door with him perched there. Happy circled the back yard to check out freedom .. and then returned to Nancy’s head when she clapped.
Happy was followed by Sunny, Enoch, Flit, Flirt, Flip, Flutter, Jinx … and others. When I was in college I even wrote a children’s theatre play which included a parakeet … so I’d have an excuse to have one in my dorm room. (And in the production, of course!)
After college I moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, where my roommate, Linda, and I bought a weimaraner. His name was Justin, and he was clearly too large and needy for our apartment. We had him for about four months. When Linda moved back to Connecticut for grad school she took him with her. He was the last pet I had any claim to owning.
I had four girls. They kept me busy enough.
There are cats in both my Shadows series and in the Mainely Needlepoint series (first book to be published in January, 2015.) But I’ve never felt really comfortable describing cats and their behavior, since what I’ve written was based on my friends’ cats. I needed to do some first hand, primary, research.
During the past year I’ve become more and more intrigued by the pets on my friends’ FB pages. All sorts of cats. Dogs. I especially enjoyed reading my friend Cynthia Lord’s posts. Cynthia won a Newbery Honor for her book Rules, and writes other wonderful picture and middle grade books for children. She also volunteers at the Coastal Humane Society shelter in Brunswick, Maine, where she added her two rabbits and one hamster to her family’s collection of pets. (She has a dog, too.) She has a new beginning reader series (Jelly Bean: Shelter Pet Squad Series) starting in August about children who volunteer at a shelter. And she often posts about the animals there.
I talked it over with my husband Bob (who loves animals) and we decided that when the time was
right, we’d head to Brunswick for a pet.
Then last week Cynthia posted about a special event. The Coastal Humane Society was competing in the final ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100,000 challenge, one of only 50 shelters doing so .. and the only one in New England. (http://www.challenge.aspcapro.org/2014) Their goal? From June 1 to August 31 this year, double the number of pet adoptions they’d done last summer. That meant finding homes for 822 animals. Wow!
The kickoff event would be June 1, starting at midnight. Could they find homes for 100 dogs and cats in 24 hours?
Bob and I were intrigued. Maybe this was our time. So last Saturday night we headed for Brunswick. We’d wondered how many people would show up for an event that started at midnight Saturday night. We arrived about 11:000 … and a full parking lot full outside the building where the cats and kittens were. (Dogs and puppies were at another location.) Asked, “are you here to adopt?” we said “yes,” even though we hadn’t officially decided this was our time. We assigned the number 23.
Then we waited, with dozens of other people, of all ages. There were balloons. There was popcorn. Coffee. Movies for the kids. But the big event … seeing the cats and kittens .. wouldn’t start until the clock struck twelve.
When that happened, people who had the first ten numbers were allowed in to see the cats, whose cages had been uncovered. We peeked as we waited our turn. Maybe if there were two older cats who were friends, we could take two? Bob shared that he’d always liked black cats. I didn’t have a preference. But as we peeked, we saw awfully cute orange and white kittens. But … black cats were always the last to be adopted, I’d heard, and a black cat would be fine for a mystery writer. Should we get an older cat? But the kittens were so cute!
Finally it was our turn. Bob checked out all the large black cats. (“Com’on guy. Come to the front of the cage so people will see you! You won’t get adopted hiding in the back!”) There were two older cats in one cage, to be adopted together. By us? We couldn’t decide. There were so many possibilities. One year-old cat needed to go to a home without any other animals. That wouldn’t be a problem for us. Then we looked at the kittens. Black and white. Orange and White. Tiger. Some already wore the yellow collars that meant they’d been chosen. That wouldn’t be a problem for us. We kept looking, confused by the possibilities.
Then, in the far corner, we found four more cages of kittens that other people were, at that moment, ignoring. One cage held two black kittens, active and fluffy. One already was wearing a yellow collar. We took the other one out. She jumped to Bob’s shoulder. “This one’s ours,” he pronounced. I agreed. Soon Nara .. the shelter’s name for her … had a yellow collar with our name on it. We found out our Shadows (shelter name, Nara) was two months + two days old and weighed only 1.9 pounds. She’d been spayed last week. She’d originally come from another shelter. When we lined up to have our picture taken, we were number 50 in adoptions Saturday night.
In total, sixty-seven animals found new homes that night. The shelter opened again Sunday and the total went over 100. the Coastal Humane Society had met their June 1 goal … 722 placements to go until August 31!
By 3:30 in the morning Shadow was home, equipped with a litter pan and water and food in our
bedroom so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by our whole house. She didn’t sleep much that night … and neither did we.
It’s now several days later. Shadow has decided that my study is her playroom. She takes pencils out of my pencil holder, chases them across my desk, and then pushes them to the floor. She likes to sit in the window and watch the bird feeder below. When we sleep, she sleeps. She doesn’t like to be away from us. Right now I’m typing with her on my lap. This is the second time I’ve written this post. She deleted the first draft. Guess it wasn’t up to her standards.
For more information about The Coastal Humane Society, see http://www.coastalhumanesociety.org. They need help to reach their goal; they want to purchase a large van equipped with cages so they can make more regular trips to southern states to save cats and dogs in kill shelters. They need dollars, pet supplies, volunteers, pet foster parents, and homes for their animals. And they invite you to friend them on Facebook to help get the word out.