When I started dreaming of opening an animal rescue I was naive to what it was really like. I loved (and still do) animals. How could there be a better job then that of rescuing animals. But I was forgetting one crucial part of this career. People. Animal rescue is not a job where you get to go into a little room, close the door, and cuddle kittens and puppies back to health. While you do get to do that, you can't forget about how these precious babies got into that position. Unfortunately it's usually at the hands of humans.
When I look back on all the cases that were the most heartbreaking, there was usually a person struggling in some capacity. While the aveerage person might look at a certain situation and think, "How can one not know this is BAD." But sometimes these poor animals are all they have left. And the fear of judgement prevents them from reaching out.
One case in particular comes to mind. I was new to animal rescue, didn't have lot of help or knowledge and had just got done helping Ashley Morrison (Youngest Old Cat Lady) on a case up in Seattle. A local rescue, Hazel's House, had reached out to me about a hoarding case out in McMinnville of about 30 cats. I reached out to the lady who had contacted us for help and she informed me her mother, lets call her "Annie", had about 30 cats in her home. The conditions were not sanitary, and she (Annie's Daughter) was going to "dispose" of the cats if help was not brought.
When I arrived to the scene there were about 150 cats on the property, 50 or so were in the home, and the rest were feral outside. Annie's daughter informed me that I could not come to the property as an animal rescuer, that the woman would not accept help. She was scared of animal rescues. So, I went and pretended to be the daughters friend who really loved cats. Initially Annie was skeptical, hesitant to share her story, or acknowledge us. But I started asking about the cats. And she brightened. Every single cat had a name. She knew when and where they were born. She knew their ages. And she knew their story. It was incredible. But it was also incredibly sad. This woman so clearly loved her cats, but a situation had gotten out of control. I felt for her, knowing she was doing what she could.
But then, I looked inside the home, and I could feel the anger creeping in. Inside her living room was about 35-40 cats. Scattered about on torn up furniture. Feces littered the floor, and the cats were covered in fleas, all suffering. How could someone who claims to love these cats, let them live like this? Wasn't it obvious that without help many would die? How many already had? I knew we had to do something but didn't know how to start.
Well, I started by bringing her big bags of cat food every single week. Walking slowly through the property learning about the cats. Who they were, how they got there. Through this relationship building I was able to reveal to her that I was an animal rescue. But I wasn't there to take away her babies. I just wanted to help her and them. And eventually, she started letting us take the kitties and get them help.
I left that first day with just one cat. A sweet 9 Year old kitty named Ford who was heavily pregnant. Annie informed me that Ford was the mama or grandmama to majority of the cats on the property. She was the first cat there who was pregnant, and from just Ford, 150+ cats came to be. But for Ford, that day was the first day of the rest of her life. Below you can see her cute little adoption photo and the day she got adopted!
At the end of this project, the total number of cats rescued from this little farm out in the country was 146 cats. Every single cat from inside the home was removed and cared for. All of which were spayed, neutered, and adopted out to loving homes. It was a huge undertaking, but we did it. And we equipped the family with tools and resources to continue to get the cats fixed, or any others who showed up. But beyond that, I believe a woman found strength through compassion, to do the right thing, no matter how terrifying it may have seemed.
Live. Love. Spay & Neuter.