If you’ve known me for any length of time at all, you will soon hear about my passion for animal rescue and humane education. I was always the one bringing home a stray cat or wanting to adopt a puppy from the box outside the grocery store, as a kid (I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, in a rural part of Oregon … that was a common sight at the time).
I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, so that I could help animals. Unfortunately, that dream got put on the shelf. While my language skills were in the tippy-top percentile, my math skills were not. It was not until adulthood that I learned I had dyscalculia. Anyway, those math grades were enough to keep me out of veterinary school, so I put that dream on a high shelf.
Cut forward to many years later. I volunteered as a cat socializer, adoption host, and dog behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA in the 1990s when I lived in the city, and I had a houseful of pets — all of them rescues. My Wednesday evenings were spent connecting people with new best friends, or helping shy cats if there were no customers. Saturdays were an all-day affair of helping people train their newly adopted dogs.
Then I was divorced and moved to a different town. I got custody of the pets, but I wasn’t volunteering anymore.
That didn’t change until after I remarried, moved to San Jose and, tragically, lost a 14-week-old kitten to an incurable disease called feline infectious peritonitis. I felt helpless; I didn’t know what to do. My husband brought home another kitten from Humane Society Silicon Valley, which was very near our home. I didn’t feel quite ready for a new pet, but I came to love that little cat dearly as she snuggled with me and purred almost immediately.
When that kitty, whose name is Lulu, was about a year old, I felt very strongly called to volunteer at HSSV. So, I took some orientation courses and started training. I decided to work with the more aggressive and challenging cats, because I had one of those at home (her name was Abigail) and knew that they could be great pets if they came to trust humans.
I’ve been volunteering there for more than six years now. I often tell people it’s the best things I do all week.
In the wake of the unexpected death at age two of our cat Teddy, due to cardiac thrombosis, I put together a memoir based on the journal I kept during my first year volunteering at HSSV. It’s called Hugs and Hisses: My Mission of Love as a Shelter volunteer. Teddy was, like Lulu, an HSSV shelter alum. I had the permission and cooperation of the shelter’s staff, and I do not accept one dime of royalties; I donate every bit I earn to HSSV to help other animals in need. In fact, this week I’ll be sending the first quarter royalties off to them via their donation link.
I would love it if you would consider buying a copy of the book, but it’s not mandatory. It’s available via Amazon or Barnes & Noble in either paperback or eBook form, as well as in eBook form via Smashwords, Kobobooks, and Apple’s iBookstore.
As always, it wouldn’t be Monday without some music. In keeping with the theme, I chose this clever video from SPCA of Wake County, promoting the adoption option.