Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Hermitage is Caterrific

Here's a rare feline-centric entry from this lifelong dog person. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I'm very allergic to cats, which tends to dampen my enthusiasm for them. The truth is, I deliberately keep my distance, emotionally as well as physically.

From my Picasa album Hermitage No-Kill Shelter

This made today's situation a little awkward, but not unworkable. I actually do like cats, even if I can't be around them myself. So when my friend S. called me yesterday to say that her cat had unexpectedly died in her arms, I was determined to help her find a new feline friend.

I've written about S. before, but I always try to be vague on her details for the sake of her privacy. I will tell you this much: she is divorced, disabled, often depressed and fairly destitute. If ever there was someone who needed a pet, it is she.

So off we went today to the Hermitage Cat Shelter near my home. This is an almost-legendary, highly respected no-kill shelter in Tucson. S. was a little concerned about whether she was ready to replace a cat who had only died the day before, and I'm afraid I was a bit pushy about it. I had already driven across town to pick her up, and was concerned I would not be available to help her on some undefined later date. More important, I was convinced that she needed a cat right away, to help her get through the upcoming holiday without her [expletive] son. This paragon of filial duty has given his mother the bare minimum in attention or affection for years and years, and for the last year or so has professed to believe some outrageous slander about his mother as an excuse to abandon her entirely. If he really believes it, then he doesn't know her at all. Either way, it leaves his mother pretty much alone in the world. She needs a loyal companion, and in her apartment that means a cat.

The Hermitage is on the discontinuous 21st Street in Tucson. We drove around for half an hour before I broke down and stopped at the house to check the exact address and location on an online map. When we got there I walked in for about a minute, just long enough to explain S.'s situation while she used a restroom. Then I sat outside at a table for about an hour, ostensibly readying The Lost Road by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was interesting. I wandered around a little, taking pictures of the grounds and of their front room through the glass. People were coming and going, donating pet food and rummage sale items, doing cleaning and maintenance and visiting the cats. One couple left without a cat after concerns were expressed about spreading disease between the semi-feral "outdoor" cats they had adopted and a new indoor one. Another couple dropped off a box of moist cat food and several huge bags of dry food and kitty litter. They explained that they were making the rounds of their favorite charities, making donations in lieu of Christmas presents. The owner of ten cats, the man found it a little difficult to leave without adopting another one. I knew the feeling. I had been rather enchanted by a calico cat, among others, that I was watching through the plate glass front window-wall.

The place was the embodiment of love, goodwill and common purpose, the very spirit of the season. It was evident that the shelter needed additional funds, mostly for a coat of paint here and there, but it was also obvious that the cats themselves were receiving exemplary love and care while awaiting their "forever homes."

Eventually I was told that S. had found the right cat and was doing the paperwork. She emerged about 15 minutes later with a white cat with grey spots in her flexible carrier. The cat, Luna, was the same one the couple with the outdoor cats had been talked out of adopting. S. told me that the volunteers said she was their favorite cat in the entire shelter. They had also given S. a discount as a disabled adopter.

I drove S. home with her new friend, and I've left my car windows open overnight in hopes of avoiding asthma next time I drive the car any distance. I have a tickle in my lungs right now. I never really got a good picture of her, so here instead is part of a screen shot from Luna's Petfinder listing, before it goes away. I just hope I was right about the timing, and that S. and Luna will benefit from each other's company, in the short and long term.

One thing for sure, this was the highlight of Christmas for me.


Update: I spoke to my friend on Christmas evening, and she said that Luna has turned out to be the "perfect cat" for her, following her around, sitting in her lap and giving her "cat kisses." Hooray!


barrettmanor said...

Karen, that was very sweet of you.

I don't have a problem with cats, obviously. Now pollen, cigarette smoke, and pollution do me right in.

I do understand the idea of wanting a new cat right after losing another, though. I can doubly understand it at the holidays.

Luna is a lovely cat, and I get the impression she's found a wonderful home.

Becky said...

*jaw drops* You had a cat in your car?! A CAT! Now that really was a Christmas miracle! LOL! You are a good friend.

Michael said...

Hi. I am Lead Vet Tech at the Hermitage Cat Shelter. My mother told me about your blog post. Thank you for such a wonderful blog. Luna was only at the shelter for a few weeks but she very quickly became one of my favorites. I have pictures of her in Mrs. Claus garb that I could send to you once I upload them from my phone. I am extremely happy to know Luna has found a great home to share her love and personality. I have forwarded the link to the Hermitage Cat Care e-mail, so that it can be shared with the rest of the Hermitage staff. Again, thank you very much for your kind words.