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Finding a Forever Home
I admit I have officially become a crazy cat lady.
It was the end of my eighth grade year, and I only completed half of the required 20 community service hours. Nine months passed, and now I had absolutely no clue how I would meet the deadline. My mom and I discussed the options that worked with the time I had. Playing competitive soccer and extracurricular activities in addition to school work limited what I could do. We brainstormed all the possibilities, but nothing sparked my interest. I tried thinking of things that I truly enjoyed. And that is when it hit me. I would volunteer with an animal rescue group.
I let the idea ponder my mind for a couple of days. When I finalized the decision to foster kittens to earn my remaining hours, my mom contacted one of her friends, Michele, a volunteer at one of the groups. With kitten season ready to begin, extra help was much needed. The local shelters were filling up, and she did not have any more room. A week later, we picked up my first litter of kittens. The three little fur balls would soon be my everything. I did not realize that the impact of these small creatures would develop into a passion to save lives.
I was ecstatic to say the least when I saw the three little kittens for the first time. I turned my bedroom into a kitten playground with anything they might possibly need. Where my desk chair should have been was a litter box, food and water bowls lay underneath the window, and countless toys scattered the floor. My personal space no longer existed, and I was forced to give up much more than I expected. Fostering this litter proved to be a lot harder than I thought, and it was difficult to balance all that I needed.
Usually a kitten will get sick once it is pulled out of the shelter. I spent the first two weeks monitoring the kittens’ and giving them medication to get healthy. Instead of relaxing on the couch when I got home, I walked straight to my room and began cleaning the disaster the kittens had created while I was at school. Being so young, the kittens got into everything from hanging beads to the jacket rack on the back of the door. While I was trying to get some rest, the kittens made as much noise as they could and tore apart everything. My new roommates did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and I rarely got more than five hours of sleep.
With exams right around the corner, studying was a necessity, but the kittens always came first. Caring for them and me was time consuming, and I rarely spent time on myself. At this point I was starting to regret the decision I had made. There had to have been an easier way to get hours.
Weekends were spent at Petco, working with Michele at the adoption clinics. I always felt like a nuisance, getting in the way and asking too many questions. I did not know what I was supposed to be doing and felt awkward. So many things were going on at once, and I was not prepared to juggle multiple thoughts. Every animal had a story to tell, and it took a while for me to figure everything out. As time progressed, I learned the ropes of the clinics and improved myself as a person. Talking to people about the different animals developed my communication skills, and I learned new details about the cats. I earned more responsibility and became more involved as I mastered what needed to be done.
Interacting with the people interested in adopting was a unique experience. At first, it was hard to see someone applying for one of my foster cats. I had raised them since they were one month old, feeding them, teaching them, grooming them, and caring for them. A special bond connected us as I served as their mother. Names were very important to me, and I spent a considerable amount of time watching them to find the perfect match. These kittens had turned into my kids, and they were ready to leave. I knew from the beginning that I this would happen, but I could not stop myself from becoming attached.
The process of pet fostering and adopting is very complicated. You spend incredible amounts of money out of pocket caring for an animal until the perfect home is found. The approval of an application seems like it should be easy, but once an animal is taken home, you continue to worry about the things that could go wrong. You risk the situation not working out, and the animal being returned. I witnessed this first hand when my first foster cat to be adopted was brought back three months later. It’s an eye opening experience to see how someone can treat such a precious animal so poorly.
This experience is a win-lose situation, but the good often outweighs the bad. Although it is sad to see my babies go home with somebody else, I have no words to describe the feeling of knowing I saved a life. Since then, I am continuing to foster litters, and I have the support of my friends and family.
This last minute decision has developed into what will be a life-long commitment. By witnessing the cruelty these animals face, I plan to help in any way I can. It is important for me to let people know about this situation at hand and educate the community. Although someone may not be able to adopt a pet, there are still ways they can help. The majority of animals brought to local shelters never make it back out and something needs to be done.
I did not know what I was getting myself into, and I definitely had no plans of becoming a crazy cat lady at age 15.