I've been an avid animal lover my entire life. I must've drove my mother up the wall with the amount of animals I'd try to sneak into the house. I succeeded with a few she still doesn't know about to this day! Ha ha.
(Mom, if you end up reading this, sorry... blame Grandpop. His blood pumps through me, too, and inevitably ends up using my heartstrings as a makeshift accordian. I'm powerless, really!)
Anyway, it wasn't until I moved out and started a life with John that I kicked into "foster-mom" gear. In the last few years, John and I have fostered and found homes for more than 50 cats / kittens. Now obviously 50 isn't nearly as fantastic a number as 700, but those 50 that we saved enabled 50 others to find room at the shelters. Our work also opened the hearts of others to the plight of unwanted animals, and now several of our friends have either fostered or adopted their own furbabies. Be the change you want to see, right?
In my travels as foster-animal advocate, I've come to see a lot of heartbreaking things. My own foster-turned-adopted cat, Zoey (read her story as featured on Animal Planet) taught me an incredible amount about the overburdened shelter system, the carelessness and cruelty of humans, and the power of faith.
Knowing this, one thing from the documentary really struck me. A tiny, malnourished kitten was brought in, barely clinging to life. A team of volunteers rallied around him, bottle feeding, warming, and caressing this impossibly small, hungry and dehydrated kitten. Sadly, they were too late in their efforts and the kitten succumbed to its tryst with neglect. This situation is all too common all over the world. However, Lynea Lattanzio (the "crazy cat lady") said something I've found myself saying when faced with the crippling emotions that come from being "too late."
She said "At least this animal died surrounded by love. At least, for a few moments, he understood what it was to be cared for, to be held, to know dignity."
I was crushed, then, because I've known that feeling. I've felt my heart break over the loss (and even potential loss) of these little lives. People would always look at me cock-eyed, asking me how I got attached so quickly to these animals. Much like the kitten documented above, the volunteers had only known him a total of 15-30 minutes before his life slipped away, yet all felt that sharp pang of loss.
Lynea said something else that echoed my own voice to friends: It never gets easier. It's always painful when you lose one. In all the years I've done this, it's never not hurt.
And as I was thinking more on it, a little light went off over my head. Why DO we feel such an incredible sense of loss? Why does that pain linger? Why do we catch ourselves mourning - years later - those little lives that were lost on our watch?
I realized it was because we felt, briefly, Divinity. As I explained in a previous post, all animals have souls. Not only do they have souls, they have pure, unblemished souls that can do nothing but infinitely please their Creator.
As we hold those little furry angels, we delight in that purity. We recognize the hidden gem of God's breath that animates their beating hearts. As that life force returns to its Creator, it inevitably leaves us behind, and we sense that we lost something of infinite value. We lost something pure and innocent - a reflection of the One our souls unconsciously seek. I really do think that is why we immediately sense that connection and subsequent loss.
All life comes from God - and as such, all life returns to Him.
May those folks over at the Cat House be immensely blessed for everything they do. May all fosters, volunteers, and rescue staff be blessed. They do incredible, heart-breaking work... and they DO make a difference. Even if the world is incapable or unwilling to see it.