The Loss of Life
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So I was watching a documentary the other night about a woman and her no-kill cat sanctuary. Being a bit of a "crazy cat lady" myself, I thoroughly understood much of what was revealed during the hour-long special.
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.
7/24/2012 08:58:32 am
Thank you for the wonderful story about The Cat House and all that you have done to save and find homes for kittens just like Tyson in your own neighborhood. I am Lynea's crazy side kick and it never gets easy our hearts still ache for the ones we cant save.
7/24/2012 10:33:38 am
Thank you so very much for this well-written, thought-provoking, inspiring blog. (And for your love of animals!) =^..^=
7/24/2012 10:47:08 am
I loved reading this Story and i Also watched the Proggrame Of Lynea and her 700 Cats, I dont know nor have i Ever thought of her as a 'Crazy Lady' with all those cats!! All shes guilty of is being Crazy for loving all her Lovely Cats that she cares for! Rescues, And finds new homes for, Shes God Gift to those wee Fur Balls, and long may she continue to do her work,, I myself am a Cat lover, and Lost my very own furball of 17yrs in May this year!! My heart is Still Broken because i just loved that cat to bits, Just as i have loved my other Cats ive lost, I also cant believe the Cruelty in Human nature towards those beautiful Creatures, it breaks my heart! Thank you for your Story! And God Bless the Lynea's of this world xxxx
7/24/2012 10:54:46 am
Very powerful post. I 100% agree with your writing. My only question is, are you vegan?
7/24/2012 11:27:39 am
Thank you for this blog as I too love animals and saw the Cat House on The Kings show. I have always had animals and where possible I take on unwanted, often damaged physically or mentally, rescue animals. As I write this my Isis, a beautiful tuxedo cat, is watching me and she was unwanted because she was fearful and hissy. She now cuddles up and sleeps with me each night. The most poignant part of your blog was where you talked about feeling their loss when we lose them. As I have lost many animals I understand this but your explanation touched a cord in me as I even grieve for the wild animals I see dead by the road and have been known to stop and say a little prayer for them. I agree it is because we feel the loss of their little innocent souls. Thank you for your blog and it's great to know there are a lot of kindred souls out there doing their bit for our animals.
7/24/2012 12:10:22 pm
Love your blog! Thank you for appreciating what what we do at the Cat House on The Kings. In 20+ years we have rescued well over 20,000 cats and more than 6,000 dogs.
7/24/2012 01:35:57 pm
7/24/2012 02:22:29 pm
I am one of the volunteers for The Cat Houe on the Kings and I foster mommas and their kittens, adult cats, and kittens without their mommas. I have bottle fed and nursed some and I can say this I will never regret a single moment of this adventure. With all the hard work, cats have sanitary needs and attention needs, and feeding time demands, I would do it all a hundred times over just to hear the purr of one we have saved. When they go off to adoptions, it's like putting your own child up for adoption. We love them that much. Consolation is that another will replace the ones who have left and the heart break and hard work will start all over again. And we know we will once again hear that purr....
C L Grover
7/24/2012 02:27:34 pm
I often say when we grieve for pets, "we invite them into our homes and they move into our hearts." One of the first burials at which I ministered as a young man was of a pet in a family of parishioners. I've been privileged to bless animals on or near St. Francis' Day. The strangest pet I met in church was a (land based) hermit crab!. My family carries on the tradition of rescue and adoption and my wife and I just finished a week of caring for vacationing kids' adoptees. A challenge at our age, but rewarding. Father Charlie, Episcopal Priest
7/24/2012 06:23:03 pm
God bless all who rescue animals, especially pets. I've rescued a few cats, but it hurts that so many animals have no rescuer. But God loves them all and takes them to Himself.
7/25/2012 12:31:26 am
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
7/25/2012 03:52:17 am
What a beautifully written blog. This deeply moved me. I especially loved reading that animals so have souls which I firmly believe. God bless you and all who rescue animals.
12/18/2012 10:14:53 am
I have read and re-read this page and all the comments quite a few different times. With each reading I spend a good amount of time in tears over some of the stories and then one day it hit me like a hammer being swung by a Godly force. My wife and I lost our first real baby in 1998. We had lost a couple before that but we hadn't really made that soul to soul connection, we mourned their loss and moved on. When we lost Chewee, she was in our arms and we were there and had to make the choice. I will never, ever forget that night and the song on the radio when we got in the car to come home. Sara McLachlin was singing ' In The Arms of The Angel ', of course that just added to the hurt and emptiness that we were feeling. During the song I turned asked my wife if she had enough heart left to adopt another baby and of course she wasn't able to answer honestly. We lost our baby on Mothers Day of all days, we soon moved into a new home and one day while working in the yard she came driving up and from the crook of her arm I saw these scared but trusting eyes. Well, since then there have been quite a few, the numbers don't really matter, the Paw Prints across our heart and the memories do. I would like to say that we still all that we have loved and that have loved us but God doesn't give us that choice, he allows us to open our hearts and love them as they love us, unconditionally, when it is there time that precious life that he brought to us goes home. I have had the hardest time accepting that statement that the Crazy Cat lady quoted, "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."
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