Category Archives: Days of Gratitude 2013

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 30

Today, we are thankful for all of our drivers and overnight hosts.

While hours and hours are spent behind the scenes researching, planning, and networking, the truth is, there are very few admins and there are 47,182 miles of roads in the U.S. We would never be able to do all this without YOU.

We have drivers and overnight hosts who step up, over and over again. Though we fear wearing out our welcome, being able to count on you is more helpful in getting kitties home than you could possibly know. We are grateful for you.

We have drivers who have never heard of us before but see a post that someone shared and step up to help. We are grateful for you.

We have people who want to drive, but whose cars or circumstances won’t allow them to drive, so they rope friends/family into driving while they are the passenger. We are grateful for [both of] you.

We have drivers who drive sometimes hours out of their way to help out on a route when needed. We are grateful for you.

We have drivers who step up, sometimes at the very last minute, to cover a route that doesn’t have a driver, or for which the original driver had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances.  Sometimes this means driving 2 legs: the one they originally signed up for plus the vacant leg. We are grateful for you.

We have drivers who go on long vacations and volunteer to give up some of their precious room in the car in order to drive a cat an extended distance because they are headed in the same directions. We are grateful for you.

For each one of you that does what you can to help kitties, who goes out of your way, spends your precious time, hard-earned dollars, or is otherwise generous of spirit to help cats get to their forever homes, we are grateful for YOU.  Without your caring, your love,  and your dedication towards cats who imagine a better life, we would merely be a group of crazy cat people.

Thanks to each of you, we have changed the lives of many cats who were in dire circumstances.  Thanks to each of you, we dare say that we have changed the lives of people. Thanks to each of you, we dare to dream that we will continue in our humble endeavors. And thanks to each of you, we dare to dream that we will grow into a group that can do even more for cats everywhere.  We are grateful for all of you.

~Becca Marshall Steinberg and Noelle Sparks

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Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 25

Today I am thankful for no-kill shelters and sanctuaries.

Sampson enjoying life

These facilities are the true shelter in all the meanings of the word.  Today I am using the example of Cat Angels Pet Adoptions in Cary, NC.  I volunteer there as much as I can. Animals lucky enough to find their way to a no-kill shelter will never want for anything, and will live their natural lives in the shelter.  Some of these kitties are elderly, but still receive the love and respect they deserve, even if they will never find a home of their own.

Do you ever wonder how they can stay in business and help more cats in the process?    Just a few short weeks ago Cat Angels had their annual silent auction, which raises the most money for them throughout the year.  I was proud to be there helping in any way I could.  It’s all for the kitties.

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All year round, volunteers collect items to auction, solicit donations from local businesses, and put together gift baskets to sell at the auction. Donations range from all things kitty to spa treatments and special offers from local businesses.  Many of our benefactors purchase the sponsor of kitties for a whole year.

Willie Hodge and I all dressed up.

This year we even had a local celebrity (Willie Hodge) taking pictures with attendees to raise more for the kitties.  Here I am posing with him, doesn’t he look fabulous?

 

 

 

 

Cuddle Pile in the Purple Room

Cuddle Pile in the Purple Room.  These lovely kitties are waiting for their forever home.

But back to the shelter.  This is one place where you can see kitties in person, not behind bars.  You can interact with them and have your new kitty pick you.  It really does happen that way.  You can see how they get along with other kitties and get first-hand details of any kitty from our volunteers who spend our time with them.

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Kirk and Spock – bonded brothers from another mother

This is Captain James T. Kirk and Spock.  They came in without any other siblings or mama, and have come to love each other like brothers.  The cage was only temporary while they were in quarantine for 2 weeks (per usual), then while they healed from their neuter surgeries.  Now they are living large in the Yellow Room with the rest of the kittens waiting to find the right human to adopt.

 

 

 

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Hank and Skyla are never far from each other.

Two of my kitties came from this shelter.  Both had been deemed never adoptable because they were so scared of people. They both languished in the shelter for years, until they pulled my heartstrings just the right amount. Today, they are living the life of ease together in my home.  

 

Adopting from a no-kill shelter also saves more than just the one kitty.   It allows the shelter to bring more kitties into their program.  That means less kitties at the kill-shelters just waiting to be ‘put to sleep’.  Check out your local no-kill shelter today and see how you can help!  If they are anything like Cat Angels and their founder Deborah Fox, you know you will be certain this kitty is right for you.  Cat Angels will also take back any of their kitties, no questions asked.  Most no-kill shelters are like this.  It is about the life and well-being of the animals. Most local no-kill shelters will not adopt out of the area, for good reasons of their own that we have no right to question.  If Cat Angels cannot help you find you right family member, they will be happy to send you to other facilities where kitties are more in danger.  Imagine Home is primarily (for now) a transport group, although our bigger purpose is to help in achieving the no-kill nation we all desire.  While we will never be able to transport one of Deborah’s cats (and she does consider each one hers) I am eternally grateful for her and others like her who live for these precious animals.

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 24

Safe Haven
We are grateful for safe havens.

There are so many kitties needing a place to go. The healthy, young adoptables have trouble making it out of most shelter systems. Rescuers, adopters, fosters, advocates – of these there is never enough. So if the healthy and vibrant lives have little hope, what then of the special needs kitties, the seniors, the sick and diseased? There is a network devoted to them as well. Again, it is never enough. But for those that do find a way, there are safe havens.

For the special needs kitties, there is a place in Utah. The Best Friends Animal Society.
http://bestfriends.org/

“Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary. Nestled in Utah’s Angel Canyon, the Sanctuary is a healing home-between-homes for 1,700 animals, the majority of which need training, medical care, and/or emotional healing. Once they are ready for adoption, the animals move into good homes across the country.”

From all across the country, they take animals in and the very special ones will be there always. We have had the good fortune to work with them on 2 occasions. Flopsy and Ginger are now in their care thanks to the efforts of their fosters.

Ginger, a Manx Syndrome kitty, and her transporter, Karen at O'Hare Airport, getting ready to fly to Vegas.

Ginger, a Manx Syndrome kitty, and her transporter, Karen at O’Hare Airport, getting ready to fly to Vegas.

Flopsy, a tripod with severe CH and his foster at O'Hare.

Flopsy, a tripod with severe CH and his foster at O’Hare.

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We have helped a couple of senior barn kitties recently to a small place in Farmington, New Hampshire. Pampered Paws Sanctuary is a “retirement” facility in a secluded and wooded area. Johanna, the director, worked in the shelter system for 25 years. Realizing that a large sector of the shelter population was the first to “go” when space was needed, she developed a plan and opened her sanctuary to the elderly. She also takes disabled and medically challenged kitties. Her story is a touching one and her website is informative.
http://www.pamperedpawssanctuary.com/

 

Prudence, 23 year old resident. Photo courtesy of Pampered Paws website.

Prudence, 23 year old resident. Photo courtesy of Pampered Paws website.

momm seior kitty pmpered pws

Senior barn kitty “Momma” made it to Pampered Paws just a few weeks ago!

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There seems to be a large population of FeLV kitties in our country with few places for them to find refuge. The World’s Greatest Cat House is home to the Puffy Paws Kitty Haven in Englewood, Florida.. A dual facility that takes in and cares for the “unwanted”, the FeLV, FIV, abused, neurologically and behaviorally challenged, they also have an adoption program for the kitties that can be placed into forever homes.

“Only Through The Power of Your Love Can These Very Special Need Kitties See The Light of Tomorrow.”
http://www.puffypawskittyhaven.com/
Their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheWorldsGreatestCathousePuffyPawsKittyHaven

Puffy Paws Cuddle Puddle! Photo Courtesy Puffy Paws website

Puffy Paws Cuddle Puddle! Photo Courtesy Puffy Paws website

whiskers intake

Whiskers! 2 years old and FeLV positive will be going to Puffy Paws in just a few weeks.

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Another safe haven for the FeLV kitties is in South Carolina. Suzy’s Zoo is situated in a very rural area on 25+ acres. This is a somewhat new location for her and she is still building. But her heart has never been bigger. From all over the mid-eastern to eastern United States, Suzy takes in the ones that have no hope of life anywhere else.

https://www.facebook.com/SuzysZooSanctuary

Smokey and Snowball, new residents at the Zoo

Smokey and Snowball, new residents at the Zoo

Affectionately termed the Zoo Crew, Roxie

Affectionately termed the Zoo Crew, Roxie

Cassie, of the Zoo Crew

Cassie, of the Zoo Crew

 

Gray Boy in Atlanta on a layover on his way to Suzy's Zoo.

Gray Boy, the last of the Zoo Crew in Atlanta on a layover on his way to Suzy’s Zoo.

These are but a few of the sanctuaries that can help the kitties with no other place to turn. It must be said that these are all are non-profit entities, they operate on donations and can do more and more with your help.  We believe that much like humans, all cats deserve an equal chance at life. So we work to save them all, as hard, and as heartbreaking as it may be. ~Kelly Pusskitty~

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 23

I am grateful for the loving advocates.

This past Tuesday I received a phone call from a friend.  She and her neighbor had been caring for a kitty that had been abandoned in a house.  No food, no water, no heat, no people.  They came to the realization that something must be done, this could not go on, but the solution was elusive.  So she called me.  I went to visit this kitty on Wednesday.  A darling, a sweetheart, so affectionate but reacted in a way that told us someone had not been nice to him.

 As soon as I got home I posted his pic, well many actually, but I chose a good one to post on the Imagine Home page with his story.  I made a plea for a foster.  It seemed to have taken no time and Michelle had offered to take him in.  And right on the heels of that, Tonia stepped up and offered to transport him.

Tonia and I met this morning and went to get Rover.  I thought it may be difficult to get him in the carrier considering he was not willing to be picked up.  I prepared myself  with a can of wet food, and a bag of treats, put a soft bed in the carrier and we were off.  But Tonia had the real stuff! She brought chicken.  And so between the chicken, the treats, me on the back side and Tonia on the front, we got Rover into the carrier.  He was upset! Tried very hard to get out.  He never cried though.  Once we left the house he began to calm a bit.  It was as if he knew that love and hope were on the other end of this new experience.  Tonia told me she talked to him all the way to meet Michelle.  He relaxed, and did well.  Once home, he’s already began to get used to his foster human twin brothers and his foster fur siblings. I think that he may be well and truly home though.  I don’t think Michelle will be able to let him go.

Rover, safely out of his cold and empty house

Rover, safely out of his cold and empty house

Rover in his new forever home!

Here’s Rover enjoying the comforts of a warm and occupied home again!

While Rover is taking his freedom ride across the state of Tennessee, we have another journey beginning just to the north.  In Kentucky Sam is making her way from Frankfort to Paris with our very own Noelle.  Sam’s story is a sad one, a dumped kitty, but things are looking up.  She didn’t do well in the shelter environment and was running out of time.  The very angel that saved her when she got there found her a wonderful place to go.  And as things began to get desperately close to falling through for Sam, Noelle stepped in.

 

Sammie made a new friend in nippie mouse!

Sammie made a new friend in nippie mouse!

Remember Max?  Well, the voice of love that he heard is heard in many places and in many ways.  Today, in New York City, Nicole spent her day cleaning a porch.  The porch is occupied by two kitties in the direst of need.  They are living in trash, their own filth, and yes, they are suffering for it.  So, armed with a mask and gloves and her worst work clothes on, Nicole has taken it upon herself to alleviate that in the only way she can now.

 

Max!  His savior and foster is still working to save lives.

Max! His savior and foster is still working to save lives.

These are but a few of the many things that the advocates did today.  There was sharing of posts, networking of needs, contacts made and friendships born.

 

And a kitty named Kelly (also a Ginger kitty) in Tampa, Florida got her life saved with just 10 minutes left.  (A personal best of mine.)

Kelly, on death row in Tampa, FL.  Saved in the nick of time.

Kelly, on death row in Tampa, FL. Saved in the nick of time.

Thank you and I am ever so grateful for all the things that you all do for the kitties. ~Kelly Pusskitty, Transport Director`

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 22

I am grateful for the advocates.

There are many voices and many people that help the kitties that so desperately need help.  From the busiest and most foul shelters to the stray that the neighbor finds on their back porch, homeless kitties will always need advocates.

I am grateful for the rescuers.

If not for the people that have the strength and courage to face the shelter system, I dare not think of the lives lost.  There are many rescuers that I have come to admire and respect.  I have had the good fortune to be able to call on them and never have I been let down.  I am honored to be able to call them my  heroes and friends. 

But I think little Max can probably better tell you this story.

~ I was just a wee little thing.  I found myself in a cold and stinky and scary place.  I was really sick and my eye hurt so bad.  I started to think this was all I would ever know.  But then someone came and got me.  They put me in a box.  And before I knew what was happening I heard a voice that was so full of love.  She took me to the vet, (ugh!) but I needed to go.  And then she took me home and loved me.  I had to have my eye removed.  I felt so much better after that.  I stayed with the lady that loved me for a little while til I got better.  And then I found myself in the arms of the person I was meant to be with.  I’m still a little kitty but my happies couldn’t be bigger. ~

 

Max in the shelter.  A sadder sight is rarely ever seen.

Max in the shelter. A sadder sight is rarely ever seen.

If not for the initiation of a rescuer in Georgia, a rescuer in New York City would not have seen Max.  Max was out of time.  He had less than an hour to live when the call was made to hold him.  But the call was made.  He needed a lot of medical care and some very focused attention to his needs.  Attention he received in abundance.  And his surgery was not inexpensive.  But the funds came easily from those who care so very much for the lives of helpless and sick kittens.  (Within 16 hours of asking!)

 

Many came together to save Max’s life.  Two rescuers, an advocate to put everyone together, a foster, and all of you that gave to help cover his medical expenses.

It means the world to Max, now known as Zeke.  It means everything in the eyes of his little girl.  ~Kelly

Finally home

Finally home

This is love.

This is love.

 

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 21

I am thankful for the blue sky above me and the grass beneath my feet.  I have been fortunate to have known that all my 50 years on this earth.  I am fortunate to be able to stretch my arms and not touch the walls of my home, and I am fortunate that I am not forced to do things for the entertainment of others.

performing animals

Photo courtesy Dionne Canter

But there are some that are not so lucky.

Flavio was a circus tiger.  He lived all his life, 24 years, either in a 6′ by 4′ cage or in the circus ring being made to do things that tigers aren’t ever meant to do.   Upon his retirement he was allowed to go to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL.  After intake and vetting and days of all the things they do to care for their cats, he was then lead through a “tunnel” and for the very first time in his life he got to touch the grass. In the 2 1/2 acre vacation enclosure Flavio spent the next weeks just breathing the air.  He got to see the sky without looking through bars.  He got to see what it felt like to be a free cat.  His story is touching;  the video of his first encounter with all those things that many of us take for granted, the open sky, the grass, a tree to climb and a water fountain to enjoy, is nothing less than a soul shaking experience.

Flavio’s freedom walk can be seen here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ai6y3C6czk 

Have you ever seen a 24 year old tiger play in a water fountain?  (I smiled for days after watching this.)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZCC2-XlWm0

I later learned that the ‘vacation enclosure’ is occupied on a rotational basis.  But when it was Flavio’s time to go back to his regular enclosure he was having no part of it!  They knew he was okay, he was eating what they were feeding them, and he could be spotted at times on the high rocks in the sun.  Now it must be said that the enclosures, indeed everything, at Big Cat Rescue (BCR) are as realistic to outdoor life as a big cat in it’s natural habitat would be accustomed to.  There are many trees creating a natural canopy to keep the cats cool. There is no concrete.  And the enclosures are not small.  There is no caged feeling about it.

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BCR rescues and cares for many different kinds of cats.  A lion that came to them emaciated and very ill came from a drug bust where he was used to “guard the stash”.  Cats with many beautiful coats that were rescued from breeders that raised them only to sell their fur when they got large enough.  A declawed tiger that once belonged to a private owner.  All of them have a story, and it’s a sad one.  Particularly so since none can be released back into the wild and be expected to survive.

Zabu, the white tiger. ~Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

Zabu, the white tiger. ~Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

Cameron the Lion.  ~Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

Cameron the Lion. ~Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

hiding in the shade

~ Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

closeup of spotty

~ Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

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TJ the Tiger~ Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks

Tonga, one of only two white Servals in the world.  He had  was treated for squamous cell carcinoma at age 15. ~ Photo courtesy Noelle B.  Sparks

Tonga, one of only two white Servals in the world. He had was treated for squamous cell carcinoma at age 15.
~ Photo courtesy Noelle B. Sparks 

Read more about Tonga here: http://bigcatrescue.org/tonga/

This cage, according to the USDA is legal for transporting big cats.  It would be about the same as a 20 pound Maine Coon trying to take a cross-country trip in a small kitty carrier.

This cage, according to the USDA, is legal for transporting big cats. It would be about the same as a 20 pound Maine Coon trying to take a cross-country trip in a small kitty carrier.
Kelly Pusskitty, her face says it all.

Kelly Pusskitty, her face says it all. ~Photo courtesy Dionne Canter

Not all of the BCR rescues are cats that must stay in their care.  They do rescue cats in trouble, treat them then release them.  Khaleesi is a favorite of mine. A bobcat kitten that was rehabbed and then released.  You can expect to see her story in a future blog post.

“Big Cat Rescue’s dual mission is to provide the best home we can for the cats in our care and educate the public about the plight of these majestic animals, both in captivity and in the wild, to end abuse and avoid extinction.”   http://bigcatrescue.org

I am thankful for getting to see a dream of mine come true. A dream of getting to visit a place that helps to right some of the wrongs done to these fabulous cats. ~Kelly Pusskitty~

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 20

I am thankful for how social media has allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals far and wide……. and then, ironically, how it brought me to my local network of cat rescuers.

I have met some amazing, wonderful, intelligent, compassionate people who live all over the US.  We all have one common goal: helping animals, and I never have to question that.  I first connected with some of these women two years ago, as an FOJ. A lot has happened in the last two years, and now many of those ladies are now admins here at IH.  And that in itself begs its own Gratitude post.  But I wanted to talk about how, through IH, I have been connected to a fantastic network of local cat rescuers, though ironically none of the other IH admins live in my area.

There are two women in particular I am thrilled to have met.

The first is someone that I was connected with through IH awhile back, we’ll call her K.  She needed help transporting a cat somewhere; it was last minute (not enough time for IH to coordinate), but it was in my area and the admins reached out to me to ask if I could help K.  In the end, she found another rescue transport that could take the cat all the way to the destination, so I never met her or the cutie that needed a ride.  But we kept in touch, nonetheless.

Ernie, my first foster after taking a 3-year break from fostering.

Ernie, my first foster after taking a 3-year break from fostering.

Then a few months ago, K rescued a cat from a local AC at the last minute.  Ernie had been very sick and was thankfully on the mend thanks to her (there is a very nasty strain of URI going around one of the shelters: one that can take down an otherwise healthy adult cat in a matter of days), but she needed somewhere safe and climate-controlled for him to recover after summer came on hard and fast.  I offered my home, and just like that, I was fostering again after a 3-year hiatus.

Ernie is sweet, loving, gentle with my daughter and I believe he has helped me solve an ongoing mystery with my own cats’ health.  He is a blessing to our family and I’m so glad that he has come to stay with us until his forever home is found.

Polly, one of my current fosters, a sweet little polydactyl/Hemmingway kitten.

Polly, one of my current fosters, a sweet little polydactyl/Hemmingway kitten.

Then, on one of my IH transports early this year I met another woman, L, who just so happens to also be ensconced in our local rescue scene.  (And do you have any idea which transport I happened to meet this woman on?  Patience’s, the very same transport that Birdy had been so excited to drive the day she passed away.  I didn’t know Birdy personally, but that would have been the second transport that connected me to her; I do believe Birdy had a hand in me meeting L.)

L and I kept in touch and reached out to each other occasionally to network cats.   And then one day she tagged me one day on a post for a local “Friends of” group for a local animal control page about some cats needing transport to the safety of a rescue.  And since May, I have been doing transports, meeting more people in the local rescue scene, and feeling more connected to my local animal community than I have ever been.

This beautiful Maine Coon kitten is my most recent local transport passenger. Sweet, and as fluffy as a bunny.

This beautiful, sweet, and fluffy as a bunny Maine Coon kitten is my most recent local transport passenger, headed to a local rescue.

I have now fostered or transported 88 animals since May of this year alone.  The point of posting this number is not to pat myself on the back; it’s to show the power of making connections and how small gestures can add up.  85 animals is hardly a blip on the radar nationally.  It’s not even a blip locally.  But nearly every single one of those animals were hours, or minutes, from being committed to the euthanasia list.  So to look in each of those 85 animals’ eyes, and know that his or her life was no longer hanging in the balance, because some very dedicated people were committed to networking, rescuing, transporting, fostering, vetting, socializing and ultimately adoption, is still a staggering realization.  It makes a difference to each one of those 88.

And all because of some amazing, serendipitous connections among animal lovers on earth and in heaven. For that, I am forever grateful.

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 19

*Note

Your Imagine Home Admins used to belong to another transport group.  That group’s name isn’t important.  What is important is the many gifts of friendship we received while there.  What follows is the tale of two friends who touched our hearts in the other group, and here at Imagine Home.  

With Birdy, we always knew that she would keep us on our toes, find our mistakes, and remind us that the cats needed us to hurry up!  The morning that we got the notice that Birdy died, our hearts shattered.  Not so much because of the pair of cats needing a ride, but because we knew that we had lost a true friend, both to us, and to cats everywhere.  

What follows, is a tribute written from the heart by her dear friend Diana Kennady Geary.

~noelle~

Back when I first found the joy of Facebook, I had made a habit to check out the pages that had all the cute picture of dogs and cats. I, to this day love the funny meme’s they post and stories of rescue animals that found their new fur-ever homes. You see, I was working at that time with a transport group, to get these rescued animals to either safety or to their new fur-ever homes. So it was my way of winding down from a transport.

This one day, I had just gotten home from a leg of transporting 7 happy little puppies and one 6 month old German Shepherd. I was feeling great that I could help these fur babies out in their transport to a better life. After cleaning my Jeep up and changing my clothes, I sat down to an evening of playing on Facebook. That’s when it happened. I immediately went to one of my favorite pages to check out their cute pictures of the day and saw where a woman and man were having a rather high spirited conversation. This day, this page, this conversation was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with an Angel that walked on this Earth. She was really giving this sad sack of a guy, a hard time about his comments about one of the cute meme’s with playful kittens. The guy, who’s name has left my mind long ago, was not very nice in his comments and was actually down right cruel about what he’d like to do to the kittens in the meme. The woman…well, she let him know how she felt about his comments. Of course, she and I had the same reaction to his mean words and I joined in on this conversation. Or should I call it “shaming”? Anyway, this was the beginning…the beginning of knowing someone truly beautiful inside and out. Her name…was Birdy…Birdy Sims. We fast became Facebook friends, as in minutes after we ran the guy off that page. First with a private message just chatting it up as if we had known each other since birth! Our love of animals, and the fact she was a rescuer/foster mama and I was a transporter, drew us even closer. We shared pictures of our own fur babies and as Birdy put it, her “foster failures”. For those that don’t understand, a foster failure is when you just can’t let that fur baby go…you end up adopting the fur baby for your own. Birdy had many of these “foster failures”! <grin>

Our friendship grew every day for years…talking about home life, our fur babies, our childhood, you name it, we discussed it at one time or another. Birdy helped me through losing the last 3 of my Fabulous Five Felines…Zoe, Marley and Ziggy. She spoke of her heartbreak of losing her fur babies and we bonded even more. Next thing you know, we’re exchanging phone numbers. Friday nights became the night of teen like giggling, fussing like old hens and tears. We were there for each other no matter what.

Just as I thought I’d found a friend for life, it seems the world came crashing down on us. Being I had been in mourning over the loss of my last indoor feline fur baby, for months, I was going through that period of time where another addition would have felt like I was trying to replace a beautiful member of my family. But the day came that I had decided it was time…time to open my heart once again for someone to rescue me. That morning, I couldn’t wait to tell Birdy about the time was right and I went straight to her page. On her page, I saw the most horrible words I ever saw…”I need help in re-homing my cats…I’ve been told, I’m terminal and I don’t have long to live”. My heart sunk and tears began to flow, uncontrollably as they are right now writing this. Birdy was getting offers from people she knew, here and there but her main concern were her “foster failures” from (at that time) 6 yrs ago, her litter sister cats, Molly and Tobi. She didn’t want to separate them. They had been together since birth and she just couldn’t stand the thought of separating them. Being I was still in shock over the news I just sat there staring at her page in tears. Then I noticed her pleas were so strong and no one was even saying anything about these 6 yr old sisters…they were only showing interest in the smaller kittens. All I could do was cry as I typed in bold letters, “BIRDY, DON’T WORRY ABOUT MOLLY AND TOBI, I’LL TAKE THEM BOTH”. Now I was wanting to adopt a little panther, as I had never had a black kitty…neither Molly or Tobi fit that description but at this point, I didn’t care. They needed someone who was as like minded as their mama Birdy and Birdy needed the peace of knowing someone with experience with multiple cats/dogs, who would love them with all their heart, would adopt Molly and Tobi. I was that person. Not only for Birdy and the sisters needs but for my own…to have a part of Birdy to keep and love. So within minutes we were on the phone balling our eyes out, me promising I’d give them the best of the best, her blubbering out thank yous left and right (you have to understand, Birdy rarely cried a tear). We both gained a little bit of peace during that phone call…In steps a new beginning friendship…BekBek. She got the ball moving and set up the transport for us and next thing you know, I have Molly and Tobi! Birdy and I both were so indebted to BekBek and always will be. BekBek, our love for your determination of getting Molly and Tobi to me was and will be cherished forever! A friend for life, as Birdy and I both said many times.

Tobi and Molly, the duo that allowed Diana to meet her friend Birdy.

Tobi and Molly, the duo that allowed Diana to meet her friend Birdy.

Moving forward…Birdy decided to get second opinions and found out she didn’t have the terminal disease they told her she had. Happiness once again hit both of us! I told her in the beginning that I would be “Aunt Diana” to the sisters and when she got better, they could go home. She and her husband, Loren, decided to visit me after one of her trips to the Cleveland Clinic for more tests. I was so nervous, not over meeting Birdy face to face but over would she want her girls back. I had spent many a day/night loving these sister kitties thinking I would lose my friend and trying to make them feel loved. When Birdy and Loren got here, it was just like talking on Facebook…like we’d known each other forever! I told her, that my promise, that she could have Molly and Tobi back home with her was still a promise. That I would not stand in the way of her’s and their happiness. After a day, of talking and laughing at my boy, Ozzy trying to woo her girl Aila (Birdy’s service dog and companion), Birdy said, she felt that Molly and Tobi finally found their fur-ever home. Needless to say, I had happy tears welling up in my eyes! The day she and Loren were to leave to go back home was so bittersweet. I wanted them to stay, even begged them to move here with me. But they were worried about this small town and the medical provisions not being what she needed. She was right, I live in a rural area and we don’t have the necessary medical provisions she would have needed. So we said our goodbyes and I awaited her msg on Facebook that they made it home safe and sound. I got that msg and for all we knew, life was once again beautiful!

Sweet Tobi the Torti

Sweet Tobi the Torti

 

 

Molly

Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Months had passed, Birdy again was the Angel Rescue, taking in kitties to help find them homes, vet them and love them when they had no one and no chance of survival. Then she started telling me about an upcoming transport she and her husband were going to be involved in…something she missed dearly! She talked about getting to transport some kitties to their new fur-ever home and she was so excited! That’s all she talked about…two Fridays before the transport our phone conversation was so happy and she was so full of life, you could hear it in her voice she was nothing but a giant smile! Then the Friday night before she and Loren were to leave on their leg of the transport, she called me. She was about to burst with glee! All she kept saying was how excited she was and how she couldn’t wait to do what she had been missing for the last few years. I told her to be careful and enjoy every minute, and pictures! I wanted tons of pictures of her adventure in this transport! We said our goodbye’s our love you’s and both of us hit Facebook. She posted a cute little meme, she had made up with a precious little kitty yawing on it, saying “Goodnight! Tomorrow’s Caturday” with ~Birdy~ in the bottom right corner of the meme. That was my last phone call and the meme was my last goodnight from Birdy…

Birdy's last post.

Birdy’s last post.

The next morning I awoke in a race to the computer so I could wish her safe travels on her transport and I saw something that took the breath away from me for what seemed like an eternity. Loren, had posted what had happened, less than an hour after our last phone call. She had started with a sugar drop…not good, later she ended up cancelling out her early morning dialysis treatment she had scheduled for before her transport and in the next hour or so, she was gone. In the blink of an eye, just hours away from hearing my friend the happiest I’d EVER heard her, she was gone. She was walking the walk, across Rainbow Bridge to meet with all her fur babies that had made the walk before her. That Giant Beautiful Heart of hers, gave out. The Kitty Angel that once walked this earth was now gone. No longer would she be there for kitties in despair here on earth. She was their own personal Angel and she was gone…She changed jobs from Angel on Earth to Angel at Rainbow Bridge.

I have since, had many a dream with Birdy in them. She’s sitting under this giant shade tree, her hat, I loved on, giant loving smile and surrounded by animals. The first time I thought it was a sign that she was ok, she was where she was needed now. But with each new dream I’ve seen new animals surrounding her, including my Jackie…my little golden retriever boy. I’ve seen so many happy animals playing on her, around her and nothing but love in each dream. I don’t know if it’s a sign she’s sending about what her new job is now or if she’s showing me her new fur babies she’s in charge of loving and taking care of…all I do know, is I awake from these dreams with teary smiles and I know the day is going to be a good day.

I miss you Birdy, the kitties on this earth miss you, your friends miss you, Aila and your own fur babies still here miss you and Loren misses you. You’d be so proud of Loren…just hours after you left him and us, he did the impossible…he made sure that transport you were so excited over getting to do, happened. How he did that I don’t know other than you were sitting right next to him the whole way. I don’t think anything, even your own passing would have stopped you from that transport that day. I have a feeling the people driving behind Loren, on that trip, were wondering why there were Angel wings in the front seat of the van. We all know why…you were there, just like I feel that you are there in all the Imagine Home transports keeping an eye out and helping Jack kitty in keeping everyone of those precious little kitties and their transporters safe.

Birdy Sims, with her beautiful smile

Birdy Sims, with her beautiful smile

Birdy continues to help in transports to this day. Whether she is watching over each transport with Jack or it’s her huge carrier that is now being used by another Angel, Charmaine, who rescues and finds homes for kitties, to their new fur-ever homes. The legend of Birdy the Kitty’s Angel will live on…as long as their are kittens and cats to be rescued, she will be there in spirit. You never know…you may see Angel wings in the front seat of a transport vehicle one day! If you do, just give Birdy a wink and a smile. And as you pass those Angel wings, tell her Thank You and We Love and Miss You!”

~Diana Kennady Geary

*In honor of Birdy’s spirit, generosity, love and guidance, Imagine Home has decided to name their “Pay it Forward”  movement after Birdy.  So from this day forth, they’ll be known as “Birdy’s Big Heart”.  ~noelle~

birdy's big heart

 

 

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 18

“ Whoever you are, I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,”  Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

Today, your Imagine Home Admins are grateful for the lessons taught us by a pair of cats and their forever mother. The lessons are many, and their combined journey is very long, but all the more to teach us the very lessons we need. Shoes and Socks have a forever mom, Sadaf. She had always dreamed of travelling the continent of Africa. This year, she got that exciting opportunity. Sadaf did everything possible to prepare her boys for her absence. A wonderful friend was found to foster them in New York City, and Sadaf flew off for her journey, knowing that her two boys were in safe and loving hands. Meet the boys

                                                               Meet the boys!

In March, a few months into her epic journey, Sadaf’s friend and former roommate got some devastating news. She had, like many of us in today’s tough economy, lost her job, and would soon be losing her housing. Shoes and Socks would need to find a new foster parent. It wasn’t a matter of not loving the boys, it was a matter of downsizing, because she would be living with her parents for an indefinite amount of time. Sadaf was torn. Yes, she was worried sick about her boys, and was ready to come back home. But she also knew that the chances of returning to her trip were slim, if she got sucked back into her everyday life.

Then she heard about transport groups on Facebook. The first group turned her down, because the boys were not going to a forever home. Then she heard about us. We were still a tiny group, and only 6 months old. It was an audacious request. What’s that? I didn’t tell you where Shoes and Socks were going? Listen to this: New York City to St. Paul, Minnesota! When Kelly Pusskitty, our Transport Director saw the request, her fingers started to hover over the letters: “N” and “O!” But she hesitated. The only thing holding us back from approving the request was distance. And we’ve seen crazier things happen in less time. And then there were the cats. Kelly can very seldom say no to cats in need. So of course Kelly said yes, or I would obviously not be writing about the journey.

shoes and socks event pic

Look at the size of that map!

Before Shoes and Socks could wend their way across the United States, Sadaf posted this on our event: “I was worried watching my boys go away from across the world. I kept away from this page so I wouldn’t obsess. Having read the love that is pouring off this page, while I will still worry, I realize I’ve put them in the best possible hands. Words can’t express my gratitude to everyone who is making this possible. Shoes and Socks, I love you guys and wish you a safe journey with all your new friends. You will be at your new home soon.

The boys journeyed to Minnesota, in April, a little less than one month after we received the request. It was no big deal, really. Eleven transporters, with the fosters from each end taking 2 legs, one overnight hostess, and lots of excitement in between! Check out their event here, with many more pictures: https://www.facebook.com/events/426736260751208/

On their way!

Once they were safely settled in their foster’s home in Minnesota, Shoes and Socks took some time to adjust to their new surroundings. They had traveled with quite a bit of loot from their old home, including a beloved kitty condo.

Socks says "Ohai!"

Socks says “Ohai!”

This still isn’t quite the end of our tale. Sadaf stayed in touch with Kelly Pusskitty, and had asked her several times about a way to express gratitude for getting Shoes and Socks to their new foster home. And then it struck her. Sadaf paid it forward, and it touched our hearts more than anything she could have offered. Sadaf had toured the David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage, and was especially touched by the plight of the orphaned baby elephants.

Here’s what came of that visit: (June 2013)

What a wonderful gift, the gift of life. Safety, sanctuary, security and hope. These are but a few of the things that we provide through our volunteer work here. And before you get the idea that I speak only of the admins of Imagine Home, let me assure you that we well know that we could do nothing without the support, efforts and dedication of all of you. And yes, it does sometimes seem that we fight losing battles, spit in the wind, and put out infernos with thimbles of water. But you know what? It works. What we ALL do is so very important. Did any of us ever think that volunteering our time and resources would make a difference on the other side of the world? Did any of us ever dream that our love and respect for the lives of the voiceless would echo all the way to Kenya?  Well, it has. It has been almost 2 months to the day that Shoes and Socks made their way across 6 states to be with the very special foster they now reside with. And in that 2 months, their forever Mom, Sadaf, has been fulfilling a life long dream and trying to find a way to say “Thank you”. We received this email from her and I share it in it’s entirety. This, Imagine Home, is what it’s about. This belongs to us all. ~Kelly

[From Sadaf, currently in Kenya] Hello Imagine Home, It’s been nearly two months now that my boys Shoes and Socks went from their temporary home while I looked for a foster to their foster home. They are doing so well – playing, snoozing, snuggling and basically being the happy, healthy kitties I left behind. I am so grateful to Imagine Home, to all the transporters and admins who said “Yes” to my request to get Shoes and Socks to a better home while I was out doing something I loved. I had been ready to make the decision to come home and resettle them myself until a friend pointed me to the wonderful community that exists. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, but for my boys, it seems to have been the right one. When I see the photos that Kayla posts, and see Shoes and Socks looking so well, I can’t help but be so grateful to everyone who made it happen. Their new foster mom has a large part to play in their happiness, but they wouldn’t be there now without Imagine Home volunteers making it happen for them. I thought long about how I wanted to say thank you. I truly believe that deeds are better than words, and the love that Imagine Home volunteers have for the creatures in this world who can’t speak for themselves is so obvious that I decided a thank you needed to be done in kind. In my travels I had a chance to visit the David Sheldrick Trust, an organization that takes care of elephants that are orphaned in the wild with a view to returning them to the wild when they are old enough. They have had lots of success in their efforts so far. I was lucky enough to see the baby elephants play around, and was touched enough to want to foster a couple of the babies. Then the thought got lost in everything else. Kayla sent some photos of Shoes and Socks to me recently, and put some more on Facebook. As I’ve said already, every time I see recent photos of my boys I can’t help but be grateful for how well they are doing, and that they are looking healthy and happy. And this morning I finally finished signing up to foster two little baby elephants, representing my two boys, in the name of the Imagine Home volunteers who helped with the Shoes and Socks transport. Since I only had Sanober and Kayla’s addresses, they will get the actual information. But everyone can read about Bomani and Barsilinga, the two babies who will benefit from the donation. Their stories and their photographs can be found at https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=270 for Barsilinga and https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=273 for Bomani.

Thank you Imagine Home!  

                                      Bomani!
Barsalinga!

                                Barsalinga!

~  And today:

We're ready for our dinner!

We’re ready for our dinner!

Time to make some serious biscuits.

Time to make some serious biscuits.

Brotherly love.  Nothing better.

Brotherly love. Nothing better.

So, that happened. That, and the knowledge that we made two boys comfortable until their mom gets home, all of that fills our hearts with joy. And gratitude. And the lessons that I spoke of earlier? They were the lessons that even cats not going to a forever home are still worthy of love, the lesson that life can still be lived fully if one makes proper plans for care of their animals, and the lesson that animals worldwide need our love, protection and help. ~noelle~

The greatest gift.

The greatest gift.

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 17

Today, I’m grateful for creativity. We see it so often in every day life and don’t even recognize it, most times.

I’ve seen creativity in my fellow Imagine Home Admins when we decided that we wanted to develop a different kind of transport group. We all brainstormed for weeks about the best way to do things. While we’ve had some missteps along the way, we’ve managed to learn from each experience.

Over the past year, I’ve watched my co-workers/friends come up with incredibly creative solutions for almost every obstacle that we’ve faced. First was Phyllis (who has moved on) who developed our way of recruiting; she asked for certain pictures to be made, and used them in a variety of groups and events. We watched our drivers grow because of those tactics. Teresa has continued to expand on this creative method of recruitment, and has oftentimes used her personal contacts to get “just one more driver.” I’ve witnessed many Wednesday and Thursday late night miracles perpetrated by Teresa and Lori when we despaired of finding anything at all.

Kelly is her very own miracle of creativity. In the year and a half that Kelly Pusskitty has been planning transports, she has garnered respect for her caring, compassion and professionalism from the rescue community. I’ve watched Kelly pull off some creative rescues of cats, including for little one-eyed Max, who is now in his forever home. Kelly has managed to find friends of friends of friends to work last-minute and life-saving miracles.

BekBek Estes and Linda Rattenni are the geniuses behind most of our beautiful transport pictures that everyone shares. Every time I think they can’t top themselves, they come up with another way to take a horrible shelter picture, and turn it into a work of art. Then there’s Dionne, who drew the sketch that started us off, found the colors and fonts that suited our style, and has been the driving force behind the many sharable pictures that you see and share. Dionne had the vision of how our brand should look, and has found ways to keep it from getting stale, even after one year.

Our little motley crew, our band of sisters, used a variety of creative skills to help us grow over this past year. Together, our creativity feeds off of each other, and allows us to build new ways of doing things that seemed unimaginable a year ago. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Linda Rattenni's Poncho also Imagined a forever home.  He found it with Linda.

Linda Rattenni’s Poncho also Imagined a forever home. He found it with Linda.

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 16

I’m eternally grateful for sleep. They say that time heals all wounds, but I beg to differ; I feel that it’s actually sleep that heals all wounds. I’ve mastered the art of sleep, for the most part, except for the occasional bouts of insomnia that have plagued me since childhood.

There are so many kinds of sleep: there’s sleeping in a car during a long trip; that uneasy nap that you take because you’re exhausted and entrusting your driver where you hope that you don’t have to wake up unti you reach your destination. There’s the sleep of illness where you’re heavily medicated and hope to wake up completely healed. There’s sleep after a life-altering event, where you hope to wake up from your dreams and learn that your world wasn’t really tilted in its axis. And then there’s my favorite kind, the kind I experienced today: total exhaustion that allowed me to sleep on a sofa covered in a warm blanket, with a purring cat on my chest. That has to be the best sleep of all. Cat purrs heal all wounds. Cat purrs and sleep. And I’m grateful for both. ~noelle~

minnie having a ball

Not actually my cats or even my blanket. But they are sleeping, and happy.

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 15

On day 15 of Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, I’m immensely grateful for laughter. Without it, our world behind the curtains of Imagine Home would be a much darker place. Laughter has helped us grow closer, understand each other, and relieve our stress. Laughter has gotten us through transports that seemed to take months to plan. Laughter has gotten through our deepest transport planning nightmares, and allowed us to get up the next day and keep trying to help homeless cats.

My fellow admin’s stories are not mine to tell, but I can share my story from this past year. My husband’s father was hospitalized in May of last year, 2012. From that day on, my husband and I spent part of nearly every day at his side. Early one November morning, George died in his favorite recliner, and we rushed to be with Sue. Thanksgiving and Christmas were pretty grim, but by the time Spring rolled around, we were all beginning to live again, and smile. The Thursday after Easter, Sue clutched her chest and her heart stopped. My days since then have become a blur of estate planning and tears, broken only by a short vacation that flew past me in another blur.

The laughter part? The laughter came from the vacation planning, and then the vacation itself. I was gifted with the presence of some dear friends. My fellow admins gave up precious vacation time and scrounged together money to attend my August wedding. For four glorious days, I had most of my best friends by my side to make me laugh at some of the most idiotic things: there was the night that a June Bug flew into our rental house and landed on Jessica Koning. Jess picked it up and screamed “June Bug” and threw it directly into my cleavage! We all laughed until our sides hurt. One night, we all went to see Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band in concert, and left the place starving. So we found an IHOP that looked like it was built in the 1960s. The place was crowded and we struggled to get a table to fit 8 of us. We were then served by the world’s worst waiter. Our orders were all botched, the service was slow, requests for water were ignored, and then the show started. What show, you ask? The manager and the cook started a shouting match that seemed to go on forever. Words were flung around, and there was a meat cleaver in the cook’s hand at one point. But instead of leaving the IHOP angry, my fellow admins, my sisters, all left the crazy restaurant with smiles on our faces.

That week I learned that love and laughter rei'll do anything to make you smileally can heal all manner of ailments. I think the late Audrey Hepburn said it best: “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 14

On day 14, we are grateful for the song that inspired our name. I don’t remember which one of your admins thought up the combination, of “Imagine” and “Home,” but the minute I heard it, I knew that it had to be our name!

“Imagine” is what we know all homeless cats do; they imagine a life free of fear, hunger, and hardships.   And “Home” is the best word possible. ” “Home” conjures up dreams of happiness, love, and purrs.

The song “Imagine,” by John Lennon, exemplifies our concept for living, loving, and being. We believe that we can live in peace and love not just by dreaming, but by doing our best in all possible things. We don’t want to take over the world, but we do want the world to be a better place because of our presence.

~noelle~

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

imagine not the only one

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 13

Mac and Cheezits 

Gratitude from some friends, regarding:

macaroni and cheezits then

 Hello!

Nice to hear from you all! All the kittens have been adopted, but Macaroni is still here, dealing with health issues. I’ve attached some pictures I think you’ll enjoy, mainly taken in our outdoor “Cat Gym”, which they get to through the open window. The one of Macaroni (who really needs a new name, but hasn’t decided on one yet!) where she looks like a statue of a head and front leg resting on a shelf really startles people, until they see the next one, which includes her body!
When she arrived, she was in terrible pain and peeing blood from a bladder problem, and it affected her mood and behavior in many ways. It took a round of antibiotics which helped but didn’t completely clear it up, then a UA and culture which showed crystals and bacteria, a second round of a different antibiotic which helped more but she was still in pain and peeing blood, a second UA which showed no evidence of infection remaining but crystals, two xrays to see if she had bladder stones (two tiny ones) which she passed with in a few weeks of treatment, a third xray to confirm this, and a special diet which she remains on. She is still not relaxed about having her hind end touched, and may need more tests and /or treatment in a month or so….
The female grey tiger kitten was adopted by a lovely family, and the two orange boys were adopted by the son of a client of mine, who missed his family cats now that he has his own place.
The fourth kitten, incorrectly listed as a boy, “Mickey”, was only about 4 weeks old, eyes just opening when she arrived. My 9 year old daughter Mali re-named her Mishell, and helped nurse her to health. (She had upper respiratory, including runny eyes and nose, fever, diarrhea, etc.)In the process of caring for her, we all became very attached…she has a special personality, and decided to adopt us!
My husband and I each have a cat trained to stay up on our shoulders when we do events with the animals, and my daughter now has her own, too! In addition to basic commands Mali has also taught Mishell some tricks – my favorite is “dead kitty”: Mali holds her on her back, says, “Oh, the poor dead kitty,”, and Mishell goes limp until her head, tail, and all four legs are hanging down to the floor! She’ll remain that way now for about a minute, until Mali says, “Re-animate!!” and Mishell sits up in her hands.
At our house, life is never dull!!
~Alexandra

mac and cheezits now

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 12

Today, and actually for the past few weeks now, I’ve been shaking my fist at my computer. It’s slow, keeps crashing, ignores simple commands, and is all around annoying me. But however annoying it is, it’s still much better than the alternative, which is to not have a computer at all.

So that got me thinking, I’m so grateful for what computers have done for the world. Computers, and obviously the internet have opened the world up, made the remote seem closer, showed us the wonderful, and showed us heartbreak. Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have had the ability to immediately see the suffering in the Philippines, and we knew nothing about the hundreds of animals sitting in shelters, hoping for forever homes.

And of course, without computers, we wouldn’t be planning transports of cats. Later this month, I’ll be helping with my second off-books transport in a matter of weeks. Off-books simply means that there are few enough transporters that we don’t need to use our resources to post a sign-up sheet, make pictures, and advertise it to the world. A few weeks back, I helped reunite a lost kitty with her nursing kittens. And in a few weeks, I’ll have room in my van for 6 carriers, and will take them 1 ½ hours down the road. A short chunk of time out of my weekend, and I’m going to participate because of the wonders of computers, the internet, and of course, Facebook.

fluffy lap

My Fluffy helping me type

So tonight, while I’m frustrated, I’m also humbled by the knowledge of a big world becoming a little smaller. I’m full of gratitude for those who paved the way for us to make the world a better place. Because really, I think that what we do truly makes the world smaller, sweeter, and better. Thanks, computers. You frustrate us, and help us, sometimes within minutes of each other. ~noelle~

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 11

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My daddy, in his Air Force greens, sometime in the 1950s.

As I write today, it’s Sunday. I’m watching football in my beautiful house, with my fantastic husband, and I know that I’m a lucky woman. This post is being written a day early because I plan to celebrate Veteran’s Day in the best way possible, with several hundred veterans. I’m lucky enough in life to not have to work set hours, and I choose to spend this special day in service to those who have served us all. I grew up in San Antonio, TX, during the height of our military excellence, so please forgive me if my views differ from the norm. San Antonio, for those who have never been, was once served by 7 military bases. The training base for the Air Force, Lackland, was only 5 miles from my home. I spent my summers on the base, at the library, sometimes in the pool, and walking all over those hallowed grounds. For those with no military contacts, it’s feeling like no other. You become part of a team, even, in my case, as just an Air Force brat. I met some amazing people from all over the world because my dad was in the Air Force. When my big brother graduated high school, he joined the Army. My husband made a career of the military, and now that we live in his hometown, I know that it saved his life to get away from small town living.

I’ve met some amazing men and women who have served our military. Regardless of your feelings about war-mongering, (which is normally done by politicians) the men and women who serve deserve our unwavering gratitude, respect and admiration. I’m old enough to remember sitting in church and being asked to pray for our troops in Vietnam, and hearing complete silence from the civilian congregation. I now have a cousin-in-law who remembers coming home from the living hell of the Tet Offensive and being spit upon. So today, in our nation full of renewed patriotism, I’m grateful that everyone again loves the military.

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I’m also grateful for the service animals who have helped our veterans when they come home, battered, bruised, and wounded. I’ve seen a multitude of animals at a variety of military conventions and meetings.

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A loyal companion for a vet.

I remember Don Scheckels who came home from Vietnam affected by Agent Orange. His loyal Cocker Spaniel stayed by his side through meetings, and warned him of impending issues in a gentle way. When Don ultimately passed from injuries received while serving our country, that same dog stayed by Jeannie, Don’s wife and full-time caregiver. A short time later, Jeannie’s huge heart could take no more, and we all watched their sweet dog wandering from person to person, wondering who to serve now. I’ve seen Lisa Wilson, another veteran, who is now wheelchair bound due to her service. For a while, Lisa had two service dogs. She’s been in need of help long enough to have a dog age out of service help, but that sweet baby still wanted to stay by mom’s side and train the new pup. And then there was Sherrie Long who suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) while serving in the sandbox. Sherrie is a sweetheart of a woman who now has to live with her mother because she can’t be alone. Sherrie got, of all things, a chihuahua as her service dog. Her little dog wears a pink “service dog” vest and senses when Sherrie is going to have a seizure or go into Ketoacidosis.

Lastly, I’m grateful to the organizations who train the service helper animals. There are so many, because the need is great, even in the civilian world. Without those who train, and then match up dogs, cats, birds, and more, with people in need, the world would be a smaller place for many peple.

My heart is full of gratitude today for those who as my dad would say, “keep the free world free.” So say we all, dad. So say we all. ~noelle~

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Some more reading for those interested:
http://www.lifewithcats.tv/2013/08/10/afghan-cat-miss-kitty-is-reunited-with-her-soldier-in-texas/   (who saved who?)

http://cats.about.com/library/weekly/aa062600a.htm  (a hospital cat!)

and some purr therapy in Paris

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/parisian-cat-cafe-purr-therapy_n_3980157.html

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 10

To My Foster Mom

There I sat, alone and afraid, You got a call and came right to my aid. You bundled me up with blankets and love. And, when I needed it most, you gave me a hug. I learned that the world was not all that scary and cold. That sometimes there is someone to have and to hold. You taught me what love is, you helped me to mend. You loved me and healed me and became my first friend. And just when I thought you’d done all you do, There came along not one new lesson, but two. First you said, “Sweetheart, you’re ready to go. I’ve done all I can, and you’ve learned all I know.” Then you bundled me up with a blanket and kiss. Along came a new family, they even have kids! They took me to their home, forever to stay. At first I thought you sent me away. Then that second lesson became perfectly clear. No matter how far, you will always be near. And so, Foster Mom, you know I’ve moved on. I have a new home, with toys and a lawn. But I’ll never forget what I learned that first day. You never really give your fosters away. You gave me these thoughts to remember you by. We may never meet again, and now I know why. You’ll remember I lived with you for a time. I may not be yours, but you’ll always be mine. – Author Unknown

 

I can not count the number of times I have heard “Wow I could never foster I would fall in love and it would be too hard to give them up.” No truer words were ever spoken. I guarantee you will fall in love! Yes it is hard to give them up. I also promise you, that once you have fostered any animal and saved their life, your heart will touched forever. I once read a reply to that statement somewhere that I absolutely loved “It is way harder to know that I could have saved their life and did nothing.” This is one of my previous fosters. His name was Poncho. He was labeled highly aggressive and un adoptable. Poncho had a home and a life once but his human got sick and he found himself in one of the worst places ever. The NYCACC!

Poor Poncho, understandably terrified

Poor Poncho, understandably terrified 

 

A wonderful angel decided she wanted this kitty regardless of what they labeled him. Her problem was she could not be there within their time frame to pick him up. I stepped up to foster Poncho until we could arrange transport for him. Poncho was not aggressive and unadoptable. Poncho was afraid and confused. I am very grateful that I was in a position to step up and help Poncho. Poncho’s life was saved that night because I answered the call to foster him. That is feeling like no other. ~Teresa Hinchcliffe-Dechert~
Formerly labelled unadoptable.

Formerly labelled unadoptable.

 

He looks more than comfortable now!

He looks more than comfortable now! 

Poncho looks happy and healthy

Poncho looks happy and healthy

And right at home.

And right at home. We love that word, home. None of this would have been possible without a foster home. And now, Poncho has a forever home because of a foster. Can there be a better feeling? I doubt it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Labelled as aggressive and unadoptable by NYCACC. Look at him now. Look what having a foster did for Poncho.

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Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 9

I am grateful for the opportunity to step outside the box and bring something new to the transport world.

When we began to put Imagine Home together it was done with much planning and discussion. We talked about all the things that we would like to be for the cat community aside from transport. We are slowly and surely realizing those dreams, but transport is our “bread and butter”.

There is much to consider when transporting kitties. One of those things is the age of the kitty. The seniors are in the greatest danger, they are often passed over at the shelters. Another is length of transport. We don’t feel it’s good for any kitty to be on the road longer than 2 days in a row, especially if those 2 days are long days. But when you work with some of the people that we do, well, they tend to throw those things out the window and make you seek other ways of doing things.

Twelve year old Lillie and ten year old Pudgie were found in the Miami Dade Animal Shelter. MDAS is notoriously high kill, and when it comes to kitties they think are just not adoptable, well the outcome is never good. But somehow, these 2 were seen by the right people. I received a message one day from Mari Moure in Miami, asking me how far away Missouri was from Miami, FL. Really?!? I’m thinking to myself, “Don’t you have google?” But I did not say it and I’m very glad that I withheld my glib comment as I learned more about these 2 seniors that had found a home so very far away. There was no way to get them there in 2 days no matter how I routed it. I was stuck! And so began the plans to get them part of the way then let them have a rest.

 

lillie imagined home pudgy forever home

Lillie and Pudgie traveled for a day and spent the night with Nessa Delacroix at the best little cat house in GA. The next day they were St. Louis bound. There, with a very trusted Imagine Home friend, you all know her as Kitty Novich, they spent a week relaxing and resting and getting loved and spoiled.

Then on the following Saturday they made their way the rest of the way home. The Lillie and Pudgie transport was our very first “extended stay” transport. It worked so well that we have done it several times since. They are happy and well in their forever home. The needs of kitties will always push us to find ways to help them. In the case of Lillie and Pudgie, a new method of transport was born.  ~Kelly~

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude – Day 8

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The Imagine Home Adventure Crew.

Way back in December, when we were just starting out, one of our regular foster friends (Monique) had four wee kittens who had been saved from one of the worst places in North Carolina (they claim to call themselves shelters, but I won’t give them that honor).  The only obstacle in our way was getting them to Ohio and Michigan to their new families.  It was quite a haul.  So we started recruiting for drivers.  We got a lot of interest, but were still short some crucial legs.  We tried for weeks.  Then the Paw of Jack stepped in.

I told my colleague slash boss (Gene) about them.  He and his wife foster dogs regularly for one of the rescue veterinarians close to Raleigh.  He also happens to have a plane.  We talked about it, and he agreed to fly me and these kittens to Ohio, where Shawn and Christine were each adopting two.  We picked an airport close to Shawn, and Christine would drive 3 hours from Michigan to meet us there.

Meanwhile, guess who found a place to stay while we waited for the next week and the flight? These 4 rambunctious monsters – Misha (fka Mischief), Fiona (fka Petey), Quinn and Taylor – were having a ball in my foster bedroom.  You can click here for videos of their stay.  Having them in my home was a great pleasure and they will always be in my hearts.

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Day of the flight, attempt 1: Grounded by weather.  Although Gene the pilot is instrument rated, light planes (us) were grounded, and better to be safe than sorry with all that precious cargo.

Day of the flight, attempt 2:  It’s a go!  It was extremely windy but sunny and not a cloud in the sky. Imagine loading 3 carriers holding 4 kitties, plus all of their bags and gifts into your car.  Not so bad, until you get to the airport, look at the size of the plane, and realize you have to repack it into that tiny space. But we did!  I was astounded how calm the kitties were.  Maybe the rumbling of the plane was like mama purrs, who knows, but they were perfect angels the whole trip.

We took off from Youngsville, NC (about an hour north of Raleigh), and flew to Parkersburg, WV, where we had a short break and topped off the tank.  The wind over the mountains was still so strong we almost had to land sideways to go straight. Scary to be sure, but Gene is an excellent pilot and his wife Donna knew her co-pilot stuff.  They made a great team. I had never been in a plane that small and I think I only freaked out once when we hit a wind shear and dropped. Once on the ground in Parkersburg I got the opportunity to check on our passengers and they were all sweet as can be.  No indication of the little terrors who had lived in my bedroom for two weeks.  😉

Back in the air and the hardest part was over.  Next stop Ohio!  We landed at a tiny unmanned strip in the middle of nowhere to a whole welcoming committee of Shawn and her family, and Christine fresh from Michigan.  It was wonderful to be able to meet all of them and see their faces when they met their new babies for the first time.

Four more kitties HOME!! You can see more pictures and even videos here.

The flight home was uneventful and we made great time so did not have to stop.  As for our oh so generous pilot and his wife: they liked the experience so much that they are now regular pilots for Pilots N Paws.  They recently helped participate in the 400+ animal annual PNP rescue bash.  You can read more about that in this article here, or on the Pilots N Paws facebook page.

So to all the pilots, truckers and long distance drivers who offer their time and gas freely, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

 

Imagine Home’s Month of Gratitude, Day 7

There’s an ugly truth about shelters that few people know. Shelters are not designed to “give shelter,” and most animals don’t make it out alive. The animals with the least chance are the ones with illnesses, behavior problems, and the elderly. And owner surrenders? That’s pretty much the kiss of death.

But today we’re here to celebrate the people who help animals make it out, and who make sure they get a home. 

Meet Tony. We first met him in the Broward County Animal Shelter and he was, to say the least not happy to be there. If Tony had been picked up from the streets of New York City instead of the Miami area, he probably would have been listed as “New Hope Only.” *http://www.nycacc.org/newhope.htm

Tony in Broward County's Shelter.

Tony in Broward County’s Shelter.

Luckily, Tony, or as they called him at MDAS, “Bighead Tony” caught the eye of an amazing rescuer named Maribel Moure. Modest Mari says that she and Dorian Wagner of “Your Daily Cute” both have a soft spot for the “Tomcat” faces. When Mari saw Tony fight so hard for freedom, she knew that she had to give him that second at life.

Tony even had a potential adopter who was looking forward to meeting him. As with all cats being pulled, Tony had tests done on him for the usual suspects, Feline Leukemia (FeLV), Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), (Feline Distemper), Feline Calicivirus, and Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpes Virus) and the biggie, FIV. FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is considered the kitty version of HIV.

Tony, not surprisingly for a street cat, tested positive for FIV. Much like the human version, FIV isn’t always a death sentence, and many cats can go on to live long and healthy lives. But the scary thing for potential adopters is that FIV can be spread by deep bites and scratches. So unfortunately, Tony’s potential adopter had to pull out, since she was at her limit for FIV+ cats.

Mari was determined to fight for Tony, and now says that there was a group effort, with many people making phone calls, sending emails, calling in favors, begging, and pleading. Finally, a home was found for feral Tony; Rikki’s Refuge in Rapidan, Virginia! http://www.facebook.com/RikkisRefuge Since Rikki’s is a refuge, Tony now has a place to live out the rest of his days, but if somebody falls in love with him, he’s able to leave.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Imagine Home transport without some bumps in the road. You see, Rikki’s Refuge has set intake days, requiring isolation for all incoming animals. If we weren’t able to get the boys to Rikki’s in 5 days, it would be another month before they could get in. Foster homes for FIV+ cats are very precious, and we didn’t want to risk impeding another FIV+ cat. We rushed, and through some sort of miracle (yep, Paw of Jack again,) we were able to get the transport filled in 5 short days. And then our friend Mari, who can’t stand to see a solo cat on a transport, learned of another FIV+ cat, Einstein, who also needed a ride to Rikki’s.

As a sort of payment for throwing a wrench into the works, Mari recruited a dear friend of hers, KD Potter, to take the two boys from Miami up to South Carolina(!) and meet Melanie Morgan, who offered to rent a hotel room and drive the boys up to Roanoke Rapids, NC. Melanie would then be met in NC by Donna Savory, who works at Rikki’s, and would take them the rest of the way.

Going back to the start of my post, your Imagine Home Admins believe that the people who go out of their way to get animals out of kill shelters are amazing, and deserve our love and gratitude. So say we all, I believe. ~noelle~

Tony the brave!  How can you not fall in love with that sweet face?

Tony the brave! How can you not fall in love with that sweet face?