When my beloved cat Leo disappeared, I got myself on a listserv that sends me photos of cats in shelters near where he vanished. Leo’s been gone more than 3 years but I still get those daily emails. I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. I need to acknowledge the existence of all those cats. Few will get outside again. Locked in cages that reek of bleach and strangers. Not in my emails but in the shelters are just as many dogs, of course. Plus all the “exotic” animals.
I’m taking my first drawing class. (Teach old dog new tricks. Tap unused parts of the brain.) Our final project is themed This is the way the world ends. I put some of the shelter cats in my drawing, from my email dated November 25, 2018. When I went back to finish the drawing four days later, 1/4 of the cats were gone (the unshaded/white cats in my poster). No longer in the database. Maybe some of them got adopted.
In southern California, at least, it can be a brutal experience to go to an animal shelter, where overcrowding gives the residents a scant few days to live. I had last been to a shelter a decade ago, after one of our cats vanished. (We never found her.) I went last weekend because it was time to add more cats to the family. I wish I could have rescued all of the horrifyingly vast number of 5-, 10-, 15-year old dogs and cats I saw there, who have no clue how their lives took this terrible turn – and who have so little hope of adoption.
The death camp atmosphere in the shelters is not as pronounced as it was a decade ago. I believe that is thanks to the large number of dedicated shelter volunteers – who offset the effects of budget cuts – and because of a grassroots, growing, no-kill movement. There are folks who provide foster homes to dogs, cats, rabbits, and others, to buy them more time than the shelters can give them. In fact, some of the animals stay in foster homes for years. There have always been foster homes but the number and the network of them has increased considerably over the last decade. Another populist movement to appreciate!
Thank you to all the foster homes!