On my very first day of volunteering at the Rita B. Huff Humane Society Animal Shelter, I got adopted. I couldn’t even open the door because my new owner stood firmly in the way, and she wasn’t moving for anybody or anything.
She was tiny, only about six weeks old, and what you might call tortoise-shell, black with tan and white markings. She never took her bright green eyes off of me as she followed me around with her little tail stuck straight in the air, meowing every few seconds just to remind me she was there. My friend Erica and I quickly dubbed her Penny, after another old friend of her kind, and from that day on, we were hers.
Every day we’d be greeted by her persistent meowing and friendly rubs on our legs until we picked her up so she could snuggle against us. The other cats were all friendly and nice too, but Penny was the prima donna, and all the other cats knew we were hers.
But one day, I noticed something was a little different. Penny’s usually healthy belly had gone in a bit and I could feel her backbone protruding. Every once in a while she’d cough, and her unusual silence and imploring eyes seemed to be begging me to help her. Being a cat owner my whole life, I figured she just had a little cold. So I asked the lady in the front office to have the vet check her out the next time he came around and figured she’d be better the next time I saw her.
Upon my next visit, an ominous sign greeted me, saying no more cats were going to be adopted from the room Penny was in. I was surprised and worried when Penny wasn’t there waiting at the door like she usually was. Yet I figured she was probably with the other cats playing and that everything was normal. But there was nothing normal at all. As I walked in, the usual 15 to 20 cats weren’t there, and all that was left were about five kittens and four of the larger cats. I petted and played with them, as is part of my duties as a volunteer, but Penny was no where to be found. I decided they must have moved them to the other cat room with the cages, perhaps to quarantine them if the sickness had turned out to be worse than we thought. But when I got there, the only one’s I recognized were two litters of babies only about four weeks old. The rest were new cats and I didn’t recognize any of them.
As I made my way to the front to ask the other workers my dreaded question, I knew the answer before they even told me. A respiratory sickness had gotten to most of them, and they’d all had to be put down.
What people don’t know when they decide to purchase or adopt an animal, is the effect that their one pet can have on so many others. If the owners of Penny’s parents had only gotten them spayed and neutered, none of the suffering and death would have occurred.
I’m glad that I got to know Penny and her friends in their last weeks of life. I only hope out of her death, more animals can be spared her pain and more suffering can be avoided. They may only be animals, but loss of life, however small, is a tragedy and should be avoided if at all possible. If we can prevent it, why not do it and save animals and ourselves the pain of death of the loss it brings?