Thursday, December 20, 2012

Be a Christmas Angel to a Homeless Companion Animal

My Cammi cat, December 20, 2012. We are four days from our fifth anniversary together! 

This is my Cammi cat, a photo fresh from the camera. She wasn’t in the mood for flash photography.

I adopted this beautiful soul on December 24, 2007. I did not “need” another cat, and I chose to buy some cat food at Petco instead of my usual place because I did not want to run into any cat adoption fairs. I usually donated to a pair of rescues, nothing huge, offering to buy some cat litter or cat food. I was still missing my 16-3/4 year old cat Elliott, who’d passed away in March due to complications of chronic renal failure.

I was surprised that there was a cat adoption fair at the Petco, on Christmas Eve no less. They were operating abbreviated hours, from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m., instead of the usual 9-to-5. I looked away, hurried to the rear of the store for cat food, and while standing in line, looked over toward the people playing with and holding cats.

Cammi looked at me, and it was over. I pulled myself out of the line and asked about her. She was very tiny, so I figured she was maybe 8 weeks old. Nope, she was nearly 5 months old, just petite. She’d only recently made weight to be spayed, her belly was still shaved. She was the property of a rescue, and had never been in a pound, though her story was no less harrowing.

Cammi’s momcat, a longhaired black teenager kitty the rescue named Gina, had been trapped as a feral, and was being held in a Hav-a-Hart cage overnight waiting for her spay the next morning. Gina had other ideas and gave birth to 6 kittens, but two did not survive. Cammi was the only tuxie and only medium-haired one, and the runt to boot. Immediately the litter got sick, and their foster caretakers worked overtime to save the little family.

Two of her littermates had already been adopted, and only Cammi (who was Hera) and Flower remained, along with Gina. I stupidly asked if I could hold her. She immediately relaxed and purred. A voice inside my head said “Take this one home, she will make a difference in your life.” The voice just got louder as I tried harder to resist. Finally, I handed her back, told the teenager who was holding her to call Rosi, the owner of the rescue, to get me approved. I’d already adopted from her rescue and had been approved to adopt a kitten earlier in the year, but I did not get to him quickly enough. Meanwhile, I’d go home and get my soft side carrier for the little girl, and make her mine. I asked for assurances that I would not be breaking the heart of the 11-year old girl who had raised the little litter, nursing the kittens to health, playing with them and socializing the kittens and their mom Gina, who went on to be a substitute mother cat to several litters of kittens and finally finding her forever home. (Yes I did meet Gina, she’s a tiny girl herself, just like Cammi. I also met her foster family and thanked them for raising such a special loving soul.)

I have never regretted listening to that voice, nor have I regretted taking on what was then a sixth cat. We bonded immediately, and she quickly fit into my cat family, even winning over Ryan, who was five months older than she.

It’s recommended you not adopt a pet as a gift—unless of course that gift is for yourself and isn’t going anywhere but your home. Christmas time is stressful, and can be lonely. I am firmly convinced that the adoption of companion animals between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s is a therapeutic thing, that the bond you form with your new pet is deep and lasting.

Consider treating yourself to a new love in the coming weeks—adopt a cat. You will transform yourself from mundane person to that kitten or cat’s guardian angel. Throughout the years, you will be reminded of the Christmas gift that gives back so much more than it has ever taken from you. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hiding the Aftermath of Loss...

Twenty-seven angels serve as a memorial to the children and adults who were gunned down at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012. 

I do some of my best thinking on my knees, in the backyard, with dirt in my hands.

Like all Americans, I wonder if events like Sandy Hook School’s tragedy can ever be prevented. I’ve read some very eloquent articles asking for better access to the mental health care system. I’ve read plenty of knee-jerk comments about “banning all guns,” which is about as practical as rounding up all illegal aliens and sending them hither and yon. I’ve read remarks blaming video games and movies. But I’m pretty much against censorship, even words/phrases/ideas I disagree with. (The only thing I wish would be made criminal is filming/photographing animal abuse and calling it “art.”)

Then I got to thinking about movies. Personally, I’m not into those shoot everyone kind of movie, called “action” films. I believe the target audience for this kind of movie is middle-class white males, ages 15 through 40, adolescents through young adulthood.  The audience enjoys guns, or martial arts, or hand-to-hand combat, and like the adrenalin rush. In these movies, there is much carnage, much death, much suffering. In most of these movies, we do not see the suffering of those left behind when the bad guy dies.

Bear with me.

When I learned Osama bin Laden had been killed, I felt sad for a few minutes. Not because his life had been lost, but that there actually were people who loved him, children who knew him as their father. I felt the same way when Saddam Hussein was hanged.   Someone grieved for him.

Yes, both were exceptionally evil and when you live by the sword, you die by the sword. And that is usually what happens in the movies. The good guys kill the bad guys, sometimes the bad guy kills the good guy, but then the bad guy gets his or there is some sort of divine redemption. Seldom in any film does one see the aftermath of a death—a grieving wife, fatherless children. And that, in my opinion, sanitizes the death and makes it less impactful.

And if there are no consequences to a violent death in a movie, well, it must be that way in real life. 

Sure, you may get a short scene of burka-clad women wailing after a terrorist “hero” has been blown to smithereens in a war film. There may be a scene where a family is notified of a death, and you see 15 seconds of disbelief and grief. More frequently, you see an instant need for revenge. That’s certainly not the way it goes in real life, is it?

I’m not suggesting that every action film have a sub-story showing the wife of the dead bad guy telling her kids that daddy's gone, or worrying how she’s going to pay bills. I’m not suggesting that the grief of parents burying their child after a violent death be a scene in every film.

The movie “Beautiful Boy” did lead viewers through a family's grief and impact upon their lives.  A couple’s only son, Sammy, feels isolated away at college and kills 17 students and professors, finally taking his own life. You don’t see much of the act of killing itself, it’s about the aftermath. The parents were clueless that Sammy was miserable, though others did see signs that things were not right. Even when Sammy calls home the night before he goes on that rampage, and though he sounds somewhat depressed and not quite right, his parents fail to pick up on it. The next day, of course, they are shocked to hear of what Sammy had done, thinking it was out of the blue or spur of the moment.

Maybe a few screenwriters and motion picture studios might want to consider producing a few action films that find a way to humanize those violent deaths. Sure, kill the bad guy, blow him to smithereens, but find a way to show the hurt that death caused someone. Because in real life, it does hurt someone, and it certainly won’t hurt to remind that predominantly young male audience about that fact. 

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