Before we even arrived in Vermont we knew we wanted to get involved with the animal welfare community and meet others in the field. Jason had run his own pet care business back in New York, and we were both active volunteers with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. We knew we needed some time before adopting again, but we also knew we desperately needed regular animal interaction. Our first week North we took a ride to the Humane Society of Chittenden Countyto attend their last Canines and Cocktails event of the season. Four of my family cats had come from HSCC over the years so I was already familiar with the shelter, but checking out their social mixer was a great way to meet the staff and other local animal lovers. We soon signed up for volunteer orientation and got ourselves involved with walking dogs and socializing cats.
The first cat I worked with was Chloe, a petite six year-old with a remarkable coat. She sports a classic tuxedo pattern, but the white of her fur peeks out from beneath the black, giving a striped effect that’s one-of-a-kind. Chloe was getting over a cold at that time, and had learned to equate people reaching into her cage with the unwelcome administration of medication. In turn, Chloe developed defensive behavior and would sometimes swat away those that only wished to pet her.
I pulled up a chair and opened her cage, gingerly reaching in to pet her. She was receptive to my hand at first – I had actually met her the day of orientation and she had delivered a heaping helping of head butts – but sure enough, after a few minutes of my invading her space she delivered a few firm, claw-free swats and an endearing little grumble noise telling me it was time for a break.
I moved on to Lucy, a big mama of a black-and-white kitty with one eye bigger than the other, who had been vocalizing her desire for company. I dragged my chair over to her and opened the cage door so she could step out onto my lap. I guess I was flattering myself thinking she’d be content to just sit and be hugged – that girl wanted out! She leaped from my lap and made a bee-line for the front desk, but I scooped her up before she could get very far. I returned to my seat and tried again to hold her in my lap, but this time she grabbed at the top of her cage and tried to pull herself up and away. Clearly my lap-time approach wasn’t working, so I looped my arm under her belly, hoisted her up and carried her around like a baby being burped. This was definitely her preference over sitting still.
As I paced with Lucy draped over my shoulder I looked around at all the kitties up for grabs. Some were sleeping, some were watching us quietly, some not-so-quietly. Each and every one had me thinking about when we’d be ready to adopt again. Who would be the one to come home with us? How would we even begin to choose? Would I even be able to leave the shelter when all I wanted was to pitch a tent in the lobby and move in? I returned Lucy to her cage and toughened up – we had said good-bye to our cats under terrible circumstances, but here I had the opportunity to say good-bye on my own terms. I would come back in a few days, and if any of the cats I had worked with were gone I could feel secure in the knowledge that they had moved on to a loving home.
Lucy has found her forever home, but Chloe is still waiting for the human of her dreams. Learn more about Chloe and the other wonderful pets waiting to meet you at the Humane Society of Chittenden County. Photographs are courtesy of HSCC and their resident photographers from Mountain Dog Photography. Check back soon for further Dispatches From the Adoption Floor.