Loving Brother Cat: Our St. Francis Animal Rescue Ministry
This beautiful poem by Benedictine Sister and prolific author Joan Chittister lifts up the place of animals in our lives and the wonderful spiritual,personal and social meanings they have for us. As she says, their faithful presence and love without reason teach us about the very love of God. And yet so often these gentle creatures are cast aside, forgotten and abandoned. We can help them directly by inviting them into our lives,making room in our homes for them, or learning how to feed feral cats (see AlleyCat.org on this). We can help indirectly by contributing to rescue organizations like the ASPCA, The Humane Society, Alley Cat, and local no-kill shelters and rescue efforts. And we can teach our children to love and care for animals in gentle and responsible ways.
This Saturday October 4th is ST. Francis’ Feast Day. St. Francis was attuned to all of God’s creation and he called all animals as well as all natural things “Brother and Sister”. Our Good Shepherd Ministry attends to our homeless brother and sister human beings. We count on God’s help to make sure that they are fed and housed. We are happy to share their stories in this blog. But the throwaway animals in our area are also of great concern to God and to us. So, we also work hard at feeding and finding homes for them. We call this our St.Francis Ministry and we have reported in this blog on finding homes for homeless animals and assisting homeless and poor people to be housed with their pets. It is remarkable to note that like people who must live outside, domestic animals who live outside also struggle with illnesses and violence of all sorts. This particular blog is focused on our work with cats, but we have also rescued distressed dogs,birds and turtles and one ferret who belonged to a homeless woman who could no longer keep him. I thought that I would never find a home for him, but I was wrong. This was the easiest one as one of our Vet’s Technicians knew a wealthy woman who had lost her ferret to illness. Very quickly this little guy went from eating popcorn and living on a heap of debris to a delighted owner giving the best food and a four hundred dollar condo was also purchased for him. I will resist a comment on that except to say he was one fortunate ferret.
This is our Veterinarian Dr. Terry Sutton and her current Vet Tech Joseph at Three Oaks Animal Hospital here in the Three Oaks Parkway area. I have written about them earlier in this blog as Joseph adopted Tiger, one of our older rescues who desperately wanted a home and someone to love him. Joseph and his wife live in the country and have turned a special barn into a home for 5-6 cats, replete with climbing posts and cat trees and individual spaces and beds. Tiger loves it there.
Dr. Terry is our angel. She has assisted medically and supportively in almost all of the more than 30 cat rescues we have done. Her wisdom, caring and generosity of spirit make our work possible. From spaying and neutering to preventive tests and shots and follow up care, she is there for us. Recently one of our cats,Brooklyn, had a bad kidney infection and needed a shot but the car was not available to take him there. She came and gave him the shot and also visited with our newest rescue and family member,Velcro, and an old patient Skye who met her at the door. Velcro is a lively happy older kitten who makes us laugh all the time. He also tested positive for Feline AIDS. But like our others with this, he is fine in the open population because he is not a fighter who will deeply wound and infect another. Skye is the most trusting and loving being who has forgiven much in his life. When he came to us his tail had been mangled (pulled, caught,worse?) and the necrotic tissue was creeping up toward his spine and had to be removed. Whatever had done him this harm also paralyzed his intestines so that he needs medicine and sometimes assistance from Dr. Terry to evacuate his bowels and sometimes his urine. Due to the medicine he is holding his own now, but his condition is difficult. Yet he is the friendly ambassador greeting all who come to our home.
In the picture below, Dr Terry is holding Lola, a cat that was rescued by Lili Randazzo four years ago and subsidized by our mission. When Lily moved into her Habitat for Humanity Home Lola got out and “disappeared” for over a month. so did another of Lily’s rescues, Timmy. Timmy had gone back to her former apartment and had to be rescued again from the woods near there. Lola returned on her own in a weakened state, but she is well now.
These are two of our most recent “rescues”-Potsy(Peter Potter) and Velvet Velcro named because he has soft as velvet fur and sticks to us /Velly. Potsy was so scared when he came in that he had to be carried out of the bathroom where he stayed for a long while initially in a carrier to get some air and sunshine. Both are great cats who also have Feline AIDS but relate very well to our other kittys.
This is Socks, a beautiful and gentle Maine Coon cat who was the most frightened of all yet came every day twice a day to eat for over six months before I could get near him. He was the only one I had to catch in a humane trap. The others could eventually be picked up and put into a carrier for their first visit to Dr. Terry. Once inside he hid under a shelf in a back garage room for almost four months. Every day three times a day I would visit and talk to the shelf. Eventually he sat on top of a wardrobe and let me touch him just once. He responded to my kneeling on the floor near his shelf and reaching out. That picture is below. Then one day, he walked out of that room, came up to me ,rubbed my legs and has never left my side since. He is the most affectionate cat we have now. It took a long while to build that trust and a lot of patience, But it paid off. Indeed, that was the same method used when reaching out to very frightened mentally ill homeless people when we do our street ministry. In my book The Flamekeeper and other Poems America Star Books) I wrote a poem about standing on the outside looking in, and how similar it is with people and animals who have been hurt and frightened. Ultimately, it is easier with animals for when they trust, they seem to let go of the past and live in the warmth of a better now.
Below are the group on the front lanai, Velcro, and Star who is a perfect loving little cat who joined us in 2009, even charming Angel, our big dog who did not like cats! Socks and Velly, who are now close friends and Henry, one of our older kittys who came to us in 2003 with his brother Timid Tim who did not show up for a photo. Then there is, Lady Guinevere and her kittens(now 5 years old) who were given to me by a homeless couple who lived in the woods and could not care for them. When I entered the woods to get them, Lady Guinevere purred and walked into the carrier with five kittens following her. It was the easiest rescue ever! They had been loved in the woods but Lady G knew a better home was waiting. It turned out that Lady G had Feline AIDS as did three of her kittens. The other two little beauties were soon placed in homes, but Lady and these three,Winter, Elana and Sir Gallahad, along with Brother Maurus,their brother who came to us two years before are still with us. They remain together as a family on one side of our house. The pretty black and white, Sammy sitting in the grass is the next to be rescued and I am hoping that I have a home for him. We are hoping for a home for him and for two more of the brothers who come to eat morning and night. Sammy may be able to find a loving home with Diane, who was homeless and is enjoying her new home and wanting a kitty. Sammy is Velly’s brother and Velly greets him through the screen each day. He seems to be saying-trust, brother, it is good to be inside and have a home!
And so it goes, thank you St. Francis for teaching us to love all of our little brothers and sisters.
Skye (the last here) and all the others are saying: thanks to all the people who care enough to give us a chance. They will surely find love with us!
Happy St. Francis Day,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee