“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.” – Zelda Fitzgerald
I’m a writer.
But it’s not all I am.
I’m also someone who rescues animals; strays to be specific.
Tonight I just want to be the writer. Because I don’t really know how much more my heart can take - how much more compassion, endurance or fortitude, I have left to watch another life slip out of my hands. Only to realize too little, too late and wonder was it enough?
I didn’t ask for this. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee this for myself. Yet here I am, sitting with a heavy heart and trying my damndest to make some sense out of it all.
Counting slowly back through my memories, names and personalities remind me of the ones that survived, the strays I did manage to make a difference for.
I’m only one person.
They all had homes before me, a place where they lived and learned to be domesticated. The question remains, what happened to those homes?
They come to me broken and unsure if I’m trustworthy. Will I chase them away, kick them or scream at them? “Don’t come any closer,” their stance says, betraying the fear they have of humans.
Patience slowly wins them over.
I can’t describe the joy as unique personalities emerge and most importantly trust is gained. Eyes lit up in expectation and excitement to see you, until finally the one moment that gives way to all your patience, the rub. The classic don’t hurt me; I’m going to try to let you close enough to pet me move. And I melt.
Because the evidence of the road they traveled to get to me is there for all the world to see in each scar, the missing hair, the bug bites and the skinny frame from lack of food.
Yet for one moment they dared to trust and I was worthy.
I’ve seen this same scenario play out over and over. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how someone could cruelly pull up in a car and toss them out, or one day suddenly decide they weren’t worth the time and lock them out of the only home they ever knew. I don’t understand how someone can simply stop caring.
As a writer, I take my writing seriously. As a pet owner, I take their lives into account from beginning to end. There is no, I changed my mind they’re too much work. There is no, I don’t have time or patience for this.
Kittens and Puppies don’t stay that way forever, they grow up, they get old and they need to be taken care of every single day of their lives.
So the writer in me is using the biggest tool I have available to me – my words, to ask, please be responsible pet owners. Know what you’re getting into before taking that leap and falling for a pet that will be the recipient of whatever decisions you make.
If you think you have what it takes to go the distance, please consider a shelter or abandoned animal. All they want is to be loved. They never asked to be thrown away.
Maybe someday everyone who owns an animal will take that responsibility seriously and I won’t feel the need to make a heartfelt plea like this. I don’t know if my heart can take losing another stray, wondering if they had enough time to know someone cared. I’m only one person, one writer, one human being. Stop and think before you give a pet for a gift this holiday or any day and make sure you understand what that new puppy or kitten entails. Please…
(This is dedicated to “the old man - Orange”, as I so fondly called him. I had to have him put to sleep today. He had FIV – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. He came to us too late to save.)
*Update: And the dance begins again. There was a gray long haired cat studying me from the woods. Will it stick around? Time will tell. Where one life ended, another just might have a chance.
Watercolor painting can be found here