The Hardest Thing About Rescue

It seems I’ve been rescuing animals most of my life. Literally. I remember neighborhood children bringing me little hurt animals to fix when I was just 5 years old. So I come by rescue naturally, I guess.

Over the years I have rescued animals in some form or fashion. Twenty years ago my husband and I bought a farm with 32 acres and for some reason he thought that land would not have animals living on it. He was wrong. Very wrong.

In those 20 years I have rescued hundreds of animals including: llamas, sheep, goats, frogs, dogs, turtles, cats — even snakes — and the chipmunks, birds and other assorted creatures my cats have captured to “play” with.

Six years ago I started a rescue for street cats after being told people in the small village I live in were putting out antifreeze to poison strays living on the streets. I could not let that happen and I have personally (and pretty much all on my own) taken 325 cats off the streets, had them vetted, spayed/neutered and then socialized and adopted many of them out.

I have done this (mostly)on my own dime. Since I am not independently wealthy — very far from it — I started a bath and body line of products to sell so I could stay at home taking care of the sickest of cats yet still be able to support the rescue animals.

It’s a labor of love — most days. On other days it’s very, very physically, emotionally and financially difficult and many times I have thought of just quitting. But who would advocate for these cats if I didn’t? Who would love them? Who would care for and about them?

Rescue was pretty easy when I was 5 years old. As an adult, it’s a pretty hard way to live because:

It’s hard to see people abuse and neglect animals then try and pick up the pieces of those fragile little furry souls.

It’s hard to raise a litter of newborn kittens — feeding them around the clock every 4 hours until they can eat by themselves.

It’s hard to care so very much when so many others care so very little.

It’s hard to spend night and day — to pour your heart into saving an animal — until you are so exhausted you can’t function in your everyday life.

It’s hard to have people constantly wanting you to take in even more animals when your energy is already so depleted.

It’s hard knowing that no matter how much you do there are always many animals you will never be able to reach or help.

It’s’ hard when people assume you are a little “daft” for rescuing animals or when they tell you to get a “real” job.

It’s hard not having the time to give the animals all the attention they want and deserve.

But the hardest thing of all to me about rescue is when you lose one of your precious animals as I just did today. I just lost my dear Chloe, a sweet cat that was born on and lived at the rescue for all her dear, short life.

Chloe was a shy girl, not very adoptable because of that, but a real sweetheart once she trusted you. She lived most of her days in a large free-roaming building by her own choice. Since we live in a remote area with a very long lane (1/3 mile), some of the cats prefer to go outside for a little while in the warmer weather. Because we have very few vehicles that ever come up our lane, and the fact the cats run and hide when a vehicle does drive up, it’s usually very safe for the cats to be outside.

Today, uncharacteristically, Chloe ventured outside staying very close to the front porch so when I came out of the house I could pet her. But I had to leave for a few hours and Chloe wanted to be out of her building so I let her stay outside. She was the last cat I saw and petted before I left the farm today.

She was the first cat I saw when I returned. Only this time she did not wait for me to pet her. My Chloe was dead, at the top of the lane near where I left her. It was clear she’d been hit by a car. That means someone came up our lane, hit Chloe and left her there. Alone. In her last moments she was alone.

Or was she really? Did the love I gave her over the years and her — me — keep Chloe from feeling alone as she lay there so still? Did she cry out for me to help, or did she purr as she remembered the many times we cuddled? Was she afraid or did she still feel the last loving interaction we’d had? Did she hear me call her, Chlo, Chlo one last time and tell her I loved her?

I can’t really know for sure. Or can I?

Yes, just now I think I can. One last look into those beautiful, soulful eyes told me all I will ever need to know. Chloe was not alone. She was surrounded by the unconditional all encompassing love I’d had for her from the beginning of her life to the very end of it. She knew that. I know she did…

Jackie Deems Copyright 2019

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Animal rescuer, farm manager, part-time shepherdess/full-time sheep, sometimes writer, cat wrangler, very blessed child of God.

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Jackie Deems

Jackie Deems

Animal rescuer, farm manager, part-time shepherdess/full-time sheep, sometimes writer, cat wrangler, very blessed child of God.

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