Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TNR Part 2


Frankie
My mother was a self-proclaimed coward. She refused to stay alone in our house in Winter Park, Florida, for even a single night. When my sister and I were little and Daddy was traveling, she’d hire someone to come spend every night that he was gone. It’s not like we lived in a high crime area. There was no crime in the 1950s. Besides we had guns in the house, which Momma knew how to use, and we had Karlo, our German Shepard.
            When Daddy died in 1985, my mother moved out of their home of 34 years within 72 hours. She’d been planning for this eventuality, and had been looking at apartments in a residential care facility--which my father called equivalent to an outside cell at Sing Sing--in downtown Orlando.
             T
o be out of the house before I had to return to work in Miami, she moved at lightning speed. The day before Daddy’s funeral, she purchased the apartment, and called the movers. She packed the necessities, while I focused on what to do with her pets: two small dogs, and two cats, none of which were permitted to go with her.
Jamie was a Yorkshire terrier, and Sydney was a Silky. The vet she’d gone to for years, kept them kenneled free of charge and found homes for both within two weeks—though not together as they’d always been. The cats were a different story. Both were feral when Momma started feeding them but eventually became tame enough to live in the house. By this time, they were adult cats, who adored my mother, but were shy around other people.
            I lived in a no-pets-allowed apartment building in Miami, and my sister was expecting her second child. The Humane Society was our only recourse.
            To be honest, I didn’t have the emotional wherewithal to give the fate of those cats a lot of thought. It was the Humane Society. Built into the name was the assumption they were humane. All I remember is my mother let her fear of staying alone completely overwhelm the love she had for her animals, something I swore never to let happen to me.
            There’s a reason this memory has surfaced.
            Last week I wrote about our local Humane Society releasing cats into the woods that surround the Shelter. Following that editorial, I interviewed someone who was there the day the two specifically named cats, Mow and Frankie, were ‘freed.’

The hinged screened panel
Approx. 3 X 6 feet
Both sides of the Kitty Cottage have huge hinged screened panels, which aren’t noticeable unless you are looking for them (and a curious feature for an indoor cat facility.) The plan to remove Mow and Frankie had evidently been decided long before the actual night they were released, since each had the tip of one ear removed, marking them as feral cats, and those wounds had healed.
The night the Director (I was told it was Sharon’s decision) decided to release them, they were isolated from the other cats, their collars and tags were removed, the screen door was propped open, and staff left for the night. The person I interviewed was the last to leave and he/she (gender left a mystery to protect this person from retribution) stopped by to check on Frankie, one of his/her favorites. Both cats were still inside, as was a third cat, which was hiding in one of the dome-covered sandboxes. This cat was wearing its collar and tags. I asked if he/she considering closing the hatch when she/he realized there was a third cat. The interviewee answered, no. The decision had been made and volunteers who wished to continue working with the animals did not go against the Director’s decisions.
            The next morning, Frankie and Mow were outside. The third cat--a short-haired, gray and white--was also gone—completely gone, as in missing. It is not among the growing outside cat population.
            This week the Board of the Humane Society submitted a rebuttal to my comment. This is a single paragraph from that rebuttal:

“The cat Frankie was allowed to make a choice—to live in the Kitty Cottage or live outside: Frankie is doing well outside. Our staff will continue to monitor and care for her as they do for all our barn (my emphasis) cats on a daily basis. This includes medical care throughout their life (sic) by our veterinarian.”
           
To administer medical attention to the 11 to 15 cats that are now living in the woods, the vet would have to shoot most of them with a tranquilizer gun. In the two weeks since this situation came to my attention, Mow, who was not mentioned in the rebuttal, has become unapproachable, but Frankie, whom they claim “likes to be petted by her friends, but is fearful of others” comes running when visitors stop by, and lets herself be tickled and picked up. There was no mention of Mow in the rebuttal for good reason.
            Commitment number 2, in the MCHS's Summer 2012 newsletter states: “Finds Homes for Family Pets When the Unforseen (sic) Happens.” And on page 2: “We never give up on the animals in our care.”
            My recent interview uncovered another detail. I knew Mow was one of the adoptable cats featured in our local paper, but what I didn’t know when I wrote the comment, which is also my July 10th blog post, was that Mow was given up for adoption by her owner.
            That’s when the memory of trying to do the best I could for my mother’s animals came back. Think how heartbroken Mow’s owner must have been when forced to give up her pet. How would any of us feel when we put our trust an organization, which claims to ‘never give up on the animals in our care’, only to discover they have given up on our pet, the one raised from a kitten to live its life safely inside? This is the cat, who on March 1st was advertised as a sweet, young lady, a strictly inside animal, but in June was ‘freed’ to live, hiding in a log and terrified—for as long as she manages to survive in the forest surrounding the Shelter. 
                        

MOW by Frankie Kangas
note the clipped ear


Mow on March 1, 2012
 

Connie Korbel, editor of the Fort Bragg Advocate News and the Mendocino Beacon has invited your comments. advocatenews@mcn.org

Frankie visiting friends on the inside
Frankie getting a tickle from a stranger

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