Yes, Josephine has been adopted already! In fact she was adopted just two days after I surrendered her to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.
I surrendered Josephine on Wednesday, March 4 in the late afternoon. She received an exam and assessment and vaccines, and on Thursday she was spayed. She went to the cat adoption area on Friday, and on Friday evening I had a message from the person I’d talked to there saying, “Guess who got adopted?”
It’s not surprising that such a pretty kitty was adopted so quickly—believe me, she was a temptation for me! But Josephine had been shuffled around for apparently months and was friendly but very timid when she was with me overnight so that I offered to foster and socialize her if she was too frightened to be put up for adoption. I really thought I’d be seeing her again for a few days. But the shelter staff and volunteers understand kitties who are just a little frightened and through their care Josephine felt brave enough to meet the public and charm a couple who found they had to take her home—only two days after arriving!
It’s not so long ago that taking a kitty like Josephine to the shelter would have been the last thing I’d have done. The WPHS is an open-door shelter, accepting every animal that is presented to them regardless of adoptability, usually adding up to between 12,000 and 14,000 animals per year. Often these shelters are called “kill shelters” because they need to make difficult decisions to euthanize animals when so many are surrendered that even using all their resources in the shelter plus foster homes and offsite adoption areas they still have too many animals for their legal capacity.
Yet I had no doubt Josephine would receive the best of care and have the best chance of adoption with all the means they use, and that I could keep in touch with the shelter if Josephine should have any need for socialization or in-home treatment if she should become ill. I have worked with WPHS in that capacity for a few cats through the years, but WPHS has increased working with rescues who will take animals into their care for foster and adoption to help relieve the main shelter and its resources from the overpopulation of surrendered pets. The rescue I work with will do this when we can, taking frightened kittens for socialization and cats of any age with upper respiratory infections or treatable illnesses who can then be adopted. In addition the Homeless Cat Management Team will accept feral cats for release to a caretaker when they are surrendered as well—these frightened, ill and feral cats are the cats who would most often be euthanized.
Because of all this assistance from volunteers, organizations and the general public, the live-release rate at the WPHS has been over 90% for the past three months! That statistic qualifies as “no-kill” and is a huge accomplishment for an open-door shelter that takes in so many animals in all different physical and emotional conditions.
When I arrived with Josephine a little girl was there with her mother and they were looking for a cat or a dog the little girl might want to adopt for her forever companion. She was disappointed that the dog she liked was on hold to be adopted, and a staff member, a volunteer and a few visitors spent time comforting her and telling her that she would find the cat or dog for her. Several people were in the cat room looking at cats and playing with cats and talking to staff in the room, and several other people came in to look at cats and dogs to adopt, all happy to fill out paperwork to promise they would be a forever loving home for the animals they adopted.
I remembered an afternoon just about 45 years ago to the day that I had come to this same shelter back in the days when it was an admission counter and a big room full of cages with stained concrete floors full of dogs barking and cats meowing and smelling like pee strong enough to make you faint, and I was terrified but I wasn’t too scared to look at the kitties and choose Bootsie.
WPHS has come a long way since then. Their pace of change has moved faster in the past decade, and even faster in the past couple of years. All shelters depend on the people around them to successfully care for and find loving forever homes for the animals they take in. People around the shelter who love and care for animals offered their assistance, and the shelter accepted, animals’ lives are saved, and forever homes are found.
And timid little cats like Josephine are gently handled and quickly find a home. And frightened little cats like Smokie, Bert and Ernie, who were assessed as unadoptable and scheduled for euthanasia, are handed over to capable fosters so they can live happily forever after too. I am just the very tip of the iceberg with the few cats I’ve fostered through this plan—others in the rescue have taken in dozens of frightened or sickly kittens and cats and found them homes.
In Pittsburgh, in addition to WPHS we have another open-door shelter, the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center which takes in all the animals city Animal Care and Control picks up, and that works with the public in the same way. If you want change in your local shelters reach out and offer your love and assistance, and I hope you have the sort of success we have.
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Josephine was found offered “free to a good home” on a Facebook neighborhood site. You may remember last summer the kittens Cookie and Jelly Bean who were trapped and rescued with terrible URIs but nursed back to health by Debby Christy Nicola. They were, of course, named after my kitties, and the name “Cookie” infers that kitty is “on tough Cookie”, as the little long-haired tortie proved to be. It was the woman who rescued and later adopted Cookie who saw this kitty, who reminded her of her Cookie-pie. When I saw the post she reminded me of my Cookie-pie and my Kelly too. This kitty had been taken in from the street but was not fitting in. A lot of discussion ensued of what to do and in the end Cookie’s rescuer went to get her and she stayed the night here last night. Because she was originally found on Josephine Street, we decided to name the petite little girl Josephine. I have always liked that name.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!