Even decades later, some rescues I simply could not forget. Humorous, sad, complicated, I remembered the cats, the images, the seasons, weather and times of day as if they’d been recent, and let the story run in my imagination with words and pictures as if it was a narrated slideshow. I “rescued” cats and kittens as a young person, especially after I’d been given my first cat, but I count my actual rescue life as beginning in college, on campus with many roaming cats, and the moment when Kublai came into my life. From the mid to the late 80s my rescue volume increased as I drove a distance to and from work and saw cats nearly every day, and the industrial park along the river where I worked was full of yet more cats. Then in the 90s after I moved to this house I met a few legitimate cat rescuers who were performing early TNR and could work with them, and for years my house was full of my nine or ten rescues and then fosters on top of that, singles, litters of kittens with or without mom, each cat with its own story.
For decades before I began blogging I published quarterly emails and even mailed a few newsletters, and also wrote for local animal shelter newsletters and a few customers like My Three Cats & Co., Inc. I shared a few rescue stories in those venues along with articles about health and welfare, noting my own cats’ stories as they came up, and sharing my current rescue stories along with soliciting adopters for the rescued cats and kittens.
A decade ago, as I rummaged through my 30-year archives of photo prints, I remembered even more, rescues I’d forgotten, cats I suddenly remembered stalking, setting up to corral and capture with no trap in the early days, catching by the tail, holding, healing, and finding the perfect person for them to spend the rest of their lives with, a fair amount of loss, and a lot of learning.
The first rescue stories here on The Creative Cat
My series of rescue stories here on The Creative Cat formally began about that time and in part because of rummaging through those photos. As we celebrated Peaches’ 100th birthday in May 2010 we told Peaches’ story, along with her sister Cream to introduce the 100th birthday theme, and we celebrated the long lives of senior kitties and the need for giving them another chance no matter their age. While Peaches was 20, Cookie was 18 and I decided her story would help reinforce the idea, so Cookie told the dramatic and sometimes sad story about her own rescue, in first person cat, in Cookie Reminisces. Then I expanded and posted Cookie’s story on her Homecoming Day in December, and also added a few more photos and added details to my own story, “The Unintended Gift”, about the kitten under the Christmas tree.
Until then, I had kept these stories for my own. I had no place to tell them, but really enjoyed sharing them at least with other rescuers I knew. But so many people responded here and privately with their own stories and to thank me for reminding them of their own histories with welcoming cats into their lives and their own rescues that I knew I had found the place to share these stories. Not so much for me to tell my stories, but to give a voice to the thousands of others who’ve done just the same thing I did, quietly captured, loved, healed and rehomed thousands of cats in thousands of ways, all over the world.
Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book, and Great Rescues Day Book
Then there were the other stories I’d been carrying around for years—most of the cat portraits I’d painted had been rescues, commissioned by the people who rescued or adopted them, and who had also rescued other cats and other animals. Every time I exhibited my portraits in any way I had to tell the stories of the subjects of the portraits to anyone who would listen, and listen they did.
For years before blogging or even working full-time at home, I’d had the idea for a picture book sharing my portraits and the stories of these rescued cats and the people who loved them so much they paid me to paint their portrait. Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book and ultimately Great Rescues Day Book finally came to fruition after those first few rescue stories published here told me that, not only were people interested, but there were ever more stories to publish.
Expanding the stories to be examples to a new generation
Then, from the joy of finally telling these stories and their reception here, I continued telling the rescue stories of many of the cats who lived with me for most of their lives as well as the ones I’d rescued and found loving homes for. I forgot about telling their stories in any kind of order, instead choosing by anniversaries and important dates and seasons of the year that reminded me of the rescue, as well as finding the photos in my archives that were critical to the story, or illustrating where I didn’t have a photo.
Initially I kept the rescue theme to cats who needed to be rescued from the outdoors somehow because those seemed to be the “real” rescues. But there were many more stories and I realized the actual scope of cat rescue—cats that I’d only assisted with, that I caught and took to someone else, or that someone else caught and I fostered, that I transported, that I made arrangements for, the surrenders. The stories are all important, not only for the stories themselves but for the examples they set for others as they move into cat rescue.
And I have stories I will tell someday under some disguise, or never tell at all for the safety or privacy of all concerned, of cats fostered under some distress, for the women who had to flee an abusive relationship with their children, or lost their home in a divorce, the family who moved into public housing, the daughter of a friend who periodically visited a mental institution. As I always say, when you rescue cats, you rescue people.
Rescue stories today
When I began volunteering with the Homeless Cat Management Team at a time when rescuing was becoming more organized with the use of social media, I had a new volume of rescue stories to tell, ones that I’m still telling today. I want to note the amazing things rescuers have done, give them credit for all the time and money, putting themselves at risk, giving their hearts to cats because they care so much they just can’t stop, and in doing so changing the individual lives of so many cats and slowly changing the tide of sentiment about cats in general.
And then, after I’d slowed down in my own fostering and took a year or so off after losing Cooking and Kelly in 2012, I began fostering again with HCMT and Pittsburgh CAT, and also began some serious TNR with their help and support, and had some fresh stories that I could tell in real time, along with a lot of photos. In the past couple of years I slowed down around my hip replacement but I’ve still been active in organizing and assisting my in my own neighborhood, where my fullest period of rescuing started when I moved here in 1990.
I’ve been catching up with some of the people who taught me more about rescue years ago and with whom I networked to help all the cats we rescued and fostered as a loose group, and hope to tell some of their stories from all those years ago. But in the meantime, the rescues continue, of friendly cats brought in for adoption, injured feral cats given medical care and returned to caretakers, lost and found cats, and more.
I have been organizing them all into anthologies, some just text, some illustrated story books, some with my own narration included, beginning with Love’s Shining Circle, Kelly’s story adapted from the five-part series I wrote about her rescue and life with me “A Little Bit About Kelly” and Meet Lucy! based on Lucy’s antics as a kitten. I really hope to move forward with those books this year, even just electronic books.
Why we rescue
We domesticated cats and dogs and other animals who closely share our lives. There is a deep bond that has tied us for millennia, even to animals who we have not domesticated but who have nonetheless shared our existence for all our lives on earth. We call nature “red in tooth and claw”, but our compassion for animals and all living things is part of what keeps us human, that we can transcend our natural urge for self-protection and yet put ourselves in danger to rescue a member of another species. Someday, hopefully, there won’t be as much need for rescue because cats and other domestic and wild animals will live in a humane world more sensitive to their needs. For now, I celebrate rescue as a way to achieve that goal.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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© 2021 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
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!