Sometimes, the animals in your life can help you decide which people you should have in your life.
A year ago, I was living in Portland, Ore. working as an intern at a public relations firm.
One Friday morning, I noticed a small brown tabby cat sitting outside my office building. It was wearing a new collar with a
purple bell on it, and promptly rolled onto its back when I came up to it. I scratched its belly, which immediately elicited a purr. Because of the collar, I knew it wasn’t a stray. I assumed it had just wandered away from its home, and that it would mosey on back to where it lived later that afternoon.
When I left work later that evening, I was surprised to find the cat sitting there again.
The cat had sat there all day long, and, because it was a Friday evening before the weekend when people would be coming into the office again, I wasn’t sure how long it would stay there.
This cat clearly belonged to someone, and someone was missing it. The fact that it had sat outside the building on a hot summer’s day all by itself meant something: It must be lost.
So, I scooped up the cat and carried him to my car, where he promptly climbed into my lap in the driver’s seat.
I took it to two different veterinary clinics to have it scanned for a microchip and to see if perhaps it belonged to a client at either of the clinics. No chip.
I printed off 40 fliers and hung them all over the town, stopping in at local businesses and pet shops to see if anyone had stopped by looking for a lost cat. I also posted notices online.
Because I was concerned about the lost cat being in close contact with my cat at home, I took him to a local vet who gave him the necessary vaccines and handed over a clean bill of health. Since he wasn’t neutered, I also took care of that. If his owners hadn’t microchipped him, I doubted they would neuter him – I didn’t want him to get out again and impregnate a stray cat.
The cat stayed with me for about a week before his family ended up calling me after seeing my posting online. Though I was sad to see him go, I was glad I had been able to help return an animal to his home.
What was most disheartening was the reaction from my then-boyfriend, who was in a different state at the time. He was allergic to cats, and liked dogs mostly because of their “guard dog” potential. Curling up with four-legged furry friend was never really something he understood.
When I called him to tell him of my adventure in rescuing the cat, all I heard was a long pause on the other end of the phone.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Do you want to see a picture? I think I have one I could send…he’s really cute!”
The silence continued.
“Why didn’t you just leave it there to die?”
Just hearing him say that hurt me. I couldn’t understand why anyone would walk past a lost animal and not wonder who was missing it, and where its family was. If it had been my cat out there, I would have hoped that someone would have done the same for me.
He wasn’t very happy that I had taken in another animal. He thought that my one cat was already one animal too many.
In his eyes, caring for an animal, especially one that wasn’t mine, was a waste of time and most importantly, money. He didn’t understand why I would spend money on veterinary care for an animal when I was spending the summer working with an intern’s salary. While I appreciated the fact that he was concerned about my finances and wanted me to be successful, I was unable to comprehend his lack of care for animals.
“Leave it there? I couldn’t just leave him there…” I said.
“Kate,” he said. “It’s just an animal.”
After that, I gave up trying to explain to him the importance of an animal life. He would never understand. Some people just are not hardwired with the capacity to understand animals. While I don’t expect everyone to be an animal lover, I realized that I needed to surround myself with people who were. Being an animal-lover was something that had always been a part of me, something that would never change.
Later, when I adopted my puppy Reux, my boyfriend asked where I had gone to adopt him. I told him I had gotten him from a shelter.
“Oh. So he’s a mutt, huh? Just a pound puppy?”
That was the final straw. I couldn’t have someone in my life who would make derogatory references to my dog as a “pound puppy.” Absolutely not.
Ultimately, my boyfriend’s lack of compassion for animals became a key factor in the demise of our relationship. I’m glad it did though – the people I surround myself with now fully appreciate my love for animals, and recognize that my compassion for them is one of my best qualities. They see my compassion as a good thing, rather than as a threat or a weakness.
In my mind, that’s the way it should be.