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What Makes Me Thankful This Holiday Season? Rescuers!

It takes strength, passion, and compassion to dedicate your life to helping animals, and those who do deserve our thanks.

 |  Nov 27th 2013  |   10 Contributions


A small group of people walks into an abandoned lot just as dawn breaks. They check the humane traps they set the day before and find a couple of them occupied by scraggly-looking cats who hiss and spit viciously. The neighborhood is sketchy, and they know they’re putting themselves at risk, but they also know that the feral cats inhabiting the area need their help.

These cats were rescued by Forgotten Felines of Maine, a network of volunteers who save cats in need and foster them until they find their forever homes.

A woman reads the daily e-mail about cats on the “red list” at her local shelter. She sees a mom cat and her four newborn kittens and knows they have to get out as soon as possible, before the kittens get sick and before they run out of time and end up being killed. She calls a couple of rescue groups she knows and arranges for the little family to be pulled and fostered until they’re ready to find new homes.

The phone rings and a man answers. “We need someone to bring four cats from Columbia to Spartanburg this weekend. Are you available?” asks the voice on the other end. “I sure am,” he responds. “Just give me the details and I’ll meet the transporter wherever it works for them.”

Drivers from the Cute Transport Network meet in Fairfax, Virginia, to hand off seven cats headed from high-kill shelters in the Deep South to safe homes in the Northeastern U.S. Photo from Cute Transport Network Facebook page

A blizzard is howling, producing whiteout conditions and wind chills well below zero. Nonetheless, a dozen men and women manage to arrive at their volunteer-run shelter. The drive in was treacherous, and the drive back promises to be even worse, but the cats need their food and medicine and the shelter needs to be cleaned, no matter how awful the weather is.

These are just a few of the thousands of miracles that happen every day, thanks to the people who open their hearts, homes and wallets for the sake of cats in need.

Volunteers at HART of Maine bring trays of food into a room full of cats looking for their forever homes.

I’ve had the fortune to work with some of these amazing individuals, and every day I’m grateful for their tireless work, their compassion and their deep desire to help homeless cats. These people are a voice for the voiceless and angels for desperate felines.

If it hadn’t been for rescuers, I never would have had a chance to meet my sweet Kissy. She and her five kittens were pulled from a high-kill shelter in Georgia by a rescue group, transported to Connecticut by a network of volunteers, and fostered by my fellow cat blogger, Robin Olson, who actually started her own nonprofit rescue group, Kitten Associates, because of her deep desire to be part of the solution, no matter what the physical, emotional and financial cost.

My beautiful Kissy starting to relax in her new home.

If it hadn’t been for Diabetic Cats in Need and the wonderful folks at HART of Maine, I never would have met my sweet baby, Belladonna. It’s incredibly rare for a kitten to get diabetes, and it’s also very rare for shelters to have the staff or resources to properly care for diabetic cats. By a wonderful turn of events, Bella’s life was saved because of the community of veterinarians and shelters in Maine, and she was nursed back to health by Margaret, the “diabetic den mother” at HART, with donations of supplies and support from DCIN.

My baby Bella relaxes in a sun puddle.

If it hadn’t been for the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League (now named P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center), I’d never have met my handsome Thomas. When Thomas’s previous owner had to go into long-term care, the folks at CRARL took him and his sisters into their care. Thomas got terribly sick with an upper respiratory infection while he was at the shelter, but the shelter staff and volunteers cared for him tirelessly. They must have spent tons of money on life-saving veterinary care and medicines. And when Thomas was adopted and reunited with his sisters and they immediately began fighting, the new owners sent Thomas back to the shelter -- where he adopted me.

Thomas relaxes with his snuggle buddy, Dahlia. Dahlia came into my family because of the awesome people at the Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County in Thomaston, Maine.

These are just a few stories from my own life. Many, many stories like this happen every day, and I’m profoundly grateful for every single person who has even the smallest part in making these happy endings possible.

Which rescue group are you thankful for? Please share your thanks and your happy ending story in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, professional cat sitter, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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