A Thanksgiving Miracle


Sometimes the beauty of the human heart just overwhelms me, and this is one of those times.

On Monday, a familiar plea went out to rescue groups all around the U.S. Betsy Merchant, the lead volunteer of Henry County Animal Care & Control in Georgia, sent an e-mail begging for help: 16 healthy cats were on the shelter’s “death row” because they’d used up their time in the overcrowded facility. “If every one of you would save just one cat or kitten from this list, none would die!” Merchant wrote.

My friend Robin Olson runs Kitten Associates, a small nonprofit rescue based in Connecticut. As one of the people who has made it her mission to save the cats in high-kill shelters in the South, she read the message in despair.

She had no room. Her home was already filled with almost 20 cats awaiting adoption. The only thing she could do was to spread the word and hope that some other rescue groups would help. “But what would that do?” she wondered. Maybe one or two of these cats would be helped — and the thought of all these cats, whose only crime was being born, being killed before they could even have a chance at a loving home well, it hurt her heart. She was essentially helpless to do anything.

But then, something so amazing and wonderful happened that it shook her world — and mine, and those of anyone following the saga.

Samantha Shelton, founder and director of FurKids, Georgia’s largest no-kill, cage-free shelter, called the Henry County shelter Monday morning to check on the status of the death-row kitties.

She found out that although a few of the cats had been rescued by other organizations, 15 were still at HACC, scheduled to be euthanized.

And she opened her heart, and her cat flap, to these death-row kitties.

Every. Single. One of them.

Tears of joy poured down onto computer keyboards as the word went out to the other rescuers who had heard about the Henry County cats’ plight.

The shelter staff were overjoyed, too. We staff members at the Henry County Animal Care & Control were so happy that we didnt have to kill any innocent homeless cats yesterday, said Gerri Yoder, director of Henry County Animal Care & Control.

Shelton’s miraculous act didn’t just save those cats’ lives. It gave more time to the ones still at the shelter, the ones still to arrive.

Olson wrote in her blog, Covered in Cat Hair, “What Sam was able to do is a DREAM of mine. One day I hope I can do the same thing — clean out a shelter and rest for a moment, knowing so many lives don’t have to come to a premature and cruel end.”

Stories like this give me hope and bring into the spotlight the tireless work that volunteers and rescuers do for the sake of all felinekind.

Today, and every day, my heart is filled with gratitude to the hundreds, if not thousands, of rescue groups small and large that open their arms to cats in need. We are truly blessed that these people walk among us, giving a voice to the voiceless and providing a second chance for these cats to have a long life in a loving, safe home.

Thank you. Every single one of you. I know your work can be heartbreaking — there’s no way you can save every cat on death row — but please know that I stand behind you and I love you for all you do. There’s a special place in heaven (or whatever benevolent afterlife you may believe in) for you.

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