I haven't been able to write much because I've been spending time after the kid's go to bed at D's helping him because he is on bed rest. (My father is here with the kids when they are sleeping.) Also, I spent the last week dealing with an issue that just made me sick to my stomach and I was just not in the mood to write about it. Instead of writing about it I have managed to immerse myself in Degrassi:TNG marathons on noggin. (We only get the family channels, so I take what I can get.) Even a megadose of Degrassi hasn't cured me and I still don't want to write about it, but I'm going to tell you about it now, just in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. You will be more informed than I was.
Some of you may remember that I briefly wrote about our cats. We had three. We got Kai three years ago from a non-profit no-kill shelter. Scrapper, our blind kitty, came from Kansas a couple of years ago. My sister and her neighbors put together an informal Capture/Neuter/Release program with the neighborhood feral cats. Scrapper was one of the kittens that they caught. Then, just last year at around Thanksgiving, we acquired the black cat that D named Zoe. He just appeared in the corner of D's porch, sick and starving.
D took Zoe in and fed him and cleaned him up. Within just a couple of weeks, he improved dramatically and became a nice, friendly pet. We put fliers out for an owner, but no one claimed him. I tried to take him here for a few weeks (Kai and Scrapper live at D's now), but I just became too allergic to him and he went back to D's. I am only slightly allergic to Kai and Scrap, but Zoe's long, black hair was more than I could take.
Zoe was a really good cat. He was good with my kids and my dad's dog and with the other cats. He had an outgoing personality and was very affectionate and laid back. Of the three cats, he probably had the best personality. Kai is a snob. Scrapper is a very nice cat but is a bit dimwitted and slow moving (partly because she is blind, and partly because (I kid) she is in-bred and microcephalic). Zoe was an all around nice, fun and playful cat.
Despite what a nice cat he was, we were both sort of ambivalent about keeping her. Three cats was a lot in that small apartment. There were some litter box issues, and my allergies required that I take medication every time I went over there. There was a slight problem with Scrapper. Zoe never hurt her or anything, but Zoe gave Kai a playmate who could keep up with him, and they both left Scrapper in the dust. Scrapper really needs Kai to help her out. Zoe also was not neutered nor had he had any shots. I already pay for most of the expenses for the other two cats, and wasn't excited about taking on a third.
We did look into finding a new home for Zoe off and on. But with D being in and out of the hospital and stuff, we just never could put in the time that it was going to take to find someone ourselves. By the time we put something on Craigslist for him, D would be in the hospital and we wouldn't be able to answer emails and get someone to the house to see him. I took Scrapper and Kai to the vet this spring for their yearly shots and checkup, but two cats was about all I could handle. I was leaving Zoe up to D to take care of. I would have helped with Zoe, but D needed to decide what to do with him and he never did. Zoe was sort of pushed down on the priority list, but he was safe and happy, so things went on like that.
Until two weeks ago when D started on bed rest at his house and Zoe went into heat. Zoe became really whiny to get out and started spraying everywhere. He started to not use the litter box so much. I went into the apartment and almost couldn't stand it. My eyes were burning and I could barely breathe. And it stunk so bad. I knew that if we could get him neutered, we would solve 75% of our problems. I told D that something had to be done or he was going to have to find someone else to help him on bed rest because I couldn't take it anymore.
I told D that I was call around and try to find inexpensive neutering and shots, and I would take him wherever, but he was going to have to pay for it. We also talked about getting him into a shelter for adoption. D wanted to keep him in a way, but agreed that if he went to a good home, that would be okay. I told him that I would find a shelter where we could keep tabs on him. If he didn't get adopted in a couple of weeks, we could always take him back and he'd be neutered as well.
So I spent a couple of days calling around to find 1) Low cost neutering, my first priority; and 2) possible adoption services for him. Adoption was a best case scenario thing. We were in a hurry to get him neutered, but in no big hurry as far as getting him out of the house to be adopted. It was kind of, if we can find him a good home, great. If not, he can just come back here and be our cat.
I called around 20 or so places. Many times an organization couldn't help me but would give me another number to try. Someone gave me the number for what they only referred to as "Bonnie Hays." I had no idea what Bonnie Hays was, but in my head I kind of had it mixed up with an organization called "Dove Lewis" which is a non-profit emergency vet. I had used Dove Lewis a couple of times for my guide dog, and they were always very good to me. I left a message for Bonnie Hays asking first and foremost about low cost neutering and also about no-kill adoption services.
Later in the afternoon, I found a vet who would neuter him for $28, I went ahead and made an appointment for Aug. 1st. Right after that, a woman from Bonnie Hays called me up. This woman said that they did not do neutering there, but may be able to help me with adoption. I ask if this is a vet or a shelter or a public facility or a non-profit or what? She says they are not a vet, they are a non-profit shelter. If the cat is adopted, they are sent to a vet for neutering and the adoptive party pays. Great! I say, are you a no-kill shelter? Yes, she says. Then a pause. Well, not entirely, sometimes we get animals in here who have severe health problems and cannot be saved. Other times, an animal might have such a bad behavior problem that he is not suitable for adoption. I'm talking like feral cats or dogs that have been used in fights. Sounds reasonable to me. So there is no limit to the amount of time for adoption? I ask. It is not like they are there for 7 days and then if not adopted they are put down? No, she says. There is no limit for adoption. If the animal is here for awhile and we need the room, we will sometimes turn them over to other rescue shelters like Cat Adoption Team. (C.A.T. is a no-kill shelter where we got Kai.) Okay, and I can keep track of his progress? Yes, she says. Because if he isn't adopted in a couple of weeks, we'll probably just adopt him back. Sure, she says. But you will have to go through the same adoption application process as everyone else and pay $60 to get him. Fine, I say. I do the thing I do when discussing something very important where I repeat back to her what I understand to be correct. Yes? Yes. It is a hearing impaired thing.
We go on to have a small discussion about whether I am going to turn him in as a stray or a relinquished animal. She says that a stray has to wait 30 days before he can be put up for adoption. A relinquished animal can be put up right away but I have to pay $40. I say that I have had the animal longer than 30 days and she says that means it is not a stray, it is mine. Fine, I say. She wants me to bring him in tomorrow for sure (Friday, July 28) because she can't guarantee that there will be space after that. She acts like she is doing me a special favor.
I decide to leave the decision up to D. The vet on Tuesday or the shelter tomorrow. He reluctantly agrees to the shelter. On the condition that we can get him back if he is not adopted out.
Friday, I go and turn Zoe in. If I made a mistake in all of this, besides being incredibly naive, it is right here. If you remember, this is the day that Aaron decided to cry and scream and grab his penis all day long as if he had a UTI. My dad and the kids are in the car on a hot day. I go into the building with Zoe in a carrier. The place is packed. It is a disorganized madhouse. One guy is running around trying to take care of everyone. I wait in a long line. When it is my turn, I introduce myself and say I called yesterday about putting my cat up for adoption. He gives me this smallish piece of paper that I'm supposed to fill out. I can't see what it says but he is already gone. I ask the person behind me and it is just name, address and phone. While I am filling it out, he takes my cat before I can say anything and leaves. This is the last time I saw her. He doesn't come back for a very long time. He has my carrier. When he comes back, he is already talking to other people. I ask for my carrier back and he gets it. I start saying that this cat is really great with children and really personable and should be great for adoption. He says, Okay, ma'am that's all you need to do. He goes off again leaving me standing there. I have a funny feeling, but my sickish kid is in the car and there is nothing I can do right at the moment, there is no one to talk to. I decide I will call and follow-up on Monday and I leave.
I think over the weekend that the guy was just busy and he must have thought I was turning in a stray. No one took my $40. I don't want Zoe to have to sit in a cage for a month, so on Monday I call and tell someone what happened and that I want to pay my $40 so the cat can get neutered and be up for adoption. She says that I have to talk to Karen Riley, director of the shelter, and track down the cat. She says that the cat isn't there, it is elsewhere. I am transferred and leave a message with Karen Riley. She does not call me back.
On Tuesday, I call again and leave another message. I have a bad feeling, so I call the C.A.T. and see what they think of this Bonnie Hays place. The C.A.T. place is really nice, but they say that Bonnie Hays is the county animal control and that they are absolutely a kill shelter. She cannot believe they didn't tell me this. She says there is a time limit for adoptions but she does not know what it is specifically. She says that almost all of their cats are death row kitties that they get from Bonnie Hays. She tells me to call them back and ask for a CBE, Call Before Euthanization, to be put on the cat.
I call back and ask for this CBE. They tell me that the cat has a specific number that they cannot give me. Only the mysterious Karen Riley can give me this number. But there is no hurry, Karen will call me by the end of the day. She never does.
Wednesday, I'm starting to loose it completely. I can't sleep. I am obsessed over this cat. I understand that I cannot save all the cats in the world, but I made a commitment to this one. I'm trying to do the right thing, and no one will help me. I write an email to the director of the Washington County Animal Control. I call again and leave a message. The director emails me back some PR bullshit and gives me his direct line. I immediately call him. Here is where I learn the truth. They have 30 cages and upwards of 50 cats can come in each day. A cat may only last 15 minutes at the shelter before being euthanized. The average a cat stays in the shelter before being either adopted or euthanized is 2-3 days. Zoe has been there for four, if she is still alive. It is purely arbitrary on whether a cat gets put up for adoption or just gets "euthed." If there are already 2 black cats in the shelter, the third is going to get killed before even having a chance for adoption. If a cat shows even the slightest sign of aggression, and aggression is defined as any behavior that will take the techs even a second longer to handle it, it will be killed. They are underfunded and overworked. Their mission is first and foremost to cut down the cat overpopulation problem, basically using any means necessary. He is sorry I was "mislead" but better to get the cat in to be dealt with than to risk that I will just throw the cat out to impregnate a hundred other cats. Sure, maybe I'm one of the good guys, but they can't afford to take that risk. I am collateral damage.
I am furious, but try to be nice and work with this guy, whose name is Gary Hendel, by the way. He is the only one responding to me and telling me the truth. I say that my top priority right now is to find out what happened to my cat, and if he is still alive, get him out of there. I say that I will pay to get him adopted out. He can't help me. Karen Riley can. She is out today. I can just sit tight and wait till tomorrow and she will call.
Fuck that. I put the kids down for a nap, tell my dad I'm going out to run an errand, and bus it to the shelter. I have to walk a couple of blocks between a highway and railroad tracks to get there. But I've got to see if he is there. He could be killed by the time I'm waiting for that woman to call me back.
I walk in to this building that is about the size of a McDonald's, and there is NO ONE there. I wait at the front desk for a while, but I'm worried about my time. My dad has no idea where I am (I called D and told him) and if I'm not back in about an hour and a half, the shit will hit the fan. I call back to the back part but no one comes. I just open the door and go back there. It was weird. You know on Star Trek when Picard goes to the Borg ship and no one pays any attention to him? It was like that. There were employees back there doing stuff, but none seemed to notice me. I walked into every room of that place. office rooms, rooms with dogs, rooms with lizards and snakes, rooms with vet tables. I looked into every cage. I was so paranoid that I missed him because he is black and I might not have seen him that I found this other guy wondering around and asked him to help me. Por favor, usted ve un gato negro? I stuttered. He went with me and looked through every cat cage. No gato negro.
Finally, I followed this woman around forever until she at last turned her attention to me. I told her I was looking for my black cat brought in last Friday. I could tell immediately that she didn't know where he was. She told me to wait in this hallway and she went into a room and shut the door. I knew the worst had happened. I was fighting back tears. When she came out, she had a big smile on her face. Oh! That cat was taken home on Sunday by one of our techs. He is in foster care!
I sighed in relief. I was so happy. Of course Zoe would have wooed someone into taking him home. He was just that affectionate. So how do I get him out? I want to adopt him! She didn't know. She mentioned this all illusive number. She handed me a piece of paper with a phone number on it and said to call Karen Riley tomorrow to find out how to get him.
I left in a hurry to get back home. I called D from the bus stop; excited that I had tracked him down and saved the day. But as I was telling him that Zoe was in foster care, I started to realize that it was a lie. I started to realize that this didn't make sense that I couldn't just adopt him today. I started to realize that when people hand me Karen Riley's phone number, they are lying to me.
Early Thursday morning, D and I start a calling campaign. We each call once an hour. Him on the hour, me on the half and leave messages for Karen Riley. Mine are getting more and more irate. I also start emailing Gary Hendel. He and I get into this huge philosophical debate about what has happened. I have pages and pages of emails from him. But he still can't tell me what happened to my cat.
He can blame almost everyone and everything else for what happened. He doesn't confirm or deny that I've been lied to. He doesn't apologize. He says he'll "look into it" while at the same time blaming everyone from the volunteer foster people, the no-kill cat shelters, D--for not being able to afford neutering, and even the person who let Zoe's mother breed. I say that yes, I understand that there is an overpopulation problem. I don't understand why I've been repeatedly lied to.
Around 5 pm on Thursday, Gary Hendel emails me another 6 paragraph diatribe. In the fourth paragraph, third sentence, he informs me that suddenly he was able to find out what happened to Zoe. She was killed Tuesday morning, August 1st. For behavior problems.
I have to call up D and tell him. It is very hard. I still don't know if they've even got the right cat, but it has been almost 7 days since I turned him in and the sheer odds of him being alive now are next to nothing, especially since I couldn't find him there on Wednesday. When the woman told me he was elsewhere, she meant dead.
I felt like throwing up. In all my efforts throughout my life to be a good, responsible pet owner, in all my efforts to make sure Zoe had a good and healthy life, I had managed to put him in the worst possible place. I would have been better off just neutering him and sending him outside.
Over the weekend I researched animal rights sites to see if I could find out any laws or whatever. It turns out that my story is not all that uncommon. Public shelters that are funded mostly by taxpayer money and some private donations are under pressure to show good "numbers." They want to show that they've got as many intact strays off the streets as possible in raw data. They also want to show that they have a high percentage of adoptions vs. animals suitable for adoption. Animals like Zoe, who were killed due to behavior problems, don't affect the average percentage of adoptions but do count as far as raw number of cats off the streets. I gave them exactly what they wanted. An intact "stray" that was not considered adoptable. They practically "recruited" him from me. They use these numbers to ensure tax dollars and also for fund raising. They used me to cook their books, basically.
There is something else, incidentally. I don't know if this has anything to do with that, but I'll just add it in here. Those of you who read my old blog may remember that when I tried to adopt a cat (when we adopted Kai), we first were denied by a shelter who would not adopt cats out to us because we were disabled. They wouldn't even take our application. This was at a PetSmart outreach center, and I had forgotten which shelter it was. Well, I found out that Bonnie Hays uses the PetSmart we went to. I am pretty sure it was them.
So, now, a part of me wants to forget this ever happened. And another part of me wants to do something drastic to stick it to them, but I don't know what. One thing I'm doing is writing this story down and telling as many people as I can. The names have not been changed to protect the guilty here. The shelter is Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter. [Edited to add: I just noticed that their website was changed as of today. Some of the touchy-feely misleading "no limit on adoption times" has been removed.] The director is Gary Hendel. The bitch who lied to me to begin with (I'm pretty sure) and never was stand-up enough to call us back was Karen Riley. Feel free to give them a piece of your mind if you are so inspired. And, if you ever do have an animal you need to give up, for the love of god don't take them there. And be very careful of any animal shelter. Ask lots of questions not only from them but to other shelters about them. Visit a few times if you can. See if you see some of the same animals there on each return visit. Make sure you get some number or way of tracking your animal before you give them up. Read anything you sign (I didn't sign anything. Apparently, I didn't know the magic words and they decided for me that my cat was a stray and not my property.) And of course, get all your animals spayed and neutered. If you need low cost neutering and you are in the Portland metro, e me and I will give you some good leads.
I've also decided to take up a collection for Zoe and donate it to C.A.T. which is a legitimate no-kill shelter. If you feel inclined to, I welcome you to send a few bucks to them or your own local no-kill shelter. Email me for help in finding one or if you want to donate. Or you can just donate directly to them at:
Cat Adoption Team
attn.: Tribute/Memorial Gift: ZOE
14175 SW Galbreath Drive
Sherwood, OR 97140
Zoe was a nice, young, happy, affectionate playful cat. Neither he nor I deserved this kind of treatment. I'm just trying to make some good out of it and get some closure for D and I. We were very saddened by this outcome.