It all started when a friend showed up at my door with what she called a little bit of love: A newspaper-lined cardboard box containing a litter box, a small bag of litter, a food dish, a small bag of kibble, and a fist-sized ball of black fur. Before I could protest, that ball of fur peeked over the edge of the box, locked his unnaturally large gold eyes with mine, and let out the tiniest, softest meow I’ve ever heard. I fell in love, named him Puddy Tat, and have been fur-covered ever since that fateful day in 1992.
Since then, I’ve lived with a ragtag band of stray, free to a good home, and orphaned felines. Puddy Tat, the little furball who started it all, lived life to the fullest, getting into all sorts of mischief for 12 very happy years before he peacefully passed on in 2004. Bucky – named before I learned she was not a he – is a beautiful and talkative blue-eyed chocolate point Siamese who wandered onto my porch and into my heart back in 2002. Cal is a barrel shaped, mellow black cat with a tendency sit on my lap and purr until he drools. At six years old, he was the oldest feline up for adoption at the Michigan Humane Society the day we met in 2007. Muffin, an energetic, grey tabby cat who has never met a person he doesn’t immediately love, literally ran into my house just before Christmas in 2008. There was no negotiating with this one; my house was going to be his home, period.
The motley crew of animals my family and I have adopted knew and know nothing but love, security, and joy. They’ve never had to worry about going hungry, being hurt, or losing their home. Some other animals in our area haven’t been as fortunate.
Last week, I read the heartbreaking story of Hope, a bright eyed calico cat recently found severely burned near a trash dumpster in Inkster. She’s now fighting for her life, with wounds covering nearly half of her body. Tail Waggers 1990, the rescue group who came to her aid, is now seeking donations to cover the veterinary care she needs to survive. I fought back tears reading about Patty, a fox terrier who was the victim of horrific abuse before being rescued on Thursday, September 12th. Found huddled and in severe pain on a southwest Detroit porch, she had been stabbed and partially skinned. Providing For Paws is now working frantically to save her life and find the person or persons responsible for this unspeakable act, offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who has information on this case.
Late last month, a person walking near Warren and Outer Drive by the Rouge River in Dearborn Heights found an exhausted, mud covered lab mix intentionally tossed into the water, a rock tied to his paw to weigh him down. An exam conducted by the Dearborn Animal Shelter, who named the dog River, found he had signs of heartworm infection. A $6,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the person or persons who tried to kill the dog.
These are only the stories we know. A recent report from Bloomberg News stating that there are over 50,000 stray dogs in the city of Detroit has been challenged by local authorities who say that number is artificially inflated. Other groups, like Detroit Dog Rescue, argue that trying to put a number on Metro Detroit’s stray animal population diminishes a much more important and frightening point: The growing amount of abandoned animals in the city is a problem verging on unmanageable if something isn’t done to address it right away.
Some organizations and rescue groups are doing what they can with what resources they can muster. All About Animals has developed a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program to help reduce the never-fully-documented stray cat population in the area. They also offer low cost to free spay and neuter services for cats and dogs, mobile veterinary clinics in the tri-county area for pet owners who lack transportation, and adoption services for homeless pets. Another is the Michigan Humane Society, which has just mounted a Matching Gift Challenge to help provide care for the growing homeless animal population in its three facilities, and support for its veterinary clinics.
It’s an early Saturday morning as I write this column. Cal, who doesn’t believe in starting the day before noon, is curled up by my side, sleeping peacefully and snoring softly. Muffin is scampering through the house playing with his favorite toy, a pop bottle top. Bucky is sitting patiently by her food dish…for now. It’s no joke: I take and get great delight in being a crazy cat lady, happily living in a fur covered house with my three fuzzy best friends and a “Who Rescued Who” bumper sticker on my car.
If my home and my budget allowed, I’d take in as many cats and dogs as I could manage. I’d scratch their heads, fill their food dishes, give them kisses, knit them sweaters, and love them. You don’t have to become a crazy cat lady to help make life better for Detroit’s homeless pets.
If you have any information about Hope, Patty, or River, or if you know of an animal that’s being abused, please call one of the rescue groups mentioned in this article.
If you own a pet but are having trouble caring for it, please contact All About Animals or the Michigan Humane Society for assistance in providing food and proper veterinary care. They are willing to do all they can to keep pets in their homes, or find a new home for a pet if necessary. If you don’t have a pet, consider opening your home to one…or more, or making a donation to your local shelter.
It doesn’t take much to give a helpless animal a little bit of love, and the love you’ll get in return will make you crazy with happiness.
Tracey Morris is the author of, “You Said You Wanted to See Me Naked: An Autobiographical Poem Cycle.” Her work has recently been published by Rust Belt Chic Press, and she was a finalist in the 2013 Springfed Arts Writing Contest.