Calla, you are so fortunate to have such a wonderful best friend! And she is just as blessed to have you!
I too, wish fervently I hadn't squandered the money I had a decade ago. And there are so many things I wish I had done differently also. But here we are, living with the consequences of those choices as best we can.
Does your friend help with the adoption events? Have you thought about traveling for a weekend to a more populated area? Petsmarts usually have adoption groups set up in their stores on Saturdays. Of course that depends on how strict your adoption policies are (home checks and confirming vet records of any existing pets) and whether you can find/afford a place to stay with animals when you get there.
Updating your website and pics is always good. Do you have a *wish list* for items people could donate? Can you get volunteers to come in and help with the care? Maybe employees at local vets would be willing to come for a weekend of deep cleaning the cattery to get it functioning well again. They might be willing to bring their own cleaning supplies too. Sometimes older people who love animals can volunteer a few hours a week to help maintain the cleaning and/or just sit with the animals brushing and socializing them. Teens from local high schools considering a career in vet care might volunteer for experience. Sometimes Girl/Boy Scouts will do volunteer work for a project. Depending on how large your volunteer service gets you may need someone to coordinate the projects.
Are there any feed stores nearby that handle large bags of food? Would they agree to give/sell damaged or nearly expired bags to you at a much reduced cost?
This may or may not help extend your cat litter ~ I buy large bags of baking soda at Costco and put a decent layer in the bottom of the litter boxes. If I have donated litter that the cats aren't used to I layer their regular litter with the new stuff and sprinkle more baking soda between the layers. It really keeps down the smells and with scooping a couple times a day the cats can continue to use the boxes longer than litter alone. I use the slotted scoops for poop and large plastic spoons to get the urine areas.
Does your vet give you a discount? Mine gives me 50% off but I've known him for over 25 years and he's a great supporter of adopting animals. Once a year I bring in a large luncheon for the whole staff (30 people) as a thank you.
It would be extremely difficult at first to be willing to let people in and see how bad things got. But when someone in need is ready and willing to make big changes I've found the helpers are happy to help get the environment in good order. There may be some judgments and criticisms. The best way to disarm those is to readily agree, be contrite, appreciate the help and firmly commit to keeping up with the cleanliness.
I'm not sure what to tell you about your husband continuing to bring in more cats. Once he sees things getting better he may feel that you can handle even more. It's hard enough when the partner continues to bring junky *treasures* into the home. Bringing live creatures would be so much harder.
You sound like a very strong, caring woman Calla. I hope you'll continue to let us know how things improve. :)
Posted: 08 November 2014 - 08:51 PM
Thank you Dianne for reading. I guess what I really wanted was to just have some place where I could tell the truth about what has been going on. My best friend is the only person who has been in my house other than us in three years. She is my rock and if it weren't for her, I don't know that I would still be here. She too suffers from depression and we made a promise to each other long ago that neither of us would ever commit suicide because it would leave the other one alone, and we won't do that to each other. Believe it or not, you don't know how many times that has saved my life. I start thinking that I can't handle it and at least if I were dead I wouldn't be in pain anymore, and then I think about my friend and how betrayed she would feel if I did that, and that it might lead to her taking her own life, and I won't do that to her. Thank God I have her!
As for the rest, without money, there's no way to dig out of this hole. I think of all the money I squandered a decade ago and wish I had been more thrifty...I am now, I can tell you! I wish I had divorced my husband when he refused to look for another job, instead choosing to live off of his meager unemployment for three years. I wish I had made a lot of different choices, but I didn't.
So now I have to make a plan, but I don't know where to start. So as far as that is concerned, I will take all the advice I can find. I'm revamping our website, taking pictures and updating as many cats and dogs as I can with regards to shots, etc. We do adoption events several times a week, but we live in such a rural area that adoptions are few and far between. I'm reaching out tentatively to other rescues about taking one or two of our animals in hopes they might have better luck, but I'm very particular about who I reach out to -- I don't want these guys going from the frying pan to the fire.
Thank you again for reading and for your kind words.
Posted: 07 November 2014 - 08:51 AM
God bless you Calla! Your story is a very familiar one. Good intentions, life changes, downhill slides, depression, overwhelm, fear, isolation. Thank God you're able to see it rationally. And you've explained the problem with heartbreaking clarity.
You don't ask for advice so I won't offer any. You have an excellent, first-hand understanding of the problems of animal rescue.
In my case I went from rescue to sanctuary. I left my job working with animals to care full time for the ones I had taken in. My vet file has over 100 names but I never had more than 20 in the house at one time. It is extremely time consuming to physically care for dogs and cats and their environment. Add daily individual socialization or just human companionship and the rest of your life goes by the wayside.
I'm down to 15 now, 9 cats and 6 dogs, all but 4 are seniors or geriatric. My daughter lives with me and is a huge help with their care. We have finally been able to address the other problems in our lives. And I am very grateful that when one of us gets a little soft-hearted about taking in another sad case the other says a firm no. I also put the word out in rescue circles and my neighborhood (we are pretty rural) that I absolutely could not accept any more. Fortunately I haven't received any more drop offs and the emails dropped greatly.
I understand your commitment to care for the ones you still have hard as that is.
If you want to hang out on this board and talk that would be cool. At least it can give you an outlet for your frustrations. I've learned a lot about myself in the time I've been here just by my ramblings ~ stuff I may not have given much thought to otherwise.
Take good care Calla ~~ Dianne
Posted: 06 November 2014 - 10:47 PM
I'm an animal rescuer, have been for well over a decade. When we started I had a really good job in a great field, made a lot of money. I loved animals and when I found out that cats were being killed in record numbers in municipal shelters I volunteered as a foster and started keeping cats for a rescue. After a few years I decided to become a rescue on my own, giving me the ability to make decisions regarding the animals in my care and also allowing me to fundraise for the animals.
In 2008 the economy tanked, at a time when we had over 40 cats and a couple of dogs in our care. Both I and my husband lost our jobs, and although we soon found other jobs, we weren't making anywhere near as much money as we had been, and we were working far more hours than we were before. At the same time adoptions ground to a halt, and donations did as well. For rescuers, it was a bad perfect storm.
Unfortunately, the animals did not stop coming in. People left them on our doorstep. A rescue asked me to temporarily foster two pregnant mama cats while they were supposedly doing some renovations, and then disappeared, leaving me with a total of 14 more kittens.
Over the next six years we ran afoul of local animal control, lost our house, lost our jobs, and both of us began to suffer from depression. I left my husband for a year but came by every day to take care of the cats and dogs. In that time though, he let the cats loose into the house and they destroyed it (this was the house we lost).
When we moved into the house we are in now, I said "never again" and I meant it. No more animals coming in. No more free range. Aggressive adoption policies. Unfortunately though, my husband had become a hoarder and I didn't even realize it. He allowed cats that hadn't been fixed to get pregnant, so I found a way to separate those females out and eventually get them all fixed. Then he started "finding" cats, and sneaking cats in from the building where they are housed. We now have over 70 cats, most living in the house with us. The cattery is a mess and I won't, can't return cats to it until it has been cleaned up. I have medical issues and while I work very hard to clean, I can't do it alone and he won't do it. At this point it's an effort to get him to go to his very part-time job.
If I had a way to do it, I'd let all but 5 or 6 of the cats go to other rescues today and all of the dogs but 2. He, on the other hand, freaks out every time we adopt an animal out, worrying himself sick that it won't be cared for. I've tried more than once explaining to him that this is what is best for the animal, that they will be going to a home where they will get all of the attention instead of having to compete for it with all of the other animals. He just doesn't see it that way. Nor does he think he has a problem.
Then there is the problem of the community, the law, and kill shelters. I think truthfully that our story is what happens to a number of rescuers and is why they become hoarders -- they go into rescue because they want to save lives from kill shelters. Then they get over their heads, and they don't know where to turn. If fellow rescuers find out how bad things are, they will CRUCIFY you. I've seen it firsthand. You will receive death threats, emails will travel the country and the world with your picture and personal information, your facebook page and twitter account will become so vile that you have to close them down, and in the end that just isolates you more than you already are.
Then there's the law -- if they find out how many animals you have, you face legal charges. If you're already struggling monetarily, the thought of being charged with a crime, going to jail, having to pay for an attorney, paying fines, etc. is so overwhelming.
And last, there's kill shelters. Last year in North Carolina the president of an animal rescue was raided by local animal control and 60 of the 90 cats she was caring for, including personal pets, cats being boarded and cats who were under veterinary care with records to prove this were killed in the rescuer's own back yard. You think it's hard for a person who hoards dolls or craft items to lose their possessions? Imagine what it does to someone who has literally dedicated their life to saving lives to go through having most or all of those lives snuffed out for no reason, and you are powerless to stop it. So asking animal control to step in is not a viable option except as a last resort.
Our own society prevents many who are overwhelmed with animals, including myself, from seeking help when they are feeling overwhelmed. Until the public is educated and understands that people who do this aren't always deliberate abusers, they're just doing the best they can in a situation they cannot control, it's not going to change. I watched the episode of Hoarders recently online with the man with all the rats, and I could identify with him. My house is the house from hell, my marriage is essentially over and if it weren't for the fact that I am a responsible adult and I have animals that need me to feed them, water them, give them medication and take them to the vet, I would pack my car with a few clothes and prized possessions tomorrow and run far away. These are my fears. Thanks for reading.