The other day, my 14-year-old son, Graham, was sitting on the couch looking at one of our foster cats. Stroking the cat, he said, "I just love you so much, Dusty." I told Graham that while it was going to be difficult to give the Three Amigos up for adoption, we had done the most loving thing for them we could: give them seven weeks of food, shelter, attention and care, so they could be ready for lives with other families. Many of the kittens coming in to the shelter right now have to be euthanized for lack of space. It is figuratively raining kittens and puppies; the shelter does not have enough space or foster care for them all.
Thinking on it, I realize that taking responsibility for another being's welfare (cat, dog, child) leads to a strong emotional bond. These three kittens we picked up seven weeks ago needed us, but have given us so much in return. I follow the Dalai Lama on Facebook (of all places), and just this week he posted:
"Foolish, selfish people are always thinking of themselves and the result is always negative. Wise persons think of others, helping them as much as they can, and the result is happiness. Love and compassion are beneficial both for you and others. Through your kindness to others, your mind and heart will open to peace."
We watched Lucky, Dusty and Ned grow from tiny little orange balls of fur into happy, social, healthy and well-adjusted young cats. The first few weeks, the differences were apparent on a daily basis. Their personalities took hold, their looks became more distinct, their legs lengthened, their teeth came in, their ears became gigantic, and we all grew to love them.
But we can't keep them. We have four cats of our own, and more to foster, more to save from the needle. I told Graham that giving up the Amigos means we can love more cats, save more lives. He said, "But they're the FIRST ONES."
And I understand that completely -- there will be other kittens. And we will grow to love them all before we have to give them up. But Lucky, Dusty and Ned were the ones who taught us how to hold the bottle just so to help a little one nurse. They taught us that cleaning up little poops and pee-spots isn't the worst thing in the world. We learned about the amazing speed of development in a young animal, how to be patient during teething, how to tolerate dozens of tiny scratches on the backs of our hands (little claws can't retract, so every touch from little paws can leave a mark.) They napped on our laps. They licked our faces. They made us laugh. And they came running to the door every day when I came home from work.
Today they're in surgery; I'll pick them up this afternoon. They'll have an opportunity to recuperate, and in the next few days, I will take them to the pet store and say good-bye. It won't take long for them to find new homes -- kittens sometimes are only at the pet store a few hours before they find a new family. Won't I be sad? Of course. Will I cry? Definitely. But I am so proud and happy to have been a little part of an organization that helps orphaned, unwanted, and stray animals find their forever homes.
Adios, Amigos! I love you guys!
(P.S. Top to bottom are Lucky, Ned and Dusty.)