A letter from the Chair of the Athens Cat Foster Program:
Rescue is hard. I hear that every single day – from animal control caretakers to rescue
group foster homes. It’s hard. It’s emotionally draining. But what we do DOES make a difference, and that is what keeps us going and keeps us motivated.
I started in rescue the first day at my first job I had in college. I worked for a local pet store, which also had a small rescue group. It was inevitably summer – the WORST time of year for cat rescuers: kitten season. I walked into the back room, and there were crates stacked on crates full of cats and kittens. The Coordinator at the time asked if I was interested in fostering, and since I missed having a cat, I happily and excitedly accepted. I brought home a single bottle baby brown tabby kitten. He was maybe 3-4 days old and incredibly small. An older gentleman brought him to the store when he found him abandoned in the parking lot.
Any rescuer could have told me right then: You will foster fail this kitten. You will not have the willpower to give up this tiny kitten that you woke up every 2 hours to feed, asked your senior dog to lick his butt so he’d finally poop, and that you worried about for weeks on end. And that hypothetical rescuer was right. I adopted Finley, that stinky little brown tabby, and was hooked on rescue.
I joined the Coordinator in fostering cats and dogs, finding foster homes, and helping run adoption events. Most of it was a blur, especially that summer. So many cats and dogs were coming in and out, which was a great thing. We were quite successful and pulled a lot of animals from Athens-Clarke County Animal Control my first year – more than any other rescue group. But, there was one poignant moment in that first year that changed me.
It was the Fall after kitten season, but animal control was still over capacity with more and more kittens and cats coming in daily. I went in looking to pull 2 (maybe 3) cats, but when I walked into their back room, I saw her. The most beautiful calico cat, who was just euthanized, and laying in a black trash bag with her face peeking through. I burst into tears. I knew I couldn’t leave any of those cats there knowing they would be euthanized for space. The Coordinator and I cleared the shelter that day. We took in 20 cats each.
Now, I know this is not the norm for most people (and shouldn’t be). But rescue isn’t hard because it’s hard to let the cats get adopted (which is the main reason I hear from people who say that they can’t foster), but because there’s always more animals to save. That is what is exhausting. Knowing that without legislation requiring spaying and neutering, there will always be homeless pets. This became one of my main focuses as a rescuer – educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering and always and only adopting out to homes who shared this belief.
The next poignant moment in my rescue career happened in my second kitten season. The Coordinator, who I worked with so closely, was moving to Atlanta. The owner decided that with her leaving, he wanted to close down the rescue. This was heartbreaking, not only because of the time and love I had put into it, but also because he told me to euthanize the 21 cats and senior dog I had left in the program. I desperately reached out to Circle of Friends Animal Society, the rescue group who I set up beside at adoption events for the past year every weekend. Cathy, the Chairwoman, graciously accepted me and the animals with open arms. I remember reading her email and crying tears of happiness and relief.
So in June 2014, the cat group in Athens started. I would set up adoption events every weekend with my 21 foster cats and our old senior English Setter, Rex. It is crazy to look back and see how much we’ve grown and changed; how many animals have found homes; how many amazing people I’ve met. I am so grateful for Cathy (and COFAS) for taking me in. COFAS is a family, and I couldn’t imagine a better one to be in.
– Megan Hong