My Experiences with Cat Rescue During COVID
My disjointed thoughts of the past few years of my life and what COVID has taught me.
Life is an ebb and flow; if you fight the riptide, you will get overwhelmed. Sometimes, you feel like you are treading water, making no progress. Other times, you’re being pulled out to sea. Just swim parallel to the shore; the opportunity to advance will reveal itself. Never panic; you will not drown. Lifeguards are nice, too.
COVID has been the longest month of my life. Do you all remember March 2020 and the “year” that was April 2020? Chubbs had come home to Marysville to be our office cat a block from where he had been plucked, but then the world paused. People froze in place. Toilet paper flew off the shelves. Then came the day of the shutdown: everyone was driving crazy and running stop signs. People locked up as if a great black COVID fog was going to envelope the earth like some horror film. I would spray every item before placing it in my car, or deliver to my mom and dad’s porch as I hugged them from afar.
Cruise ships were stuck at sea. Friends were stuck in foreign lands.
I remember “sneaking” into the Resource Center with a story about “essential business” in case the police stopped me to find Chubbs alone and afraid in an echoing office. It felt as if the universe was echoing around us. I brought Chubbs to my home “to wait it out.”
For brief moments, the silence was glorious: no planes overhead, few cars in the streets; the din was muted and the planet continued turning. The silence gave us a chance to hear birds, wind, distant waters rushing, even in the cities. Then, I would remember why there was the silence, as I retreated, waiting for the plague.
“Quarantine with Jean” was a thing as I took Facebook viewers with me, feeding my colonies, trapping, cooking; I was alone, but not lonely. I found a dog; I rode my bike; I listened to music. My son changed to a 100% homeschooling model. I spent days in my pjs. I cut my own hair.
Since I was Marysville FieldHaven staff working with TNR, I took a leave, but while I hunkered down, there were still 80+ cats at the shelter. There were still lives that needed care. Jen, Joy, and shelter volunteers found a way and would show up at shelter every day, mostly avoiding each other or speaking loudly across the yard to avoid six feet.
The cats were breeding and the phones were ringing; for a moment, we felt helpless. We are a spay neuter clinic and our med room was closed.
We are FieldHaven and for every cat, for every situation, a solution, and for every adversity, a challenge to meet.
While other shelters and rescues stated, “There’s nothing we can do,” Joy asked, “What can we do?” We had wanted to take on a model of “un-sheltering cats,” but in pre-Covid times, we didn’t know how. COVID presented an opportunity to do just that.
We learned Zoom. We talked, we strategized, and we never gave up. We changed and evolved to meet a challenge unlike any challenge anyone had ever faced. Community/Cat Assistance Team was reinvented. CAT meetings became a thing to look forward to. I got to know the faces behind the voices and relished those Thursday morning meetings. I still do.
We found our “safe circles,” we trapped alone, and we ran skeleton crews at the clinic, fixing every mama cat we could. We talked to the public from across their lawns. FieldHaven was on the streets, inventing our new normal as opposed to being a victim of it. No litters came in without the mama.
Slowly, our gears started grinding. I was brought in to help with the clinic. We put every safety measure in place. While much of the planet was frozen, we had to get out and save furry lives. We reopened the clinic: 15 cats per week.
Now, we are operating at four times what we were doing pre COVID: 70 to 80 cats per week, still masked. Until recently, we had (overall) ducked and dodged the virus. As other shelters’ staff were constantly sick, we remained diligent and COVID-free.
Oops. Well, with the new Delta variant, it isn’t a matter of “if” you will get the virus, but more a matter of “when.”
Because of the machine we had carefully constructed, our gears can and will continue to turn thanks to Joy and Jen and the rest of the dedicated team. I am blessed and honored to be a part of this great organization. We are leading the way, saving more lives than ever. With Dallas at the helm, entering during the kitten-season-from-hell, with her compassion and knowledge, we have fielded more kittens than ever before. Audra transferred 600+ early in the 2021 season knowing the tidal wave was just around the corner.
This challenge gave many a chance to step back for a moment and reevaluate, because when we are in the heat of rescue work, sometimes we look up and another year has gotten by us. So, while some volunteers have gone in different directions, vacations, families, new priorities, new volunteers have come on. Every single person has touched my life so profoundly, if only for a moment.
What has your experience with cat rescue been during COVID-19?