Update Saturday, January 17th:
I received this email yesterday from Daniel at the SFSPCA. I hope he doesn't mind me cutting and pasting his message here, but I think his words say it best.
I wanted to let you know that our best boy Gilroy has not been doing well. His health has been declining and the vet's decision is to humanely euthanize him tomorrow. We are all very sorry to see him pass but ultimately we know that he is not going to get better. It's the right thing to do to let him go. Gilroy touched a lot of people both at the SPCA and outside and he will forever be my Media Martyr. I wanted to be the first to let you know that this decision was made and also to thank you for taking time and emotion to post him on your blog. These shelter realities are hard to digest but the best way to look at this is with positivity. Gilroy received more love than we ever expected and his quality of life was the best any cat with his condition could hope for. We've been feeding him Organic raw baked chicken all day just to see him perk up.
Please know that you were a part of many people who were inspired by him and your attention paid to special needs cats is a vital part in the big picture. Gilroy and the SFSPCA thank you.
I'm pretty crushed, but Daniel's right, Gilroy had an awesome life for the short time we knew him and I take comfort in that.
For the past six months or so, I've been volunteering with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA) in the cat adoption center. I decided to volunteer there because when I adopted Sam and Lucy as kittens in 2007, the volunteer who helped me was awesome and saintly and made me so happy that I wanted to do what she did: make other people happy by helping them adopt new pets.
Since I've been working there, I've gotten a much keener sense of what goes into running an adoption center. Kittens (and puppies, obvs) are easy to place in loving homes because everybody wants them (I know I did!). The real challenges are the older animals because they already have a look and a personality and often come with baggage that affects their behavior. Maybe they were abandoned, or abused, or their owner died, or they just got lost in the world somehow. I won't lie to you... it's heartbreaking at times to walk by their little rooms (which are very nice, btw) and see them sitting in there... lonely, hopeful, scared, confused.
Cats are occasionally returned after being adopted (the SPCA will accept them back at any point in the cat's lifetime) for reasons you wouldn't expect: the cat meowed too often, or peed outside their box, or shed too heavily... the list goes on. I mean, these are people who supposedly wanted to save an adult cat, and ended up not having the time, or the energy, or just didn't like the inconvenience of welcoming a needy animal into their home. I have to actively try not to be angry about this, and instead concentrate on giving the cats who are in the shelter as much love as possible while they're on the market.
Some cats have "special needs", which is a lot like the special needs of their human counterparts: a bad hind leg, or a heart murmur, necessary medication, that kind of thing... pretty much anything that goes beyond food/litter/love. Obviously a special needs cat isn't for everyone because most folks don't feel they can handle the added responsibility. But for the people who can (and I know you're out there because I've already met some of you at the SPCA), it can be of the most rewarding experiences ever.
So, what kinds of cats have special needs, you ask? Excellent question! Let's talk about my new feline boyfriend Gilroy.
Gilroy was surrendered to San Francisco Animal Care and Control for unknown reasons on 5/14/08 (forever ago). He spent over a month in the infirmary with bad diarrhea and weight loss. Poor guy endured tests upon tests and lots of dietary changes as the vets tried to determine what was wrong. Eventually he was moved into the Cat Behavior office and, over the course of four months, gained back weight and stopped, er, pooping everywhere. He now eats a special kind of food, IVD Rabbit, which seems to soothe his delicate tummy. He also takes two daily pills and a weekly pill to keep his system strong and healthy.
Despite his past trauma and current needs, Gilroy is truly special in every way. An unapologetic people person who hates to be pushed away, Gilroy loves laps, loves to play, and enjoys helping you type at the computer despite the fact that his spelling leaves much to be desired. He's also a cross-dresser and enjoys wearing outfits while being walked on a leash (if you know cats at all, you know this is extremely rare). He's a vocal guy whether he's happy, or cranky, or just wants treats. He really can't have much besides his bunny food, but you can't blame a guy for trying. Oh, and he meows like a duck.
Gilroy's a scrappy guy with some hair loss on his ears and neck, and a broken tail. He's got nice fur overall and enjoys a good grooming session to stay untangled. Basically, he's a punk rocker and everybody at the SPCA loves his Sid Vicous impression. The deal with Gilroy is that because of his tummy troubles, he needs a larger-than-average litter box and an adopter who's patient with him if he doesn't always quite, you know, make it. He's been known to pass gas, which is hysterical (sorry Gil). As you can imagine, Gilroy's special needs are a turnoff for many people and he's been hanging out in the Cat Behavior office for a long time, waiting to find the person that will accept him for who he is.
I'm telling you about Gilroy because I want to spread the word about special needs animals and what wonderful pets they can be to the person who can see past their quirks. I know most of you don't live in the San Francisco area, but if you happen to be local and know someone who might be a good parent to Gilroy, give the SPCA a call at (415) 522-3526 and ask for Daniel, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, serious inquiries only.
I'd like to continue posts like this periodically. Even though it's kind of a departure from what I normally write about, it makes me feel good to help. Let me know what you think!