CHRONICLE HERALD: Showing animals love makes a difference

Posted on: Tuesday, November 28th, 2017


It’s heartbreaking to see an animal who has led a life of abuse, neglect or hardship. We can’t explain to them that we’re there to help when, until now, humans have been cruel to them … that we’ll help their pain go away and their fears fade … that a shelter kennel is just a step to a better life. Nor can we explain that they’re safe now and will be loved. All we can do is ask them to trust us.

It’s heartwarming to see an animal who has had a hard life receive the care and love they need. As a NS SPCA volunteer, I’ve seen rescued animals undergo remarkable transformations — from fearful to laid-back, shy to outgoing, hopeless to happy. The SPCA makes a life-changing difference for thousands of homeless animals every year, healing hurts and hearts to give them a chance at happiness.

This work wouldn’t be possible without the kindness of strangers who report animal cruelty, the patience of knowledgeable caring staff, the dedication of countless volunteers and the families who open their hearts and homes to adopt a deserving animal.

Charlie was given a second chance by a caring community of people that refused to turn their back on an abandoned cat.

Before being rescued, Charlie’s life was one of struggle and adversity. For eight years, he survived harsh winters and stifling summers huddled under a trailer with several feral cats. Charlie’s fortune turned when he was rescued through the HRM’s TNR program and brought to warmth and safety at the SPCA shelter. He arrived in terrible condition, emaciated and with ear mites, ulcerated gums, raspy breathing and patchy fur. Nineteen teeth needed extraction and his coat was severely matted. After a week of antibiotics and pain meds, he underwent neutering and dental surgery.

Then he was shaved from whiskers to tail and microchipped. Charlie’s recovery was slow. Medical care was the first critical step in his rehabilitation but rescued animals need to heal emotionally too. At the shelter, Charlie got the first loving touch he likely had in years. Over two months, he started to trust people but needed to be socialized in a foster home before being put up for adoption. So the call went out to find Charlie a foster family. Pat Jessup and her husband had never fostered a cat. \

Their beloved kitty had died, leaving a huge hole in their hearts. They thought fostering would fill a void while preparing a deserving cat for his ‘forever’ home. Jessup says when she saw the call for fostering help, “the photo of Charlie did me in. His eyes told a story of defeat, neglect and sadness. I had to help”. For several weeks, Charlie hid and only came out to eat and use the litter box. He wouldn’t let anyone near and bolted at the slightest noise.

“I’d visit him in his safe place, talk softly and lie beside him.” Eventually, new light came into his eyes. Five weeks later, Charlie had captured the couple’s hearts and they adopted him. “I think I knew deep down when I met him that this fellow was a keeper.”

Charlie’s transformation has been remarkable. His expression in his ‘after’ photo says it all — he realizes he is home, safe and loved.

“Every morning he runs to greet me, offering his paw to say hello,” relates Jessup. “He often lies belly-up for a rub, his purring machine turned on high.”

Vestiges of his old life still remain — brooms and men wearing shoes scare him, and he runs and hides. Yet Charlie loves a crowd, particularly kids who want to pet him.“When I think how our life with Charlie came to be, I’m reminded of the saying ‘it takes a village,’” Jessup says.

“I’m grateful for everyone who had a hand in our boy’s rescue and recovery — from folks who spend their spare time trapping feral cats to drivers who bring animals to the shelter … from SPCA staff who work so hard to coax rescued animals, to volunteer ‘cat cuddlers’ who provide much-needed TLC … to foster families who help restore broken souls.

In Charlie’s case, his recovery spanned four months of love and attention on the path to healing. Saying ‘thank you’ to all these people just doesn’t seem enough.” To anyone considering fostering or adopting a homeless animal, Jessup says,

“It’s a labour of love, but well worth it. Charlie gives back his love every day in so many ways.”

Please give other homeless animals like Charlie a chance to live the life they deserve. Support the NS SPCA and rescue groups in their labours of love.

Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their two adopted pets. A lifelong animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.