Last night I had one of those moments, the kind that strikes every animal lover unexpectedly and out of a clear blue sky. I see this happen often to other volunteers in the shelter, usually when they’re faced with a sick or injured arrival…where a happy ending is in doubt.
My moment came because Pumpkin was playing with a toy.
Pumpkin is an old cat who looks like an old cat. He has the barrel chest and the too-skinny hips and the long teeth of the elderly. His coat is just a bit too dry and always looks like he could use a good combing. The vet guesstimated him as 13ish, probably a bit older but certainly no younger.
But Pumpkin is affectionate. He will follow us around the clinic area, where he resides, talking nonstop in his gravely old man’s voice and butting his head against a willing leg. When a lap becomes available, Pumpkin is there to climb in, if head scratches are being given out, Pumpkin is there to get his share.
Pumpkin was obviously loved by somebody at some time, yet he came to us as a street cat, filthy and alone, with nobody to offer a warm lap and some head scratches.
How did this once-loved and once very handsome boy come to this – spending his twilight time in a shelter instead of his own comfortable home with his own person to love him? Was he lost, or abandoned, or did his owner die and leave him with nowhere to go?
I don’t know those answers. I’ll probably never know them, since Pumpkin can’t speak English and I can’t understand Cat. What I do know is that what has happened to this fine old cat is so wrong and so unfair. For this affectionate, sweet-natured elderly fellow to have to spend his remaining time in a shelter instead of snoozing in a sunny window and sleeping on his owner’s bed at night is beyond sorrowful. Yes, we love Pumpkin and he gets head scratches and good food and a warm bed. But that bed is not his, just as some other cat has undoubtedly already claimed the toy that Pumpkin was playing with last night.
Those are the realities of shelter life, and last night it made me cry.