It was a beautiful sunny day when Martha and I arrived at a rural home in Oak Harbor to collect cats and dogs facing eviction. Martha Burdick of Whidbey Cat Spay/Neuter had been working with the couple and helping them to get their pets spayed and neutered, but neutered or not, the ten dogs and estimated forty-plus cats were faced with eviction and had no place to go.
Initially, the idea of rescuing such a group sounded exciting and daunting. Our county shelter has limited space and resources and is not able to accommodate such large numbers of animals, many with behavior issues, and all with heavy parasite burdens.
Being well-connected, Martha found rescue groups willing to take the dogs, which were mostly too unsocialized to be placed yet as pets. She found foster homes on Whidbey to hold the dogs until they could be transported to Vashon Island and Easton for rehabilitation.
Shelters and rescues willing to accept more cats were decidedly harder to find. WAIF was able to take a few, but every other shelter spoke of long wait lists for cat admissions and their need to prioritize cats from their local area. Lacking a better idea, we decided to collect the cats, damn the torpedoes, and do the best we could for them.
While Martha was shuffling dogs around the island, I collected a car full of kennels and crates from my former employer Homeward Pet Adoption Center in Woodinville, while my man Dougie collected a huge truckload of donated kennels from Seattle Animal Shelter.
Our visit to the Oak Harbor home was sunny and pleasant, and despite a few scratches, it all went peacefully. The couple had not yet left the property and the wife was extremely helpful in catching the cats (who trusted only her) and identifying them and letting us know a little bit about each kitty. She accepted that she was unable to keep them and however emotionally hard it was for her, she signed them over to Martha.
In addition to the cats who were sort of willing to be grabbed and put into crates, we trapped some feral and semi-feral cats and brought them to my home as well. Feeling that this was not quite chaotic enough, I volunteered to house two dogs in addition to the cats.
Allow me to describe accommodations. The shed is a 12x12 structure with cement floor, a roof, a door that can be locked, and a working light fixture. It has proven quite useful for storing "stuff" and is painted to match my house. It is not intended to house anybody, though it has some history of being a wonderful place for rats, as the freezer put out heat and the rats made themselves a cozy nest one year.
Some nineteen cats and two dogs later, I found myself trying to categorize and examine our new visitors while holding back the phrase "what was I thinking?" and scrambling to find a way to eradicate the parasites before they multiplied like tribbles.
Initial relief came in the form of my neighbor Aubrie Keegan, who is with Whidbey Island Relief Fund (WIRF) that helps rescued animals in need. Aubrie not only helped to access a bit of funding for our efforts, but she dug right into the day to day feeding, cleaning, and laundry operations.
Within the first few days, I'd managed to get a vaccination into each cat, as well as a doses of flea medication, dewormer, and ear mite treatment. The "system" for feeding and cleaning was evolved from chaotic to efficient over the first several days.
Temporary litter boxes are made from the cardboard box-bottoms that held cases of canned pet foods and wrapped in plastic grocery bags courtesy of Payless Foods. Pine pellets are the cost-effective and eco-friendly answer to the need for cat litter, and we've had food donations from Bayview Farm and Garden, Goose Grocer, and The Healthy Pet.
One particularly memorable moment was the morning when I went to feed and clean before even allowing myself a morning coffee. Little Puffy is a sweet kitty and she was happy to get some attention! Her litter box was in the back of her crate, and I had to get my head into the crate in order to extract the box. Puffy, in her enthusiastic greeting, shot her tail directly upwards, and when it made contact with my forehead, I noticed that it was moist and did not smell good. Really, I still love Puffy.
Aubrie managed the first cat adoption and helped out with little Yoda's neuter. Martha brought the two feral girls to NOAH for their spay, and they are ready to move into their new barn home. Shannon Dufour-Martinez arrived on the scene to further help with daily duties and to make all of the cats wish they could go home with her.
The dogs, however sweet, became a little harder to manage. They destroyed two carabiners, a few bungee cords, and one large dog crate formerly thought to be indestructible. In addition, they did some creative remodeling of what had been a pretty new landscaping venture, but I think the holes can be filled in when spare time becomes a reality.
As of this writing, the cat count is at fourteen and the kitties are posted on YouTube, thanks to the incredible talents and generosity of Linda LaMar. Thank you Linda!!
What comes next is we'd like all these cats to find homes, temporary and permanent, because my shed is no place for anything other than short-term residence. We hope to find homes that will keep the cats indoors or have a track record for keeping them off the food chain when they go outside. The cats will all need a second round of vaccinations, and are advised to have fecal tests and feline leukemia tests done by their veterinarians, and to clean the remaining ear mite debris from their ears. We would welcome donations to help to defray costs such as their medications and vaccinations.
Help us help these cats! You are welcome to contact me, Dr. Lyn Jones, at email@example.com or at 360-320-1254, or contact Martha Burdick at WhidbeyCats@gmail.com or phone her at Whidbey Cats Spay/Neuter at 360-331-8221. Permanent homes, foster homes, and donations are needed.
We extend heartfelt thanks to Aubrie Keegan, Whidbey Island Rescue Fund, Shannon Dufour-Velasquez, Karen Moore of The Pit Stops Here for dog fostering, Kim Merritt and family for puppy fostering, Homeward Pet and Seattle Animal Shelter for kennels and crates, Rachel Donald for shuttling dogs to Easton and Vashon Island, and South Whidbey Animal Clinic for the ear mite medication. Dog Haven and Vashon Island Pet Protectors were saints for taking in the dogs, and Linda LaMar for priceless internet assistance.
Pet lovers one and all, we thank you!
Lyn Jones Dvm