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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

What it's all for

What does it mean to be human? Why is it that some days, all you can think of are all the sad things that have happened in your life, and not some of the great things? Is that part of being human?

Take, for instance, a cat named Jeffrey who was in our shelter late last year.

Tonight, I just can't stop thinking about him. I wasn't particularly attached, and I hadn't really spent that much time with him. He was obviously a friendly and very easy going cat, however.

So far, there was nothing really remarkable about him that would make me remember him many years later. He wasn't at the shelter for a long time. I know he was a great cat, but we have a lot of great cats. I actually do remember a lot of them, if you can jog my memory a bit.

To continue on with the story, I noticed he sure seemed to be drinking a lot of water, and, conversely, urinating a lot. This is not a good thing, so I checked in with my manager, LG, and had him set up to go to the vet, and to monitor him until the vet came in next week.

Here is where the story gets memorable for me. That same day, before we took Jeffrey out of the adoption habitats, a mother and her young daughter came in and spent time with him. It was just them in the household, and they were looking for a friend. Jeffrey really fit the bill, and for good reason. He was really playful, friendly, didn't mind tummy rubs, was good about being held. Truly, a great cat for them. In fact, this was "just the cat [they] had been waiting for." I was very excited, and so were they. Sounded like a great adoption to be!

I did tell them, we need to hold off on the adoption for now. I noticed he's been drinking a lot, and before sending him home, I'd like to have him checked out by the vet on Tuesday to see what's up. I took their info so we could try and hold Jeffrey for them after his vet check-up.

What the vet found out was very depressing. A large solid lump on the kidney, that could be felt from touching the skin. X-rays showed a large mass there. Further investigation was worse. Even if operated on, this tumor had significantly affected Jeffrey's kidney functions. His quality of life would begin to decline. After a few days of second opinions and re-checks to verify his prognosis, it was decided the best thing to do was to euthanize him so he would not have to suffer.

And that leaves me with this family, the mother and daughter, who had found just the cat they had been waiting for. The cat they had been waiting for, Jeffrey, was soon to leave the earth.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't make the call. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep myself together. I asked LD to make the call. I decided to go to a different room, and not listen. It still bothers me, though. I feel awful. I know it must have broken that girl's heart. It really broke mine. Are they ever going to find the cat they were really looking for? I don't know, but I really hope so.

Now I bring myself back to one of those days, those long nights, when I get sad and think of some of these things, like poor Jeffrey. Why are humans the way we are? Why do we have emotions like this?

And then I think of Vinnie, the cat I wrote about in my very first blog. I feel a great sadness when I think of his passing, and I really miss him.

Tonight, I realize about the other things I think about when I think about him. About how happy he made me feel, and how much love I had for him. The way I would look forward to hearing his silly meow every morning. I don't miss him because something bad happened to him, but because I miss what he meant when he was with us, how he affected my life.

That, I now know, is what it's all for.

Vinnie was like a god of love...he just had that effect and unfortunately I was never able to meet him.

I'm sorry things didn't work out for Jeffrey.


When you live in a house with one or two cats, you only have to deal with that decision once in a decade or even once in 15 or 16 years. When you work in a building with 30 cats, you have to make that decision more often.

I am not sure if Sheba is still in the Oakland facility, but if she is, you might want to direct those nice people to adopt her. Lovely cat, if a bit timid.

It was wise to take care of Jeffrey then and there, instead of breaking that family's hearts. I'm sorry you feel so sad right now. Its never easy.


Sheba was recently adopted! Thanks for your kind words Elaine. Jeffrey actually passed in December of '05, so it's been a while now. I know LD invited them to visit some of the other cats, but I'm not sure where they ended up going.

There are a lot of other sad moments and tough decisions, and I don't ever forget them.

I used Jeffrey & Vinnie in attempt to write my story, but a lot of it was used leading up to my short conclusion. In effect, I believe we miss "old friends" because they are just that -- friends who brought us joy and happiness. It's not the grief of their death that matters, but the loss of their love.


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