Sunday, February 01, 2009
Crooked StanleyStanley was a smelly, scrawny orange kitten who came into our shelter on my birthday, and began our acquaintance by biting me. Sure it hadn't been hard enough to draw blood, but it seemed inauspicious. Because I was the birthday girl, our feline associate (Jenna) gave me the honor of naming him. He seemed moody and a little violent, so I decided to name him Stanley after my favorite film director, Stanley Kubrick. My boyfriend warned me to save that name for another animal, since I had always talked about using it. However, kittens get adopted very quickly at our shelter, so I figured Stanley would be up for adoption for a week or two before he got snapped up, and I'd forget all about him. This was in November 2008, and little did I know I wouldn't be forgetting Stanley anytime soon.
At any rate, Stanley was put up for adoption. And he only stayed there for a day before Jenna noticed him sneezing and tilting his head. So, he went into our isolation ward and got started on some antibiotics for what was assumed to be a URI (Upper Respiratory Infection – a treatable illness that’s common in shelter cats.) A week or so passed, and I visited him regularly, which was probably a bad idea… I guess you can assume what happened then; I got attached. It seems his initial response to me was fear-driven, because from then on he started to purr just seeing me walk up to his cage. He was the kind of cat that would snuggle up to any available human, even if all the human he could access was a couple of fingers through the bars of his cage. He even licked my nose just about every time I held him in my arms.
After the next weekend, I came back to find Stanley's cage empty. After a small moment of panic I found him in our holding room with a "DO NOT HANDLE" sign on his cage. When I asked Jenna about this, she said that our office vet had to run some tests on him. Apparently his head tilt hadn't gone away, and when placed on the ground in a large room, he would walk with a strange, wobbly gait and occasionally trip over his own feet. This hadn't been noticed before because he was in a cage just big enough for him to stand and walk a few steps in. So, blood tests for poisoning and disease were needed. I spent most of the week worrying about him, and even opened his cage for the occasional pat, (even though its against shelter policy; if my bosses are reading this, I washed my hands up to the elbow before and after, I swear!)
Anyway, once the test results came back, they showed that Stanley was in good health. The most likely explanation for his problem lay in a genetic disorder called cerebellar hypoplasia. Similar to cerebral palsy in humans, its main symptoms are poor balance, irregular gait and perceptual abnormalities, all of which Stanley had in some form. However, his case seemed mild. So, our shelter being as gracious as it is, he was deemed adoptable, albeit with a medical waiver outlining his condition.
So, he went out in public view, and was a resounding failure at attracting potential adopters. I could insert a cynical comment here, but I don't think it really fits in with this story's beginning, or its outcome. I told myself that if he wasn't adopted by the end of the year, I would take him home. The only thing that kept me from taking him home in the first place was the reality of my life; I already have two prima donna female cats, I live in a teeny one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, and both of us work full-time. Although that didn't stop me from thinking "don't you DARE take my Stanley!" every time I saw someone poking their fingers through the bars of Stanley's cage. I nearly exploded when I heard someone mutter “that cat’s only got half a brain!”
However, nearly a month later, a woman came in to rent a feral cat trap (our shelter has a program where private citizens can humanely trap feral cats, bring them to our clinic to get them spayed/neutered free of charge, and then re-release them, thusly stopping population growth without killing.) Anyway, she was about my mom's age, and had been working with our shelter's cat program for nearly 3 years. She works from home, so she has ample free time to devote to helping us. I processed her trap rental, but since she was in no particular hurry, she decided to look at our cats. I talked to her for a good half hour about all things cat-related, and somehow Stanley came up.
Fortunately it was a slow day, so I had time to tell her all about him, and even take him out of his cage so she could see how sweet was. She was very taken with him, and he warmed up to her right away, to the point of doing the heart-melting nose lick. She said she would have loved to take him home, but couldn't really justify the expense. I felt a bit saddened by this, because to me she seemed like the ideal owner for him.
About five days later, a woman about my age came into the shelter, and immediately asked about Stanley. It turns out that the woman who had come in previously was her mother-in-law, and had mentioned Stanley wistfully several times since then. After peppering me with questions about his condition (she was actually a registered nurse) she asked if she could adopt him for her mother-in-law as an early Christmas gift. At that moment, I felt my chest get a little lighter, a feeling I now can only describe as joy! However, it is shelter policy not to adopt animals out to anyone who intends to give the animal as a gift. We want our adoption process to be as informed as possible. We do, however, offer gift certificates! So, I sold her a gift certificate and spent the rest of the day smiling, and cuddling Stanley whenever I had a spare moment.
The next day, I was eating lunch in the lounge when Michelle (one of our volunteers) came in and told me that Stanley was getting adopted, and that his new owner had asked for me by name. Immediately, I put aside my crossword puzzle and practically ran into the lobby. It was her, of course, and she said she was so happy I was here to see Stanley go home. In retrospect, I should have given her a hug. But all I thought to do was smile and hold Stanley on my lap as another employee processed the paperwork. So, after another 10 minutes of fervent thank yous being sent back and forth, I put Stanley in his new carrier and walked him and his new owner out the door, telling her to call my extension whenever she wanted to.
After Stanley went out the door, I felt a little sadness rising in the back of my throat, but it was overwhelmed by the feeling that he was going to a wonderful new home. And I admit, I felt some pride as well. Not really pride at having been an advocate for a fellow creature in need, but pride that I had resisted the selfish urge to keep him for myself in favor of letting someone else have a chance, especially someone who could give him a better home than I could have.