Too Many Tales

We waded into a sea of faces masked in markings of black and white, gray and ginger, eyes shining through from a galaxy all their own. There were jewels in each look, some sparkling, others sadder from losing their luster. Tails were confident and questioning, like sails bringing a fleet of ships into the harbor of our hearts. We were immediately surrounded, immediately surrendering to whatever fate had in store for us too. It was almost Dickensian, so many orphans vying for our attention, the first tiny one put in my arms thinner than should be survivable but as hungry for love. How frightened he was, not to be held but let go, rejected that day and every other, the moment all the hope he had, the back of a cage somewhere to disappear in forever.
Mom sat in a chair as wobbly as her resolve, a queen holding audience for hardly deferential subjects curling and climbing and clamoring to be her favorite. It seemed the most natural thing for her to be covered with such a crowd, lying at and even on her feet, piling into her lap, begging her embrace. She was as adoring as adored, her shoulders easily bearing the weight, her neck encircled, her composure finally crowned. She reached up to see who was so agile and awkward at the same time, a long slender creature with eyes closing tighter and contentment sounding louder. Oh, that’s Tilly—we were told—she was recently adopted and returned a few days later. Returned? Like a piece of clothing that didn’t fit right? Or an appliance that didn’t work? Oh—it was edgily explained—the lady said she couldn’t deal with such a loving creature.
There wasn’t any doubt. Tilly was affectionate enough to bring the warring world to its knees. She would never give up on love, never stop believing caresses and kisses and kindness were what she was born for. She was soft and white with an upturned pink nose and silky black cap framing her forehead and veiling her ears, a matching cape dressing her back and trailing down her tail. She was limp and lovely in my mother’s arms, her eyes suddenly swirling green and lifting up, still looking for a promise though they knew it could be broken.

The manager and volunteers did their best, taking in every cat abandoned to abandonment, providing more than food and shelter, healing wounds, offering a place of belonging for days or weeks or years. They knew every name, each personality, and all the stories that should’ve been too many to remember. They might’ve been glad of anyone to take some of the responsibility off their hands, but there was something more important to consider than seeing the numbers decline.
And so more cats came than went, left at the door and in the road, found in snow banks and ditches and barns, rescued from fighting and pregnancy and disease, given the chance to grow up and be cherished. What was it like when their crowded but companionable world was raided? How frightening was it to be counted and cataloged and taken away? Perhaps it was all for the good, everyone finally paying attention and wanting to help. But accusations didn’t acknowledge the good intentions that weren’t ever lost, just overwhelmed because they were so undervalued.
There’s confusion in my heart over what the shelter did right and how it went wrong.  
And why we didn’t take Tilly. We were reassured she would soon be adopted again and continued with our choice of a kitten. We left with the skinny one, who never let us doubt his happiness. And his brother, a munchkin, who a few days later almost stopped breathing but was saved for a lifetime of memories and a tale for another day.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Writing note: Recently our local No-Kill animal shelter–the Wyoming Country SPCA (that my mother and I have supported for years)–was raided and declared unfit, the manager vilified for hoarding. Over 500 cats were found at the shelter (many many more than when our visit depicted in this post occurred).The hyped reporting of this for the most part failed to offer the real reason why the population of cats had increased so, making the care of them so difficult with the limited funds (from public donations) and help (mainly volunteers) available. This shelter is in a very rural area where cats and kittens were regularly and often pitilessly dropped off, and those coming to ‘adopt’ too frequently just wanted a cat or two to throw in a barn and keep down the mice. The manager did not want that kind of life for any of the cats who had already been rescued from dangerous and neglectful situations and was fussy about the kind of HOMES they went to, charging a minimal fee to ensure they were really wanted. She had been on local TV and through other means advertised the overpopulated situation at the shelter, but until the raid little help was forthcoming. It was reported that 30 cats were euthanized because of poor health but most were taken by other local SPCAs who have been adopting them out for free, hopefully, to secure and loving lives.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

19 thoughts on “Too Many Tales

  1. Pingback: For International Cat Day: Portrait of Mischief and Love – bardessdmdenton – author- artist

  2. This is powerful, Diane. Ethel is always upset about the animal situation around here. This area is filled with those without the means to take care of animals. Still, they adopt them, too often abandoning them on Highway 40 with more semis than road. We see horses left out in the desert starving and desperate for just a day of good grass. And there are so many of them! I just wish someone had an answer, but your post reveals the terrible dilemma and complexity facing those with good intentions and too few resources. Thanks for this.


    • Thank YOU, Thomas, for reading with such empathy. Yes, it’s too easy to take on animals without consideration for the time and expense and heartfelt attention needed. And so so sad that one story like this echoes in too many others. I’m heartsick to hear that about the horses left in the dessert…makes one feel so helpless…


  3. Diane – please please please send your eloquently written article to the BEN, and include your beautiful drawings. This is such a sad situation and I hope that only good comes out of it!


  4. This is so moving and vivid, Diane. Beautiful illustrations as always. A similar situation arose close to my home town: someone doing their very best to help abandaned animals and then being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. It’s very sad that such compassion can lead to difficulty and even condemnation.


    • Thank you! Yes, there are too many situations like this…and it brings home the saying: ‘He has the right to criticize if he has the heart to help’.

      I have fostered the thoughts of having a cat refuge one day, if ever I have the resources, but this makes one realize that it is not as simple as having good intentions. There are many things to consider.


  5. Hi Diane, this sad story is so important, we should all be aware of animals that are unwanted before taking a kitten in the house.
    I love those drawings of yours, those cats are so beautiful! I wish I could take them all in my house!


    • Yes, as much as I would love to have more (we had up to nine at one time) I have to realize my limitations in time and space and finances. Especially hard to bring in mature cats when you have others…easier to blend in a kitten or two.

      But fortunately, once the news was out, alot of older people stepped up to adopt many of these grown cats…afterall they are already spayed or neutered and litter trained, etc. And of course so glad for the affection and security!

      Glad you liked the illustrations. Thank you!


  6. So very sad this shelter that was swimming against the current in your area of feline neglect and abuse was raided! So pleased most of the cats got homes, however! Very well written in a most balanced and impartial light, in spite of your love for these animals and their welfare. You and your mother are so very wonderful!


    • Thanks so much for reading and caring, Granbee! My mom has diabetes and after that day of sitting in the shelter covered in cats her glucose reading was lower than it had ever been! Oh, we wanted to take them all. Even when the shelter was raided, there were many many beautiful cats…healthy and happy looking…so the manager must’ve been doing something right against all odds. Blessings!


  7. This short really tugged at my heartstrings. You were able to capture the emotions of the cats in use of your strong words. Hopefully people reading this will donate to their local humane societies.


  8. Wow! I am glad it worked out that most got homes. I undestand though about wanting ‘proper’ homes for the adopt a cats. With a goat dairy herd, I also look for the best homes for my animals and they are hard to come by. You have written this out well and with compassion and your drawings are outstanding! Just love your style!


    • Thank you so much for reading, fisherlady, and your kind and interesting comment. Yes, often people think they want a pet, but don’t realize the care and expense and emotional investment that is involved–the latter being as important as anything.

      By the way, it is one of my dreams to have a few goats someday! I just adore them!


  9. This is so sad. I’m so sorry to hear that someone’s best intentions to help were not enough to stem the tide of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately this happens a lot, or at least it seems so to me, going by the frequency of similar reports seen on the local TV news. If I wasn’t allergic I’d love to adopt a couple of cats…

    Your drawings are beautiful!


    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Barbara! Yes, it is a sad tale…but perhaps things had to come to a head for the plight of shelters, many of which are no-kill or striving to be. From what I understand, in New York State those that still euthanize unwanted animals receive some state funding while no kill shelters don’t. Does that make sense? I believe all SPCAs should be interconnected, so when one becomes overburdened others can help. And funding should come with regulations for the safety and well-being of the animals. I know much heart went into the running of this shelter, but location and thus circumstances got the better of it.


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