The Accidental Rescue

On September 16, 2014 my friend, Lorraine, and I transported about 30 kittens to the Seattle Humane Society for the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary. Although we hadn’t done a transport together for almost a year, it’s something we have done as a team and separately, dozens of times. This transport was particularly draining emotionally and physically because 9 of the kittens were Lorraine’s foster kittens and had been really pampered. If you know Lorraine, you will know what I mean. Four of them that she had the longest absolutely could not understand why this was happening to them and cried almost the whole seven hour drive. Lorraine was the driver and I was trying to soothe them with chicken baby food and loves. They weren’t having any of it and our hearts just broke for them. Finally, the last hour, I held them on my lap and they quieted down.


After helping to settle them in the capable and compassionate hands of Jessica and Julie at Seattle Humane, we had a bite to eat and headed back home. We spent the night in Ellensburg and make it back to Spokane by noon. Lorraine wanted to show me a group of feral cats that she had discovered the previous week after a birthday luncheon at a nice restaurant in Spokane. The cats came out to beg in a corner of the parking lot as people left. They had learned that there might be leftovers to be had. Lorraine had dropped off cat food and water for them the day before our trip to Seattle and she had another bag of cat food for them with her.

Initially I saw just three kittens there and I was smitten. One was a Russian Blue and another was a long haired buff. Both were about 3-4 months old and extremely thin. We both agreed that we needed to do something to rectify this situation. Lorraine got the contact info for the assistant manager at the restaurant and we put together a plan.

Since Lorraine lives an hour and I live an hour and forty-five minutes from this restaurant, we knew we could really use some local help. We called Sue Anderson at Pet Savers and she gave us a couple names. We were lucky; the restaurant gave us permission to trap and remove the kitties and one of the ladies whose name we were given agreed to help. Her name is Kathy and she was a godsend! I also called my niece, Dawn Kiki, who has a real heart for kitties. She owns The Brambleberry Tea Cottage in Spokane and has spent the last 10 years doing TNR on feral kitties in her neighborhood. Recently a couple kittens had wandered into the yard there. One walked right into the cottage and “told” everyone that she needed a home. The other was shyer and couldn’t be touched. She became the Brambleberry Cottage “Kit Tea”. Dawn agreed to take a couple adults from the restaurant to add to her feral colony if we would take the shy kitten, work with it and find it a home. Dawn also offered to swing by the restaurant several nights a week to feed extra food until we started trapping.

We had a plan and a team. We did encounter a few problems with a family of raccoons that also live in the area. Their presence pushed the cats out of the food bowls and trapping area. Turns out they love cat food so we finally started feeding the raccoons their own food on the opposite side of a fence that cut through the area. We still caught raccoons in the trap twice though. I would jump out of my vehicle to wave the raccoons away and they would disappear into the rocks. When I would get back in my pickup and turn around, I would see three little masked faces peeking over the rocks waiting to see if the coast was clear and they could continue their investigations. It held us up some but I have to admit that they were pretty darn cute.


A few raccoons did manage to get themselves trapped instead of the kitties we were trying to catch.

Lorraine, Kathy and I took turns trapping and caught our first kitties on August 21. By August 29 we had trapped 4 young adults and 5 kittens. All were spayed, neutered and vaccinated at Pet Savers. Two adult males were added to the Brambleberry Tea Cottage colony and one went to CVAS. One young adult, five kittens from the restaurant and the Brambleberry Cottage “Kit Tea” came home with me to my guest bathroom. Kathy continues to set traps a couple hours a week to make sure that we have all the kitties.

As I brought these kitties home by ones and twos and threes, I was absolutely amazed. Although they were all very scared, there was not a hisser, a biter, a wall climber or a scratcher in the bunch. I have worked with a lot of feral kittens but never had such an easy group to work with.

It is so much easier to show kitties that people can do good things for them when they are not trying to bite, scratch and get away from us. The kittens range in age from 2 ½ months to 4 months. The first day all licked chicken baby food from my finger and all purred within a couple days. I guess when kitties are nothing but skin and bones all the good food they can eat and a safe warm place make a difference.

Brambleberry Cottage "Kit Tea" aka Faith is ready for adoption.

Brambleberry Cottage “Kit Tea” aka Faith is ready for adoption.

The “Kit Tea” who is named Faith is absolutely ready for adoption. She purrs at first touch and plays like a maniac. She loves to sit in my lap and get her pets and rolls over so I can rub her belly too.

Anthony the Russian Blue and Autumn the Tortie/Calico

Anthony the Russian Blue and Autumn the Tortie/Calico

Anthony, the Russian Blue that I first spied at the restaurant, is the “mommy” of the group. Russian Blues are known for their good temperaments and he is a testimonial to that. He washes all the kitties and the shyer ones snuggle close to him. He purrs, plays and readily accepts my loves. He too loves his belly rubbed.



Cleopatra, a short haired black female, and Avista, a short haired torti, are the shyest (and youngest) of the group. They both love to snuggle with Anthony. After lots of chicken baby food on my finger when they are safely enveloped in the warmth of their group, they purr and purr. They are learning to play and each day they get braver. It’s a joy to watch their progression. A home together with Anthony would be “purrfect” for them….if only all my dreams could come true!



Monroe, the little long haired buff male, is quite the player. He is still a little shy but doesn’t hide and likes his pets (especially chin rubs) and gets more comfortable every day. He is ready for a quiet home where his person understands that he still needs some time to completely trust. He is a beautiful little doll.

Autumn, the last kitty caught, is a beautiful little Torti/Calico combo. Kathy said she fought the trap pretty bad after she caught her so I was surprised when she purred immediately!!! She too is ready for a quiet home. She will be somebody’s little lover! Loves to play too.


People asked Lorraine why in the world we were trapping kitties in Spokane when there are so many homeless cats in Stevens County. She emailed me this:

Because….they were there…they needed us…they were starving…and much more. We weren’t looking for this….but it happened…thank God!

She went on to say that rescuers aren’t stopped by a county border, a state border or a foreign border. Just look at what Spokane Humane, Seattle Humane, Noah, Pet Savers, Homeward Pet, The Seattle Persian and Himalayan Society and all the other groups outside of Stevens County have done to help CVAS. This is about animal care and compassion WITHOUT borders!

It is our prayer that some wonderful families step forward to adopt these very sweet kitties and complete the “Accidental Rescue” that started with a birthday luncheon. If you’ve got the heart and the home for some of these sweeties or know someone who does……..please call!

Pam S.

Posted in cats, rescue stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fish Tale -or- The REALLY Ugly Side of Rescue


Rescues come in all sizes and shapes. Some make the news and some don’t. Some do, because of the groups involved, or perhaps because of the people or animals who did or didn’t survive it. Some rescues, for various reasons, people keep quiet about. Sometimes because there are no survivors and sometimes for reasons hard to explain or understand. This is the story of how I came to be the rescuer of three Siamese Fighting Fish, more commonly known as ‘betas.

It was probably two and a half years ago that Nancy and I went with a local veterinarian and county sheriffs to the scene of an elderly woman’s passing. She had been a hoarder, mostly of garbage and animals, and had previously been shamed by the media for her care (or the lack of it) of her animals. Nothing was actually done to improve the situation, but the newspaper’s harsh and critical words had stung. Therefore when a major medical condition occurred which totally prevented her from getting up from her bed, she did not lift the phone to ask anyone for help with her animals. She let them die. And within a few days, she died also.

The body was removed from the house and the living conditions were noted by the authorities. A local veterinarian was contacted regarding deceased animals on the property. Thus it was that our little group of four, the veterinarian, Nancy, a neighbor lady, and myself, were met by county sheriffs who told us there were multiple dead dogs in several of the smaller buildings on the property. One sheriff said he had dumped dog food in some of the pens in the dark the night before in hopes there were animals left alive to eat it, but from the look on his face, we knew he feared the worst. Then they stayed with their vehicles, talking quietly. I didn’t hold this against them. I knew they felt helpless. When a tragedy occurs involving people, they know what to do. They call for back up, make arrests, call the ambulance or the coroner and leave. When the victims are animals and there is no one to arrest, the feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming. This was most likely something their training had not prepared them for.

1001652smWe didn’t know what to expect as we walked through the few remaining piles of snow and across the garbage strewn property to the first small shed. We had assumed there would be survivors, but no barks or whines greeted us. The first small shed dashed our hopes and the reality of the situation hit us. There were several dead Chihuahuas and/or Pomeranians lying in a small filthy wooden pen inside the shed. Only one was still alive, barely, but alive. His grey filmy eyes appeared to be blind. Another shed harbored several more small dead bodies. We took pictures for documentation, proof that such atrocities do happen, even in our little county, and put the bodies in garbage bags and laid them to the side of the driveway. More small dead dogs lay in the barn in a large stall converted into a dog pen. No food, no water, no sign of life. Only small furry bodies, who, the vet assured us, had not actually starved to death but had died first from lack of water. She meant to help us feel better, I think, to know their suffered had been days and not weeks, but the mental picture of her crawling around on her hands and knees in the stall pulling dead dogs out of dog houses and out of dark corners and stuffing them into garbage bags is not one I will ever forget.

hoard5smThere were survivors outside the barn. Goats and ponies, able to eat snow for water, stood and watched us as we walked through the tuffs of rabbit fur and chicken feathers of others who had not survived, to pat them and assure them that help would come for them. We checked every shed, every old camper, every dog crate, every dog house, determined to document the dead, but silently praying to find survivors. All we found were a few ancient remains of those who had died locked away in dog crates and had apparently been long forgotten. Then we walked towards the house.

A cat greeted us on the porch. The sheriffs looked at us with pity in their eyes. We went inside. From the home owner’s perspective, it may have been home sweet home. From my perspective it was a garbage dump.

1001665smThe garbage, which was everywhere, was chest high on me, and I am of average height. Piles of garbage to the point that there was but one trail leading through the middle. At first we didn’t see the dogs, we were so caught up in the horror of the filth and moldy food and cereal boxes and piles and piles of meaningless trash. Then our minds adjusted to the task at hand and we began our search. We found two dogs, one in an airline crate stuck between piles of trash and the other one in a Rubbermaid tub with an oven rack over the top, barely visible within the enormous collection of trash. They were alive!

annie1smWe (single file in the trail between rooms) were now hopeful. If the two dogs in the living room had survived, perhaps there were more. We searched under beds and in closets. We shoved aside piles and bags in desperation, hoping against hope to find signs of life, but more than anything we were determined not to leave anything still living to die there. We found nothing. We congregated in the narrow trail in the kitchen to compare notes. The veterinarian glanced quickly through the cupboards, checked the refrigerator and quickly slammed the door shut as disgusting smells drifted out. Then she opened the oven door. A black swarm of flies came buzzing up from off the (rotten) baked chicken carcass into her face in their mad dash to freedom and she screamed. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny then. It was like being in a real life ‘house of horrors’.

BLACK CAT-9780aWe agreed there was no place we hadn’t searched and that it was time to go. We moved single file to the front door and turned and looked back, wanting to escape the nightmare, yet hesitant to leave, eyes searching for some unnoticed area we might have missed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of movement. A feeling of panic overwhelmed me as I tried to find it again. What had I seen? What poor creature had we missed? Then I saw it again. Nearly buried among the piles of filth and clutter on the kitchen counter were three small square fish bowls, green with slime and algae, each containing a single, barely visible, Beta. Renewed with hope after nearly missing the fish, we went back through all the rooms again, hoping against all odds to find more survivors. We found nothing more.

hoard14We put the beta bowls in a bucket, the cat in a crate, and the three living dogs in other crates and into my pickup. The old blind dog went directly to the vet clinic, and, sadly, had to be euthanized. The cat and the other two dogs went to the Sanctuary, where they were eventually adopted into good homes. Body bags containing the remains of 27 little dogs went in the back of my pickup and I took their remains to Spokane Humane Society for cremation.

I took the fish home. Betas (also known as Siamese Fighting Fish) do not care for company and cannot be kept together. So I gathered up three gallon jars and put aquarium rocks and water in them and introduced the fish to their new homes on my kitchen counter. One was yellow, delicate looking with long, lovely, fan-like fins and tail. One was downright scary looking, having apparently gotten the worst of it in a fight, or perhaps all-out war? His fins and tail were missing and all that remained were the long spikey lines the fins had been connected to. We named him ‘Spike’ and expected him to die any minute.

He surprised us by filling out the areas between the spikes with new fin tissue. He never looked quite normal, but was a drastic improvement considering how frightening he looked when he first came to live with us. Whether or not they appreciated my efforts I cannot say, but I assumed they must have found their clean new residences pleasing. Spike and the yellow beta lived in their pickle jar fish tanks for a year before passing on, within a week of each other, to that great river in the sky. The third, a beautiful blue beta with long graceful fins, resided in his fish bowl with live plants and snails for company for another year and a half before he died.

And so my fish tale has ended. While it may not have been the usual rescue story, and in truth may have been downright depressing, rescue does come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes where you least expect it. That death can come to those who least deserve it and that life can sometimes survive in the most disgusting of conditions may not be the sort of stuff fairy tales are made of, but are facts of life none the less. Never turn a blind eye, thinking someone else must be taking care of it because maybe they aren’t.

Remember that hoarders are human too, and that hatred, disgust, and negative media attention seldom converts them to a different way of thinking. Often, as in this case, it only serves to alienate them and make them hide the problem better. It is said one catches more flies with honey than vinegar. A kind word and a helping hand are not always appreciated, but sometimes they can go a lot farther than you’d think. Regardless of how you choose to handle a situation you don’t approve of, remember that when wee ones are involved who cannot speak for themselves, that your voice in standing up for them may be their only chance, their last chance. Don’t let them down.


Posted in rescue stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Iceman Passes…

iceman1At 11:10 p.m. on September 22nd 2014 Iceman crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Perhaps as you are reading this, he is, even now, chasing tennis balls in God’s backyard, once again free of arthritis and ailments. The Alaskans among us suspect when huskies die that their souls and voices blend into the Northern Lights, racing across the skies, twisting and turning in perfect harmony disguised in colors of unimaginable beauty as they look down on the lands their ancestors once roamed.

I had gone to the store, and upon my return, he did not come to greet me. He had curled up in his dog house by the backdoor and made no attempt to get up when I tried to coax him out.  Being a two piece plastic dog house, I unsnapped the top and lifted it off. He still made no effort to get up, but was aware of my presence. So I drug the bottom half, with him in it, into the kitchen. Later, I pulled it to the living room beside the couch where he normally spent his evenings. Occasionally he would raise his head and whimper and I’d pat his head to reassure him I was still there for him. The other dogs kept a close, but silent, watch.  At 11:10 he passed peacefully, surrounded by those who had cared for him during the last month of his life.

Iceman as he first came to us. An elderly, emaciated dog with 2 large tumors. Someone obviously gave up on him just because he got old...

Iceman as he first came to us. An elderly, emaciated dog with 2 large tumors who appears to have been neglected for a very long time.

I had been the transporter, assigned to bring the latest ‘drop off’ back to the Sanctuary after his surgery to remove 2 large tumors from his elderly, emaciated body.  I just couldn’t do it. Elderly dogs need extra TLC and so my husband and I brought him to our house instead. In the short while he was with us, he had 4 good meals a day and was gaining weight. The other dogs accepted him immediately. He appeared a little stronger each day, wandering around our fenced backyard, admiring the chickens and watching as we worked in the garden or went in and out the garage. In the late evenings, he came in the house with the other dogs and slept on the living room floor as I watched TV or checked email.  At bedtime (last potty call for the dogs) he went back outside to his dog house by the back door. His thick husky coat preferred the cool night air.

It was hard to see him pass, but knowing that if some caring individual had not picked up the elderly stray and brought him to the Sanctuary that he would have starved to death unnoticed in a ditch somewhere, instead of in my living room, made it easier. Rest in peace Iceman. For a short while, you were loved.


Posted in dogs, sanctuary stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lily’s Miracle

Three tiny hungry kittens were caught this summer in an alley in Colville in a live trap that two CVAS volunteers had set.  One of the volunteers who helped trap the kittens agreed to foster the kittens.  Two were typical little kittens.  The other one was special.  She appeared to be all white, but on further inspection, she was white with a faintly peach-colored tail and ears.  What was REALLY special was her pitiful little face.  While she had one beautiful blue eye, where the other eye should have been was only an empty socket. Pink folds of tissue filled the area where an eye should have been.  It did not appear to have been lost to trauma or infection, it just wasn’t there!  She also appeared to be deaf.  This special kitten came to be known as Lily.

Born without her right eye and nearly completely deaf, this little dynamo goes about her life as if nothing at all was unusual about that!

Born without her right eye and nearly completely deaf, this little dynamo goes about her life as if nothing at all was unusual about that!

After a couple of weeks of good food and love, the foster mom turned Lily over to another foster mom…me.  Because we already have blind cats and deaf dogs, I thought we might be the perfect home for a kitten with special needs.  However, her sparkling personality and ‘go getter’ attitude soon helped us see that she could live a fairly normal life and should be adoptable.  We also discovered that while Lily was very hard of hearing, she was NOT totally deaf.

She was a lover, her purr could be heard in the next room.  She was a wild child, cavorting across the kitchen floor in a sideways stance with arched back and fur standing on end as she attacked catnip mice and other fuzzy toys.  She made the life of our other foster cat miserable as she chased his twitching tail and pounced on him while he tried to eat his dinner.  She bounced across the floor on her hind legs as she tried frantically to catch our dog’s wagging tail as it patiently tried to escape her sharp little teeth and claws.  Lily was quite a kitten.  She had no idea she was supposed to be disabled.

So we told ourselves that she would be available for adoption after she was spayed at the next Stevens County Cat Care clinic in September.  I also asked our lead vet, Dr. Tami, if she would examine the empty eye socket and, if needed, surgically repair the empty eye socket so that debris or other matter would not get into it and cause further problems.

The September 14th Stevens County Cat Care clinic was set up at the American Legion Hall in Kettle Falls with 5 veterinarians, one vet tech and 30 volunteers working hard all day to spay/neuter 156 cats.  Lily had forgotten there was a world outside of our kitchen and the activity at the clinic frightened her.  She hid at the back of her crate and didn’t make a sound.  When it was her turn, she was anesthetized and both her tummy and half her face were shaved and scrubbed for surgery.

Dr. Tami discovered, and removed, a very tiny useless eye behind the folds of pink flesh at the back of the eye socket.  She also spayed Lily, assuring that the cycle has been broken.  When this lucky girl grows up, she will never have kittens born in an alley the way she was, to have to be rescued by Sanctuary volunteers.

The day after surgery, she was pouncing on toy mice and chasing dog's tails as if nothing had happened.

The day after surgery, she was pouncing on toy mice and chasing dog’s tails as if nothing had happened.

Lily is also lucky for a number of other reasons.  Because both her foster moms help regularly at the spay/neuter clinics, she was spayed for free.  Because Dr. Tami is a compassionate woman, she did not charge for the surgery to repair the eye socket.  And because there were so many volunteers helping at the clinic that day, it was purr-fectly natural that one of them fell in love with Lily and asked to adopt her when she recovers from her surgeries!

Lily’s story was written and shared to show that, not only can many animals with disabilities still lead pretty normal lives, but that a lot of compassionate people work together to make miracles happen.  Sometimes it may seem that the Sanctuary needs a lot of money to keep the miracles happening, but sometimes miracles can be coordinated into happening for free.  Thank you Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary and Stevens County Cat Care volunteers and thank you Dr. Tami.

And BTW, the day after her surgery, Lily is already back to chasing dog’s wagging tails and attacking catnip mice.  In a few days when the stitches are removed from the ‘eyeless eye’ Lily will be ready to go to her new home where she has been promised that for her own safety, she will be an indoor kitty and that she will get to sleep on her new mommy’s bed every night. Yep, one lucky kitty.


Posted in cats, rescue stories | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment