How One Cat Turned Me Into An Animal Advocate
This article was written by Pet Community Center Board of Directors member and Marketing Committee volunteer, Diana Springfield.
(PCC volunteers at a festival in 2013.)
There have always been pets in my life; my parents had dogs long before they had me. Many of my childhood memories feature, or have in the background, some goofy ball of fur chasing either me, another dog, or some perceived threat lurking behind the bushes. When I got older, I also “adopted” some of the barn cats who lived on the farm.
There were only two pet-less years, and those were in a college dorm. As soon as I moved off campus a small calico cat strolled up my driveway and welcomed me to the neighborhood by demanding food and indoor-outdoor privileges. In return, I received snuggles and too many thank-you gifts of bugs and other unwanted trophies.
When I moved to Nashville CeeJay came with me, and became one of the many beloved pets I’ve had over the years. Tux, the elderly kitty a friend’s brother didn’t want anymore, was CeeJay’s successor. After Tux, and in rapid fashion, came Skizzie, a co-worker’s unplanned kitten; Charlie, booted out of his home because he didn’t get along with his owner’s new kitten; and Bird, who literally wandered into our office.
Later came Greyton, who just appeared at my house. A few years later I couldn’t say no to Max, who came with a tuxedo and magnificent handlebar mustache. He had been adopted but returned because the adopters thought - quite incorrectly - that his FIV+ status meant he would be sickly and possibly infect their other cats. Next came Willis, a community cat my vet’s receptionist found. Several years later brothers Macavity and Morgan popped up on Facebook with nowhere to go and no responses; they’d been abandoned when their owners moved.
Finally, seven years ago came Beezle, a gutsy mini-Sylvester. He shocked everyone at an outdoor Pet Community Center vaccination event by making a beeline toward the long line of nervous pit bulls and German Shepherds waiting for their shots. He actually chased us in our cars as we tried to leave; he was determined to find his forever home.
But this is Greyton’s story.
One day years ago, I noticed a pair of beautiful gray eyes peeking out from under some dense bushes in my backyard. They belonged to a small gray kitten, who did not take those eyes off of me but vanished when I got closer. I began leaving a dish of food nearby and she ventured out but again, stared me down while wolfing the food and disappearing when I moved toward her. Days became weeks, and she didn’t run as quickly or as far. Unfortunately, she let a tomcat get close first, and when she finally let me touch and pick her up she was nursing; we found six kittens tucked into the tightest corner of the crawlspace. When they were old enough, she brought her kittens out, they feasted on the front porch, and she finally let me take her, and them, inside.
She had lost her fear and was happy to stay inside, but she came with six kittens in various stages of wildness, and I had no idea how to handle them. I took Greyton to be spayed, and the vet told me about Nashville Cat Rescue (NCR). They fostered and worked with the two surlier kittens and taught me how to foster the others. Their stories had happy endings; they were all spayed/neutered and over time, adopted. But when I became an NCR volunteer, I saw how lucky those kittens were. There was a staggering number of community cats that overwhelmed Metro Animal Care and Control(MACC) and all the rescues. The euthanasia rate at MACC at that time was 90%.
One day in 2011 as I was leaving the NCR adoption center, I met Jourdan Parenteau, another NCR volunteer. She was very excited about being involved with a small group of people who were working to address the overpopulation problem. They were using a method called Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), which involves using humane traps to catch community cats, take them to a spay/neuter clinic, and return them to their outdoor homes.
It seemed like the perfect hand-in-glove fit to rescue; if the population could be decreased, so could the euthanasia rate and the pressure put on the rescues. That group of people who spent their free time doing the dirty, frustrating, and exhausting work of trapping, transporting, and returning cats were devoted. Their determination quickly grew their impact, which attracted an increasing number of volunteers.
I was one of them.
That was the genesis of Pet Community Center, which through sweat equity, grants, invaluable mentorships, and the teamwork and support of the local network of animal advocates, was able to open a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in East Nashville in 2014. PCC has been a major force in drastically decreasing the population and euthanasia rate of Davidson County’s community cats, as well as providing free and low-cost spay/neuter and wellness services for many pets, both cats and dogs. The Pets for Life program is continuing to grow and provides aid to help keep pets with their families in the areas with the most need.
I have been a volunteer, and later board member, for 11 of Pet Community Center’s years, manning information booths, walking half-marathons, corralling cats, designing fliers, planning fundraisers, moving furniture, attending board meetings, painting the clinic, attending its opening, doing laundry there and folding surgical packs.
Every one of those moments, along with those I have spent volunteering with Nashville Cat Rescue, has deepened my passion for animal welfare, introduced me to lifelong friends, and given me a way to enrich our community.
And all because of those little gray eyes in the bushes.