Have you ever met someone who’d been through the absolute worst and yet still assumed the best in people? In a world where people will lose it over a barista getting a latte wrong, we’d do well to take a page from Coal’s book.
Coal joined us in January from the euthanasia list of a local municipal shelter. He’s a senior guy and had been tagged as FIV+. His lower jaw was broken and, if you look in the picture, you can see his snaggled tooth jutting out from the misalignment. He had scabies that had caused itchy, open sores all over his body. He was rail thin and could barely open his infected eyes. He was filthy and smelled like a sandwich someone left in a locker over summer.
The list of reasons for him to make it onto a shelter’s euthanasia list was long. But that was no match for the one reason we pulled him—because he matters.
It is hard to describe the friendliness of this cat. Scarcely able to see, he shoved his grubby head into anyone near. His motor was like an outboard when he felt any contact at all. He so vigorously pursued head butts that we had to have his jaw wired a second time because he jostled it loose. Imagine… contact over pain. Connection over fear. Love over vengefulness.
Healed jaw cleared skin and lush (but probably always stained) fur, Coal went to our PetSmart cattery to find his people. And find them he did. Today, the adoption of this scruffy, “throw-away” cat was finalized.
Friends For Life started 20 years ago.
But still, two decades later, there are barely any options in Houston for a cat like Coal. Think of it—in a city of 4 million people and massive wealth, only one shelter cast a wide enough net to catch Coal. Overwhelmingly, polls show people love animals, and we believe that’s true. We think people have gotten used to hearing shelters say, “it can’t be done.” Healthy animals, puppies, and kittens are shipped out of state to adoptive homes that pay for them. Banged up, old-sandwich-smelling guys like Coal are left.
If you are reading this, you probably also see the light shining through this old soul. Maybe you look into the milky eyes of an old cat or dog in your home and can’t imagine them left behind on a kill list. Maybe you can’t imagine programs that have been around 50, 60, or 100 years and still not made space in their programs for a Coal.
Coal needed a space to recover. He needed a space in someone’s heart and the careful attention of behavior professionals who could communicate with him. Coal needed a space to be safe. For 20 years, Friends For Life has been here holding that space for him and thousands of others.
The hard truth is that, 20 years later, these spaces should and can exist elsewhere. But they don’t. The Unsheltered way of doing things is scalable and backed by solid, proven methodologies. What you support determines what will continue. Read that again. What you support determines what will continue. Until more of these spaces exist, we will continue to do the work.
Rally with us.