Redemption can mean lots of things. As Houston’s No Kill shelter, we understand the beauty of second chances for animals. Sometimes those moments are intimately connected to second chances for people.
Here’s the thing… sometimes everybody’s life goes a little off path. We all wrestle with our stuff in varying degrees. For some of us, it can be quite a detour. It helps to have friends along the way.
When Petrie and Keaton’s Mom hit on very hard times and lost her job and her home, she thought first of her 14 year old bonded tabby cats Petrie and Keaton. These cats had been with her through thick and thin but surely, this was too much “thin” to ask them to endure. She didn’t know where she’d end up, much less how she’d care for these senior girls.
A tale is told that wise King Solomon listened to a dispute between two women both claiming to be the mother of a baby. In what has come to be known as the ultimate act of discernment, the king decreed that the baby should be split in two each should receive half. When the first woman shouted, “No, let her have him, just don’t harm him!” the king declared the first mother as the true mother, as a true, loving mother would rather surrender her baby to another than hurt him.
The decision for Petrie and Keaton’s mom to give Petrie and Keaton a chance at a new home was wrenching and was grounded in profound love. You’d think that was the most brutal part of the struggle but as she searched for help, she learned that 14 year old cats are simply not safe in the traditional shelters in Houston and everywhere she asked for help they let her know they could not guarantee that her girls would not end up on a kill list.
Imagine being where she was at that moment. Sit with it for a second.
Now imagine what you’d do if you ran a shelter and she asked you for help.
That’s No Kill. Now you see why we are so passionate about this model. When you see it through the crystal clarity of a situation like this, you just feel the truth of it in your bones.
The lovely sisters with the soulful green eyes are bonded deeply. They and ate and slept together. Despite having lots of space and perches in the sunny senior room, we’d find these senior girls curled up together.
They were with us a year and the first few weeks were tough. Sad cats just stop eating sometimes—especially sad senior cats. Cats are animals who will literally sometimes grieve themselves to death. Any pet owners know that animals have memory and the capability for longing. We consoled them, cuddled them and staff and volunteers made sure they ate. They were gracious ladies about accepting our affection but it was clear that we were stand-ins. Over time, we got to know them well. We learned that Petrie is a comedian who enjoyed catching treats midair while the more elegant Keaton would look on with what we anthropomorphized to be a mix of bemusement and sisterly disapproval.
Their Mom visited them regularly over the time they were with us and promised them that if they were not adopted before she got back on track, she would come back for them. She would sit in the senior room caressing them and would tell them softly, “If I ever can, I promise I will come back for you girls someday. I love you.”
We offered them for adoption as a pair but (just between us) always hoped that they would return to their first family.
Then just like she said she would, one day she came back for them.
Hi Gaby and all of the FFL Staff:
I want to thank all of you so much for taking such good care of my babies, Petrie and Keaton, during my recent financial hardship. You’ve done a wonderful job of making sure my two cats were loved and valued while they were in your care. I appreciate each and every one of you for all the love and care you’ve shown us.
Both Petrie and Keaton are so happy to be back at home with Mommie! I made sure that I kept their personal pillows and blankets, so that they would feel right at home as soon as they arrived. And they did!
Again, I appreciate your generosity of spirit with all of my heart. I am so glad that your organization exists.
— Petrie, Keaton & Mom
We honor this cat Mom who, with a heart overflowing with love for her babies, knew when to tag the FFL team for help and then worked so, so hard to put her family back together. Our role as a program (and as humans) was to be a stepping stone on her path to a new life with her girls.
A post script from the director:
There is something that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote to be spoken to another human being. But when I read it, I imagined so vividly saying this to the animals we serve that it took my breath away. It snapped into place to me that this IS what our program speaks to the animals we serve and especially this St. Valentine’s Day, I want to leave you with it:
I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
P&K, we will miss you and we are so glad we got to know you and your Mom. What a Valentine’s Day you must be having!