Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Power of the Paw

A man was walking along the beach. He saw that it was covered with starfish that had been washed up in the tide. A little boy was walking along, picking them up one by one and throwing them back into the water. "What are you doing son?" the man asked. "You see how many starfish there are? You'll never make a difference." 

The boy paused thoughtfully and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.  “It sure made a difference to that one,” he said. ~~source unknown
I am an American, and so it goes without saying that I like Happy Endings. They are among my Favorite Things. I demand them, even. It's not that I don't like tragedy, because I do. The difference is, Gentle Reader, that I like my tragedies epic and ancient. Think of Beowulf, The Illiad, King Lear, Oedipus. Tales from before the dawn of time that make me weep over the courage and tragedy of people who are long dead and crumbled to dust, if indeed they ever lived. For day to day stories, in my own life and in the lives of people I connect with, Happy Endings are de rigueur.

It was a quiet Sunday evening. The spousal unit was off to a potluck with friends, leaving the cats and I to a blissfully decadent evening of doing nothing. I was at the computer, playing a little solitaire, watching a little YouTube, cruising on Facebook and Twitter, when these three re-tweets came across my screen:

"Mum and Dad are heartbroken. They need to find someone good and kind to take me in, because they have to move somewhere they can't keep me."
That was the first. The next two re-tweets came quickly after:

"Thanks to all who [retweeted] my sad news. Mum and Dad are losing their home and have to move in with family. They can't bring me. Mum is looking

"For a home or sanctuary or someplace where I can go. She is cryin' so much. I wish I could help her feel better."

My heart constricted painfully in my chest; tears came blindingly, unbidden. For all of us who care for animal companions, and are cared for by them in turn, it's one of the worst of nightmares. That there might come a time when we could no longer care for these beautiful creatures who depend on us, like children, for all they need. The idea that we might be forced to choose between our own survival or theirs.  When the terrible flood waters of Hurricane Katrina crashed without mercy into New Orleans, many pets were left behind as people were forced to flee for their lives. I also read many stories of pet guardians who died, or risked death, rather than abandon their furred friends. Even Prince Steady-In-War  (Prince Yudhisthira if you can pronounce it) in the great Indian Epic, the Mahabarata, is faced with this dilemma as the final price for his enlightenment. It's an unthinkable choice. I pray I never have to make it.

So, on a peaceful Sunday evening, I sat there at my computer weeping, terrible racking sobs, feeling the pain that someone, somewhere in the night was feeling. Someone had reached out across the aether, through the magic of technology, and clasped my heart in  her hands and squeezed. 

The fur child in danger of death was one Siofra the Cat. Never doubt, Gentle Reader, that it was Death himself, with rotting hands, who reached for Siofra's life that night. If she could not find a home, it would have to be a shelter. Not many cats come out of shelters alive.  I looked at my own four furry housecats, snoozing in cozy comfort here and there in the office where I sat, and I shivered.

You may think it strange to find a cat posting on Twitter. I myself am only recently introduced to the phenomenon, but as it happens there are indeed many cats, and dogs and ferrets and horses, too, who are quite active on Twitter and Facebook and other social media. One of the most famous is Sockington the Cat, but there are many, many many more. Now I myself have not seen any of the ThirteenCats posting to such platforms, although they do tend to run across the keyboard quite often, so you never know.

Almost immediately after seeing this heart gripping announcement from Siofra, another flashed across my screen.

"Can someone help?" came one tweet. "Siofra's Mum and Dad are losing their home and have to move in with family."

Within minutes, the tweets were flying.

"Hey Pals! Need your help!...We need to help to find another home."

"Do you know of any contacts?"

"Can you recommend a good shelter?"

It was quickly ascertained that Siofra and her family were in San Antonio, Texas. People from Canada, from Wisconsin, from the East Coast and from the West joined the hunt for a new home for Siofra.

An amazing soul, whom I know only as Mariodacat, and whose blog,  Mario's Meowsings, is a recently discovered pleasure of mine, quickly had us organized, and served as a central clearing house for information.

"Can I contact you if we can help?" he tweeted to Siofra. The answer was in the affirmative. It started as one beleaguered woman, losing her home, concerned for her feline friend of nine years, cried out her pain into what could have been an uninterested night. It had become a continent wide crusade to help.

"Don't give up hope," one tweeter encouraged. "Believe in your guardian angels!" exhorted another.

"We've helped find homes before, so I know we can dis time too," wrote one animal tweeter, or "anipal."

I was riveted. Not since the towers came down had I followed a story more closely. I felt the same helplessness now as then. The world is such a huge place, and we are so very small in comparison. The spousal unit returned home from his potluck. I filled him in. We wept a little together, racked our brains for contacts in Texas. I posted the story to Facebook; emailed some cousins in Texas. Did they know anyone in San Antonio who might help?

The answers kept coming back negative. Fearing the worst, when it came time at last sleep, I went to bed weeping. I turned to prayer. Remembering the gentle Saint Francis of Assisi, who did not disdain to preach even to the animals, I begged in the dark for Siofra's life.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall  fall on the ground without your Father knowing."

Monday was Valentine's Day. I couldn't stay away from Twitter. I got precious little writing done, tabbing over to Twitter to see each new tweet about Siofra. I included a small plea for help at the end of the day's blog.   Mario devoted his day's blog to her.

"We're not giving up hope yet," Mario encouraged us. "In the meantime we'll keep tweeting."

To me, when I harassed him yet again for information, he said: "Keeping paws crossed for good news."

I sat in my office biting my nails.

And then, slowly, the tide began to turn. The news came that a few email addresses of organizations and people willing to help had been passed on to Siofra's human family. Then more leads were shared. The anipals kept retweeting. And retweeting. As Monday came to a close, Siofra, who now had many many more friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter than perhaps she had previously, shared her thanks with us.

When I went to bed on Monday, there was some slight hope. The family had until the end of February to find Siofra a home. Chelsea had left a comment on the ThirteenCats blog, saying she might be able to give Siofra a home.  I was no longer in despair, but I was still held tight in the grip of fear. I could only imagine what Siofra's family were feeling. I reminded God and Saint Francis of a small cat in need. I reminded myself: "His eye is on the sparrow." I slept poorly. It was one of those times I felt the bite of financial inadequacy. How I wished I could just get in a car and go get her myself.

Need I say that, Wednesday morning, the first thing I did on rolling out of bed was to fire up Twitter and Facebook and see how things stood with Siofra?

It was later that day the news came across. Siofra told us:  "Thanks to Mariodacat for getting the word out and starting the campaign to help me. Mom's eyes are leaking, but she is so happy through her tears."

The Anipals went wild. "You can stop the tweets. It's official. Yay! We are so happy for Siofra!"

"Happy News! Siofra is going to a new home!"

"That's the best news ever! [Siofra] will has such a loving home wif Willie's mama!"

"I so happy you did find a loving new home where you gonna be cared for!" an anipal tweeted to Siofra.

Let me tell you, Gentle Reader, that I sat at my computer sobbing with joy and cheering like a madwoman for Siofra's rescue, and for the relief I knew, knew in my gut, her human family was now feeling. Someone in Austin, TX saw a retweet by one of the anipals, and, having a place in their heart and home, opened both.  Mario, who had led us in our efforts, tells in his blog how Siofra finds a new home. 

Siofra herself logged in on Facebook to tell us she will be meeting her new family on Saturday. She is sad, she said, to be leaving her Mum and Dad, but is "so glad I have a nice new family to take care of me." And she sent us her love, and her blessing.

So much can people do working together. When we come together in compassion and make common cause with one another, when our cause is just and true, when the tools, the technology we need are there, is there any end to the good that can be done? Ponder well, Gentle Reader. This is the force that recently toppled a government. This week it saved a small cat called Siofra, and brought comfort to the human family who loved her, the family who found themselves faced with an unthinkable choice.

As one tweet proclaimed:  "The power of the paw circle is strong. Believe!"

stlcatlady is a poet, blogger, and freelance writer of shortstories, news articles, and other such oddments, many of which center around her favorite subjecs: felines , philosophy, and folklore. You may contact her by sending email to stlcatlady1 at gmail dot com.


  1. Several years ago, a woman I knew from church asked if I knew of anyone who would be willing to foster two cats for friends of hers who were moving from Michigan to New Jersey and couldn't afford to have them stay at a kennel while they moved. I immediately volunteered, and when I got the whole story I was incredibly glad I had. The two cats were 17-year-old brothers, Zeke and Mozart, and if I hadn't offered to take them in, they'd have had to go to a shelter. The boys' parents had had them since they were kittens, so...yeah. To say they were grateful and relieved would be an understatement. Zeke and Mozart were with me about a month while their parents got settled in NJ, and I was sorry to see them go.

  2. Thank you for your heart-felt post and for your part in tweeting and posting a notice in your blog about the situation too. We are so very happy that Willie's mom has agreed to adopt Siofra. Never under estimate the power of RTs on Twitter. Our animal community on Twitter and on Blogger consists of the finest humans in the world. It's truly a caring, helpful community.