Thursday, January 14, 2010

We rescue things

"Maybe three cats are better than two," I mused.

"That sounds like the beginnings of crazy cat lady thinking," my husband joked.

I know it was a joke because we'd just received an email from the animal shelter. Originally, when we adopted Riley, we'd hoped to adopt another cat too. But the second cat was going to be the topic of the shelter's next board of trustees meeting, so he was unavailable. We got Riley, who is settling in very well. Now we were being notified that the shelter would not give the second cat any further medical treatment, and were we still interested?

We dashed off a "yes" reply, and soon we had an appointment to pick the new cat up.

Later that evening... well... it didn't exactly dawn on us what we were doing. We already knew what we were doing. But we were thinking about it, going over some of the small changes we'd need to make.

Who knows, maybe three cats are better than two. "Maybe Melody will get over herself..." I started.

"...when she realizes that the new family members are just going to keep coming," my husband finished. "She may as well give up being grouchy, because she's never going to win. Hey, as long as we stick to our original rule - more rooms than cats - I'm happy."

Some people rescue things. Maybe it's an instinct, a compulsion, or a calling. Maybe it's hard to understand the need, unless you are one of those people. My grandfather was one of those people. He rescued everything and everyone in sight. The family struggled to understand what motivated him. He could be "generous to a fault" - literally! He often forgot to consider the needs of his loved ones when he offered to help a stranger. Sometimes his acts of generosity caused resentment.

I never resented him, though. I was in awe of him. He never left me in the lurch, but he gave and gave, and he gave me one particular thing that I value above all other gifts. It was a gift he never saw me use while he was alive. I didn't answer my altruistic instincts back then; I was afraid to. I'm not afraid anymore.

Rescuing things is not always easy. It is not always socially acceptable. It is not always normal. And it is not always an obviously good choice.

That's why people sometimes get held back by fear. "What if I'm overwhelmed?" "What if I can't afford it?" "Will the neighbors think I'm weird?" "Could I get hurt?" These are legitimate questions, and worth considering before you give in to the urge to rescue something.

Except for "Will the neighbors think I'm weird?" If they think you're weird, they think about you too much, and you should feel free to tell them so.

There are lots of things in the world to rescue. Pets, wild animals, crime victims, historical sites, ecosystems, cultural traditions, children's educations, medical research, nations in trouble, obscure art forms, the poor and underprivileged. Most people specialize. My grandfather specialized in animals and people. We specialize in animals and the natural environment, with my husband doing his part toward education.

We do it because we do it, because it's what we do. Some people do it, and we are some of those people.

We don't know yet if AwesomeCloud has the instinct. He might. Maybe it's more common than we think, and it's just stifled frequently by that aforementioned fear. Maybe that's why there are so many wealthy philanthropists. Once you have enough money, and your reputation is secure, the sky's the limit! Go nuts! Rescue everything!

There's another point worth noting, however. I've mentioned it before, but it bears reiterating. Our son is not a rescue. He is being raised in a family of rescuers, and he may continue if he likes or find a different path. But he, himself, is not an object of rescue.

It may be a counterintuitive point for some people. We're so used to hearing people say, "All those poor children who need homes!" Or "He's so lucky to have you as his parents!" Those sentiments are part of our culture. It feels natural to think and speak them.

But I don't feel it. I've never felt it. We wanted children for all the normal, mundane reasons. We chose adoption because, of all the parenthood options available to us, it was the most appealing. I didn't reject IVF because I was trying to save the poor children - I rejected it because medical treatments squick me out, and they never seem to go right with me. It was a risk I was unwilling to take. But I had to take SOME risk if I wanted offspring! No risk would equal no children.

We adopted because we didn't want to be a childless couple. We like children and we wanted some.

We rescue things because we rescue things.

AwesomeCloud will rescue things because we rescue things. Someday, I hope, he'll rescue things because he wants to rescue things. But if he doesn't, maybe, at least, he'll understand why we do. He'll roll his eyes and say, "Ohh, my parents, always rescuing disabled cats and obsessing over invasive species." But he'll be proud inside. I hope.

On Sunday we'll welcome Ban Lu into our household. His name means "companion" in Chinese, and he has terminal cancer. We're providing hospice for him. Why? Because we can. Because we are. Because instinctively, or compulsively, we care.


  1. lovely post... as I have said before, I'm not an animal person, specifically not a cat person. Please dont hold that against me. Your sentiments are lovely, and your son will in my opinion not think that much about your rescuing charms, because he is your son and will see that as perfectly normal behaviour having been raised that way!!!

    Lovely to read about why you chose adoption.


  2. Don't worry, I don't expect everyone to love my cats, or even to understand why I rescue them, as long as they accept that it is so.

    And thank you. :)

  3. I hope Ban Lu finds comfort and happiness in your home. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about what it must be like to be a cat going through cancer - it can't understand the same way I could why it has to take medicines and feel ill. I need to go snuggle my kitties now. I hope the homecoming goes as well as possible today!

  4. Another nice post. I've always said my oldest daughter "rescues" people. She's always befriending those who need friends and bringing them home to be loved on. And I like that.

    I'm glad you guys are able to use your love of animals to care for the ones needing it most.