The Friends of Homeless Animals shelter is out somewhere in Loudoun County, Virginia. I will not say exactly where it is. Their web site does not tell you. Considering that many of the animals at their shelter were found abandoned or abused, there is no point inviting more trouble. However, if you gently inquire and you do not sound like a dog or cat abuser, they will provide directions to the shelter.
You will have to visit them on the weekends when they have adoption hours. However, if you fall in love with one of their homeless cats or dogs, plan to wait a week. The adoption committee will first check out you out. If you had animals before they will inquire with your veterinarian. Expect a home visit. No “cat stays in the garage” types need apply. In fact, you have to promise that your adopted cat will stay indoors, will never be declawed, or will be taken to the animal shelter. In other words, you have to not just say that you love your cat or dog; you should be able to demonstrate that you can follow through.
If an animal at FOHA has to wait for years to find the right owners, so be it. Any cat or dog that ends up at FOHA is a fortunate animal. First, in many cases they have been rescued from neglect. Second, if they have not been spayed, the veterinarian will take care of it. Third, they will be fed a healthy diet, be brushed and cleaned regularly, and, if they are a dog, exercised regularly too. Fourth, unlike many animal shelters, they will not be euthanized because there is no room at the inn. Fifth, most animals will be adopted in time. They will then have the quality love and attention they might not have received from their last owners.
It takes a constant stream of devoted volunteers and doubtless a heap of money to run this kind of animal shelter. Much of the work is not glamorous. Dogs need to go for regular walks. Cages must be cleaned. There are many cat boxes to be changed, and cat gorp to be removed from the floors. They need volunteers during adoption hours. Then there is the work involved in maintaining the substantial infrastructure: hauling food and supplies, managing the property, fixing kennels, and showing off pets periodically at local events.
As you wind your way through the one lane gravel road toward their property, you are likely to see volunteers walking dogs on a path in the woods. As you park your car, you are likely to hear the sometime deafening roar of dogs barking. Most cannot wait to be your friend. Our particular destination was the cattery. A cattery is a house for felines. This particular cattery held about thirty cats. As a rule cats prefer to have their own space. I suspect some of these cats were a bit stressed from having so little personal space. Still they made do, and could often be found going through a cat door to a protected outside space. One room in the cattery was devoted to kittens. It is currently kitten season, and there were plenty of kittens needing adoption.
We were looking to replace the irreplaceable. Sprite, my cat companion of more than 19 years, was put to sleep in March. Since that time, something has been deeply wrong in our house. To put it plainly: it lacked a cat. A trip to FOHA made us realize just how much we missed having a feline in our lives. It also made me sad to see so many wonderful animals without homes of their own. I wanted to bring them all home, but I knew it could be only one cat.
Only which one? This was a source of some consternation in our house. For we each had different requirements from a cat. My wife wanted one that minimally impacted her allergies. Domestic short hairs were preferred over longhaired cats. My daughter wanted one that was young, playful and affectionate. However, she was nearly 17 and would be out of the house soon. Since we would be responsible in the long term for the pet, my wife and I had to be mindful of our limits. I wanted Sprite back. Since that could never happen, I could settle for a generally quiet and affectionate adult cat, preferably the type who would rest happily on my lap while I worked on the computer. At least none of us wanted kittens. Having done it once we knew that while they were awfully cute, they could also be amazingly destructive.
Our daughter fell in love with a cat named Stephanie. She had tested positive to exposure to Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and had a number of teeth removed. She was sweet and snuggly, but after talking it over with our vet she looked like she might turn into more of a special needs cat than we could handle. I was directed to a cat called Spike, a lovely yellow tabby, who was very quiet and docile. I felt sorry for Spike. Mabel looked like a good compromise choice: small, short haired and affectionate like Stephanie, but without the potential FIP problem. She might have come home with us had she not scratched our daughter unexpectedly.
We settled on a cat called Papa, a very affectionate brown and black haired tabby who was also docile enough to let us pick him up and cuddle him. Papa had been found on the side of the road in Lovettsville, Virginia. A sister of a FOHA worker took him home, but he volunteered to hide in her basement. She thought for sure he was going to be a hostile cat, but she was surprised to find that in time he turned into one the most affectionate cats she had ever met. Thus he came to FOHA, where he stayed for a few months until we adopted him today. He was named Papa because in the shelter he was both affectionate and looked after all the younger cats.
Thus far, he has yet to come out from under our bed. While we hope he will not hide there too long, we can certainly understand how this kind of transition would be hard on any cat. Meanwhile, we are pondering new names for Papa. Papa may turn out to be like our cat Squeaky, who named herself. Originally, she was named Pixel. However, because she could not stop talking and made a sound like a door on a rusty hinge, Squeaky became her name. Papa’s meows are small and rather plaintive. I doubt, now that he is away from other cats, that he will turn into a loud cat.
Loud or quiet, we are glad to have a feline in the house again, even if he chooses to hide under our bed for now. Whether a good or evil cat, we will love him regardless and do our best as pet owners.
We have lived in our house thirteen years. Since Sprite died, it has felt more like a house than a home. When the couches are covered in cat dander again, when I automatically empty the litter box on Sunday and Wednesday nights, when I find myself lounging around and find that a cat has appeared on my lap, when I have to watch where I walk lest I trip over a cat, then it will likely feel like a home once again.