This fall I read two books about animal rescue. Me, My Ferals, and I by Christine Booras is a heartfelt story about community cats, while Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt is a humorous story about shelter dogs. Both will resonate with anyone who cares about the plight of homeless pets. You might also pick practical tips on what to do, should you be inspired to become an animal welfare advocate.
October 2008, Christine Booras saw a stealthy shadow moving, small and dark, and peering through the door of her Tai Chi studio. That glimpse, which turned out to be a confident cat, changed Booras’ life. Booras set out to investigate the wooded area behind the building where she paid rent and discovered not just one adult cat, but several, and kittens. As anyone who has ever tried to find foster or adoptive homes for animals knows, there can be a lot of dead ends. Booras persevered and found homes for the kittens, but this led her with the dilemma of what to do for the adults. Like that of many dedicated to animal rescue, her home was already overflowing with animals.
In the chapters that follow, Booras shares not just her journey into the Trap-Neuter-Release world, but also allows readers a glimpse into her own personal life. The latter at times interrupt the flow of her story and other times help me feel connected to Booras. Over all, the chapters of most interest to me were those which focused on the community cats for whom Booras felt responsible. I appreciate how vulnerable she allows herself to be when sharing of her early mistakes with learning how to trap, create feeding stations and protect them from weather, and handle newcomers to the community including that of other wildlife. She inspires me with the depths to which she researched feral cats, knowledge which she used not only as a caretaker, but also to request a proclamation of Feral Cat Day and assist others with their own colonies. The saddest parts are those moments when Booras discovers members of her colony that have been killed by cars or other hazards, but comfort lies in the fact that many cats knew love and even found forever homes because of her passion.
Me, My Ferals, and I took Booras over three years to write. New adventures kept happening. Even her epilogue, while recognizing how far we have come in caring for homeless animals, notes that there’s still a long way left to go. Until there stop being more animals than there are responsible homes, there will always be a need for animal welfare advocates.
David Rosenfelt describes himself as a “RV half-empty” guy. Then he poses the question of: How the heck did he get himself in this situation? By situation, he’s referring to being part of an eleven-member traveling group with three RVs and twenty-dogs. The traveling group consisted of friends and readers of Rosenfelt’s books who had volunteered their time and money. The three RVs had with refrigerators that were stocked with food and stoves and microwaves with which to cook the food. As for the dogs, they were a small portion of the dogs that Rosenfelt and his wife had rescued from shelters and were now being transported from California to a new home in Maine.
Rosenfelt blames Tara or rather her guardian, Debbie Myers, for their being in rescue work. In 1992, at the end of a movie date, Rosenfelt asked Myers about going out to dinner. She declined because she needed to administer medication to her dog. Despite that unlikely but real reason, the two hit it off. On their third date, Rosenfelt met the dog Tara. When Tara died, the couple found comfort by volunteering in a shelter. This comfort was short-lived, due to the realities of how easy it is for pet owners to request euthanasia for their pet. After one family casually dropped off their grown dog, in exchange for a puppy, Rosenfelt and Myers not only rescued the dog but bailed out of the shelter system. “If we were going to make a real difference, it would have to be another way. And it wasn’t long before we found one.”
Throughout the book, the couple’s road adventures are clearly identified in italics while their rescue escapades are in plain style. Even so, I still at times found myself confused by the narrative. Compassion and humor infuse what could otherwise have been a maddening account of all the reasons that people find to relinquish their animals. There were times though that I found the Rosenfelt’s self-deprecating style grew tiring and I wished for him to take a little more pride in his rescue efforts.
Yet I also enjoyed learning about how two animal lovers unwittingly find themselves in charge of rescuing dozens of dogs. Just as much, I loved discovering all the quirky ways of Rosenselt and Myers. He for example had no problem with making a fool of himself to promote animal adoption, while she had no problem walking out of a shelter with several more dogs than the one they had come to save. I also appreciated how much their story illustrates that it takes a village to bring about change. Eleven people took the road trip with the couple, but just as many or more offered their support along the way.