hazel in shelter “20-year-old cat, brought to shelter,” said the post on my Facebook timeline. I was tagged as one of six women rescuing cats in this community.

Hazel came the next day, along with a vague background story: she was jealous of the family baby, and grandma had taken her to the shelter so the son, whose cat she was, wouldn’t have to. How … compassionate.

Hazel can’t speak, so she can’t defend herself. She only sits with sad, big eyes, staring. She can’t eat or poop, as she either has a tumor (which maybe the family knew about before they bailed on her) or is constipated because of her trauma. She has no familiar smells, no familiar rugs about her. She had no familiar foods until we appealed on Facebook to know what she’d been eating, and someone called the family. Meow Mix wet.

Hazel can’t give a last lecture, telling us what we ought to know. We only know that she is dying in the back room of our bookstore, afraid and heartbroken. People say, “It’s so good of you and Jack to take her.” No, it isn’t. It isn’t doing a blind bit of good, because what Hazel wants is nothing we can give her.

We do know that families have other ways of handling “the problem” (of going on vacation, having a baby, the cat getting sick or pregnant, etc.) than taking a cat to a shelter. Some families just toss the cat in a dumpster, take it to the woods, shoot it–hopefully with one clean shot. This family chose a “humane” method, I am told. They took their 20-year-old cat to the shelter, where emotional blackmail kicked in for the rescue community and the cat came “home” here. Having chosen to do evil to their cat, they chose the least evil they could do. How …. considerate.

Hazel was well cared for all her life; she has shiny fur and no urinary tract infection, great feats in a cat her age. She was loved. Why did you stop? What part of you can you turn off to successfully leave her at a shelter, knowing she’d be euthanized? I haven’t stopped crying for three days, and I barely know your cat. Can you show me where that OFF switch is, please? It might come in handy.

Because we’re not running a rescue now, but a hospice, something we were never meant to be. We’re supposed to be pulling kittens and cats out of the shelter before their euth date hits. Did you know that 1 in 5 kittens makes it out of a shelter, 1 in 9 adult cats? The only animal with a higher kill rate than cats in a shelter is chihuahuas: 1 in 12 makes it out alive. And nobody, but nobody “adopts” a senior cat.

And we now know, according to my husband, that we can never do this again. He said, and I quote, “I’m not watching you bloody cry yourself to sleep for three days because some shits of a family has pulled emotional blackmail on a bunch of people trying to uphold the sanctity of life. People have to realize a pet is a lifelong commitment and take care of their own messes.”

We know that Hazel has been put through Hell for the convenience of her human family.

And Jack is right about taking care of their own messes. Yesterday a dog rescuing friend went postal on FB and explained that people who give up pets to rescues and shelters think they’re doing something good, when rescues are not there to solve your problems. We’re supposed to be catching the strays, the unhomed, not the inconvenient. We’re supposed to be uniting families who will make a LIFELONG commitment to animals who will give unconditional love, by pulling animals from shelters. 8,000 companion animals a day getting euthanized, and you want a rescue to come get your kittens because you “forgot” to spay your cat?

It feels like emptying the ocean with a sieve, rescuing cats. While we were doing our pitiful best for Hazel a family of kittens five days old were euthanized in the shelter because there was nowhere for them to go. We couldn’t take them. We had your old, heartbroken, dying cat who is longing for you.

You bastards.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Uncategorized


  1. Bastards is an understatement.

  2. Thank you, Wendy and Jack, for telling it like it is; I applaud your brutal honesty, and I share your outrage. I will NEVER understand how people can do this to an animal they supposedly loved. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is a special place in hell for those who hurt or abandon animals. I have no words of comfort . . . just tears. And anger – because this situation was totally avoidable, if that family had just given a damn about a precious creature who loved them. Bastards, indeed . . .

  3. Sharon Bower

    No excuse. None. Poor baby. At her age there is likely some dementia involved, as well. Take her out of her familiar setting and she will not be able to adjust. This is simply cruel. I sincerely hope that Grandma lobbies to get treated better when she gets older and less convenient…

  4. Kathy Satteson

    I sincerely hope that somehow the family reads this – if someone knows the family they should forward this to them!

  5. Mario R.

    You leave me crying in rage.

  6. Paula W.

    Bastards is not nearly enough a strong enough word .. I know I looked in several languages , I would say we need better swear words but truthfully what we need are people who are better. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. My heart goes out to you as do my prayers .

  7. timely reminder for the grandma!

  8. joanne M.Rogers

    Thank you for saying what I wish I could have said as well as you….

  9. Nanka Castulik

    Heartbreaking. Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to have a caring vet put the cat quietly “to sleep”. Dying peacefully in the arms of someone who truly cares and weeps with her, seems to me infinitely preferable to a long, painful, lonely decline. It’s what I’d choose for myself. Please consider giving Hazel this one last caring “gift”. She deserves it. And so do you. In my opinion, “no kill” is not always the most humane policy.

    • This has been the struggle, Nanka: quality of life versus just trying to keep her alive. We’re giving the Laxitone until Friday to work, and then if the kindest thing is a goodbye, it will be said with gentleness and a house call.

      And if the Laxitone IS working, she will have a few more months of gentle rubs under the chin (which she loves) and cuddling the catnip fish our sweet neighbor brought her, and being the pet of the bookstore’s community. She has begun to respond to the humans around her, a little less fear and pining, a little more “…and you are…?” to visitors. Gives us all hope.

      Of course we’re hoping for door number two, but we’re ready to go through number one if needed. We agree that sometimes it is the kindest way forward.

  10. Laura Taylor and Taylor Barfield

    Been thinking of you Wendy and Jack. Hazel’s predicament is heartbreaking. I will never understand people who can abandon the animals that love and trust them. Thank you for what you do. It does make a difference. It certainly did for us. Love and prayers.

  11. LM

    I completely agree with the sentiments you have expressed here. having a pet is a lifelong commitment. I got my cat when I was 21 out of university and ever since every decision I’ve made regarding where and how I’m living has included the cat’s requirements too and it is an expense and it does mean some options were closed to me. I remember at one point family and friends were urging me to buy an inner city apartment as a good investment. My cat is an outdoor cat so I never seriously considered the idea. They kept saying ‘you can’t let the cat stop you’ when I told them why that wasn’t an option. Um yes it damn well does. I didn’t want an upset neurotic cat inside a tiny apartment who suddenly can’t go outside and I’m not getting rid of her either. We are both now happily living in my own house with my own backyard.

  12. Oh man—I feel your pain, and more than that, Hazel’s. If you can’t afford to keep your geriatric pet when he/she reaches the age of needing constant medical help, do what YOU would want done for you. I HATE having an animal put down, but have had to do so when the vet told me it was time. Let’s say this family CAN’T afford Hazel at this point—don’t you think Hazel would be happier being loved and groomed by the people she loves, one last time, and quietly going to the hereafter? You and Jack are wonderful people, and those “bastards” should be ashamed of what they’ve done. Still, the best you can provide is a “humane” nursing home—and that’s not what I want, you want, or Hazel wants, I’d imagine. Bless you, Hazel, and all God’s creatures who step in when the bastards fail…

  13. My indoor cat Tigger turned 21 in March of this year. I have 2 small grand children who have learned to tolerate her. I will not send Tigger to a shelter. Children like animals can learn to co-exist with each other.
    Why didn’t Hazel’s family try? So sad 😦

  14. Carol Bannon

    Hazel has found true friends in yourself and your husband. I do feel it is sad that the cat had to make a transition at such an elderly age, but I do not know enough about the previous owner to make a judgement. Was the new baby allergic? Did Hazel act out in aggression? We do not know these answers. The family had to make a tough decesion… would I have done the same? That I do not know for sure. The family had cared for Hazel perhaps for 20 years, so there is responsibility present. Just a thought….

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