We have an activity we do with kids when we go out to speak to school, church or civic groups. We pass out a drawing of a backpack and ask the kids, “If you have to leave the place that you call home and all you can take with you is what will fit into a backpack, what would you bring?”
Nine times out of ten, a cat or dog makes the list. Somehow, a pet really reminds us what we all hold near and dear when it comes to having a home of our own. Earlier this summer, Saleha, a Simpson advocate for people experiencing homelessness, wrote about Ray and his cat:
“I took Ray grocery shopping a few times and was always impressed by his meticulous lists: 1 loaf of white sandwich bread, 3 drumsticks from the deli, 2 rolls of toilet paper (whatever’s on sale). For his own needs, Ray was thrifty, but when shopping for Bess his cat, he was a different man. His list would read: 4 bags of kitty litter, 2 boxes Fancy Feast salmon, 2 boxes Fancy Feast chicken, 1 bag dry food (premium), and at the end of every list: 1 cat toy. Ray had been hurt by a lot of people in his life, but he could care for and love Bess, who returned his affection. I believe that love is what allowed him to survive cancer as long as he did.
I was with Ray as he was dying. I rushed him to the emergency room and held his hand as they poked him with needles and strapped a mask over his face. Ray was a fighter. He had been told several times that death was imminent in the past decade and kept proving the doctors wrong. He clung fiercely to his independence and continued to take the bus in the dead of winter when the cold made it almost impossible for him to breathe. Even on his deathbed Ray found the strength to tell me how to take care of Bess. A day later the doctors told me that the tumor in his lungs had spread to his heart – something no one could survive – and they took him off life support.” Bess is currently being cared for by Paws for a Cause.
In the most recent issue of the Humane Society of America’s magazine “All Animals,” Michael Kaminer reports on an ever increasing number of pets showing up in shelters due to families and individuals becoming homeless. High foreclosure rates and rising cost of living are sending people as well as their pets out on the street.
To many individuals, a pet is a member of the family, and as devastating of a loss as their home.