Want to see up-close what grace-under-pressure looks like? Go visit the Tri-County Humane Society in east St. Cloud.
I saw those wonderful people in action five times recently – the five times I brought homeless cats to them during late February, early March. In my neighborhood, every winter and spring there are pitiful homeless cats wandering around here, seeking a place to huddle out of the cold, looking for something – anything – to eat, hoping for a warm home.
Those poor cats are either dumped off from cars or tossed out of homes by ignorant people who think, mistakenly, that cats are by nature “outdoor” creatures. Some of the cats, no doubt, were at one time “cute cuddly kittens” until they aged a year or two into cats, when their unfeeling owners decided they weren’t so “cute” anymore and tossed them out of their homes to fend for themselves. I’ve often said I would like to take those owners, drive them into the frozen countryside miles from anywhere, dump them off and see how they’d like it – cold, alone and helpless.
I, along with next-door neighbors Richard and Marty Dubbin, deal with homeless cats every year. We have multiple pets of our own so we cannot take the strays into our homes. We do, however, feed them constantly and provide ways they can stay somewhat warm until we can live-trap them, before spring comes with its kitten-birth explosion.
A month ago I called the TCHS and explained the problem to a woman named Lizz. Kind and thoughtful, she scheduled times on days that I could bring in the five cats, one by one.
One morning, I baited the trap on my deck. I waited. Within minutes, my breath stopped as I saw the familiar black-and-cinnamon cat step into the long wire-cage trap. To my astonishment, it stepped gingerly over the trap mechanism, ate the sardines, then expertly backed out of the cage and dashed off. You’d think it had graduated with honors from the Houdini Feline School of Escape. I learned quickly how to conceal the trap mechanism with a light kitchen towel.
The next day, I caught the cute black-and-white cat, the one that would often look longingly through the windows into my warm living room, making my heart sink every time. It was traumatic to see her struggle in the cage with her bloodied nose, but I had to do what I had to do, driving her the 12 miles to the TCHS. Lizz expertly did the intake paperwork, putting “Dolores” (the name Lizz gave the cat) into the back room.
During the next two weeks, with help from the Dubbins, I managed to catch four more cats – all of them sweet critters that had probably been housecats until their thoughtless owners discarded them like old socks.
Every time I brought a cat in, the TCHS was bustling with commotion – its staff busy with people popping in with questions or to view pets up for adoption. Despite the hectic hubbub, someone always dealt immediately with the intake of a cat I’d bring in. Lizz helped so expertly three times (with cats Dolores, Sylvester and Hazel), Claudine lovingly helped with a cat she named Tara, and Adam patiently processed one he dubbed Bubo. Another employee, Bryce, suffered a nasty scratch from Sylvester when the panicked cat dug one of its claws into his hand.
Later, I learned Dolores (oops!) had to be renamed Dougie, as it was a male cat. The staff fell in love with its sweet purring nature, and the irresistible critter was adopted by happy “parents” within a week. Two of the cats, it was later learned, were pregnant. They were placed in foster homes. Poor Sylvester (not fond of people), was placed on a farm as a barn cat. The others, I think, I hope, will soon be put into the adoption room.
There are no words to express my gratitude for the TCHS and its staff. Without it, without them, the cats they accepted from me would have been doomed in one terrible way or another.
The TCHS has long been my favorite charity. My admiration for it is now stronger than ever. I keep urging everyone I know to give generously to it – in money, needed supplies or volunteer work. To find out more about it, ways you can help or how to adopt, visit tricountyhumanesociety.org – or, better yet, visit the place in person. Its address is 735 Eighth St. NE. Its number is 320-252-0896.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.