All my life I have had a deep love for animals, all animals although cats have always had a special place in my heart. From an early age, I looked around and knew that animals needed help and I wanted to do what I could. We lived on a farm in rural Oklahoma during my middle school years and I remember talking my mom into feeding and caring for all the cats who found their way to our property. Most of them were feral, or what we called wild back then, but I was determined that they get at least one good meal a day at our house. Keep in mind that this was years before caring for feral cats became popular and most farmers figured that the “wild cats” got plenty to eat by catching rodents.
I formed relationships with many of the cats who came to our home even some whom no one else could get near. I was devastated when we had to move, not only for myself but for all the cats who were used to getting a meal or two at our place.
That was my start with animals but my love affair with them only grew as the years passed. My real rescuing came after divorcing my first husband who hated most animals. I adopted a 2-year-old, female, Norwegian Forest Cat mix I named Kahlua from the local SPCA shelter in February 1994 shortly after being in a car accident that left me unable to work for a while. Kahlua was with me for 11 years leaving me when she was 13.
Although I had always been of the mindset that a pet doesn’t need to be a purebred or even an animal you bought where you know the animal’s complete history, adopting Kahlua really brought that message home. Kahlua called to me in that shelter. I happened to be looking at another cat and trying not to listen to all the loud meows when I heard a tiny little mew that somehow blasted over the noise. I followed the mews and saw Kahlua who began pawing at the cage door trying to get to me. Since there were no workers around, I opened the door and Kahlua climbed onto my shoulder. A worker came in shortly afterwards and asked how I got the cat and I told her that I opened the cage door and she just walked out to me. I was told that she didn’t like people and it was looking like she wouldn’t be adopted in time. So, I saved her life but she also saved me as I was not in a good place emotionally or physically. I believe that Fate played a hand and that Kahlua was waiting for me because I never saw any of the antisocial nature the shelter claimed she had.
I currently have 4 cats, all of whom were rescues that I integrated into my home making them inside only cats. First is Shasta, a 13-year-old, female, DSH, calico with tabby markings also known as a caliby or tabico. I found her abandoned at 3 months of age. Second is Cinder, a 13-year-old, male Russian Blue mix I found curled up in a ball under a table on my porch at 3 weeks old. Third is Kona, a male, 7-year-old, DSH tuxedo cat whose claim to fame is that he’s a 20-pound cat!
Kona was found at 6 weeks of age by our maintenance men on the coldest day of Winter that year when there was actually frost on the ground. Here in south central Texas that’s a very rare occurrence! Kona believes it’s his “job” to assist the maintenance men when they come to repair something. He continues to do so even though the maintenance staff has changed. Finally, I have Scamp, a male, 6-year-old, Maine Coon mix who was found at 3 weeks of age.
My fifth cat, who still very much counts in my heart, was a black, male, DSH cat whom I lost in January of last year. He was 2 months shy of being 16. His name was Osiris and he developed sudden kidney failure. In a period of 3 days, I went from having my animal soulmate to losing him.
Osiris was found with his 3 littermates abandoned in a storage building by a maintenance man at the apartment complex where we lived at the time. I happened to be walking across the parking lot and the maintenance man stopped me and asked what he should do about the kittens. As I’m sure he knew I would, I told him to bring them to my place. They were about 3 weeks old and, as luck would have it, I had a nursing mama cat named Pepper with four kittens who were 3 weeks old so I set the kittens at the bottom of our stairs since she happened to be coming downstairs. Pepper looked at the kittens then gave me a look that clearly said she was affronted. I swear she thought I’d stolen her babies! She ran downstairs, picked up a kitten and tried to carry him upstairs which resulted in the kitten being bonked on the head. I told the maintenance man we were fine then I took the one kitten from Pepper, picked up the other three and carried them all up to Pepper’s nest. She followed me closely, giving me directions the entire way.
In addition to my current cats, I feed two stray cats named Bonita and Moose who are part of the colony of Community Cats at my apartment complex. I provide food, water, and shelter. Moose has been coming to eat with me for about 2 years while Bonita’s been visiting about a year. Both are now at the point where they love being petted, I can even comb Moose and pet his belly which is quite the accomplishment as anyone who has cats knows.
I rescued many cats over the years bringing them inside long enough to either find them homes or adopt them myself. If they went to another home, it was someone I had “vetted” so I knew they’d provide a loving home and would keep the cat. I have also rescued other animals.
I had a Bearded Dragon, also known as Dragons or Beardies, who was a rescue of sorts. Without consulting her, a friend’s ex-husband bought a baby Bearded Dragon for their son because the boy had been asking for one; once the boy had the Dragon, he wouldn’t take care of it. My friend ultimately came to me and asked if I would take the Bearded Dragon. I adopted him and named him BabyFace.
I had to learn about taking care of a Bearded Dragon since I had never had a reptile before. Thankfully, my husband had been a herpetologist before he and I got married. BabyFace grew from about 5 inches to almost 22 inches and lived to 15 ½ years old which was quite a bit beyond the normal lifespan of 10 years! I was told that his size was also quite a bit larger than average. I can only say that I gave him a lot of love. I learned a great deal about lizards including the fact that, unlike a lot of people think, they can, and do, love and show it.
As for BabyFace, he was quite attached to me and I was his person. He hated it when someone other than me tried to get him out of his habitat or cleaned it and let the people who did so know about his displeasure. I broke my foot in 2012 and was unable to climb up to BabyFace’s habitat to clean it or get him out to run around for several weeks so my husband, Ray, had to do it. Ray said that BabyFace tried to bite his hand every time he reached into the habitat. When they’re only 5 inches long, a Beardie’s bite barely registers but when they’re over 20 inches long and 6 inches around, the bite is quite painful!
Between 1999 and 2004, I also rescued quite a few wild animals, mostly birds such as
Mockingbirds, the state bird of Texas, my home state. One of my most memorable wild rescues was a young bat. I had been watering my plants when I noticed a “leaf” fluttering. When I saw that it was doing so even when no water was hitting it, I decided to get a closer look and, to my amazement, it was this tiny bat. Having never seen a bat close-up before, I was eager to check this little guy out. His wings were velvety and his body was the softest fur. I did notice some holes in his wings which were most likely preventing him from flying.
All my wild rescues were picked up by a local wildlife rescue. The one exception to that was a cardinal found when he was a nestling that the wildlife rescue wouldn’t come pick up. We had tried giving him back to his parents to no avail. So, I raised him with my husband’s help. We named him Peepers and he lived a little over a year before dying in a tragic accident.
I rescue because those animals need someone to be on their side. In the case of domestic animals, they deserve love, to live in a home, to be pain free, and to not be ignored. All my animal companions with one exception, a purebred Shetland Sheepdog given to me by my mother, have been adopted or rescued because there are too many animals left loose on our streets. Just because an animal isn’t a purebred doesn’t mean they’re less worthy of love. They’re just as smart and loving and are often without the health issues that many purebreds have.
If more people would adopt or rescue rather shop there’d be fewer homeless animals and fewer animals in the shelters. In addition, too many animals in pet shops come from so-called backyard breeders which are a nice name for puppy or kitty mills. The exotic animals are often stolen from their environment and smuggled into the country to sell. You can’t even be safe using a breeder because there are some who aren’t legitimate.
So, in essence, by buying an animal you could be supporting activities that cause the animals much pain and discomfort.
Darla Taylor has been married to her soulmate for 19 years and lives in San Antonio, Texas. Darla has two children and 6 grandchildren with one more on the way. She is currently owned by 4 cats and takes care of two of her apartment complex’s community cats.