Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sponsoring Toby

Toby at the AFOC Shelter
I had just lost my cat Rajah in June of 2005 and wanted to do something help support homeless animals in his memory. I wasn’t ready to adopt another cat but did want to help rescue organizations and shelters.

I went about searching for the right organization to support. The most important thing for me was that the organization was “no-kill” and operated locally. I’m not sure exactly how I found Animal Friends Of Connecticut; my next door neighbors had just adopted an AFOC cat, the local newspaper showed AFOC cats up for adoption, I easily found the AFOC website (www.afocinc.org).

I do remember visiting the AFOC website and navigating around it. That’s how I learned about the AFOC sponsorship program. The sponsorship program page states:

“We have many cats that are not adoptable or are waiting for adoption. We are looking for Sponsors who are willing to sponsor a rescued cat by help covering the cost of food, litter and basic medical care.”

I was very impressed that AFOC cares for cats that are not adoptable when many “euthanize” these animals. I had to help my Rajah, who was suffering as he was dying, cross over to The Rainbow Bridge and don’t consider putting healthy animals to “sleep” to be “euthanasia”. To me, that is just a euphemism.

The AFOC sponsorship program is very flexible. It let me donate an amount (monthly) I was comfortable with, so I went ahead and signed up, leaving which cat to sponsor up to AFOC. I soon received an email from AFOC asking if I’d like “Toby 2” as my sponsored cat. It didn’t really matter to me which cat I sponsored and told them Toby would be fine. Toby was about a year old at the time. Eileen, that was sending me the emails, told me that as a kitten, Toby bonded to another kitten named Fletcher. 

Toby and Fletcher at the AFOC Shelter
Fletcher had a terminal condition so they didn’t separate them as he received comfort being with Toby. AFOC didn’t think Fletcher would survive and planned to adopt out Toby when Fletcher was gone. Fletcher had other ideas and survived, which was great but it also meant that Toby lost his opportunity to be easily adopted.

It’s a sad reality that (weaned) kittens are in higher demand for adoption everywhere. Kittens quickly become cats and, once they do, the chances for their adoption drop significantly.

Soon after I agreed to sponsor Toby, I received a package with his photo, a letter, and a refrigerator magnet with his picture. As time went by, I’d periodically receive Christmas cards, refrigerator magnets, letters, and photos of Toby. I consented to let AFOC put my first name on Toby’s sponsorship image on the website. From time-to-time, I’d look at Toby’s picture there and smile when I saw “Sponsored by Carmelo, Cromwell CT”. I’d also look at Toby’s refrigerator magnets when I sipped my morning coffee, wondering how he was doing.

One of Toby's Refrigerator Magnet Photos
Years went by and I’d replace Toby’s refrigerator magnets when they faded always thinking “I’ll have to adopt him someday.” This wasn’t realistic as my elderly mother was living with me along with my three cats, Doppler, Keiko and Tasha. Normally, I’d have one or two cats but Tasha was rescued off the street by my niece and needed a temporary foster home, that I provided, not realizing I was destined to be a foster failure. 

"Angel" Tasha

I had Doppler since the day he was born prematurely in August of 1996. My girlfriend and I bottle fed him around-the-clock as his mother was only six months old and didn’t lactate. In May of 2013, Doppler lost his long battle with lymphoma. In November of 2013 my elderly mother passed away. My house suddenly felt empty and I decided to adopt an AFOC shelter cat. I contacted Judy (AFOC director) and she had me speak directly with Barbara at the shelter. I asked about adopting Toby but Barbara told me he wasn’t available since he was so bonded to Fletcher.

Doppler and His Mother Glory on the Day He Was Born

When I first went to the AFOC shelter to meet and adopt a cat, I asked to see Toby. Barbara took me to his room and I got to see him and Fletcher. I was a stranger so Toby hid from me as much as he could but I did get to pet him. Barbara then took me around the shelter to meet the cats waiting for a forever home. I couldn’t resist looking at the kittens but they had a lot of potential adopters scheduled to visit them so I decided to adopt a “long term inmate”. I asked Barbara which cat I should adopt and she told me that black cats have the hardest time getting adopted so I adopted a beautiful “parlor panther” named Josie that was passed over many times. When I picked up Josie and put her in my carrier she looked up at me surprised and made a tiny meow as if she was saying: “Me? You picked me?” I also took home a little tabby cat named Gwendolyn that clung to me as soon as she saw me.
Josie In Her Forever Home
More years passed and I lost Tasha and Gwendolyn. I also adopted a special needs kitten I named Pepino. Still, I would look at the refrigerator magnets and wonder how Toby was doing. My daydreams about Toby changed at the AFOC tag sale when George, one of the AFOC directors and secretary, told me “every cat at the shelter is adoptable” (under the right circumstances). 

"Angel" Gwendolyn In Her Forever Home

On November 10th 2016, I received phone calls and emails from AFOC volunteers Pat and Eileen telling me Fletcher passed away. I was worried about Toby and how he would adjust. I would call Jean the shelter coordinator, and Pat to check up on him. Now a 13 year old senior cat, Toby’s chances for adoption were slim at best. As Christmas approached, I received Toby’s newest refrigerator magnet, a photo, and a card. I looked at the new magnet on my refrigerator and soul searched as I sipped my morning coffee.

I had some time off for the holidays, and as Christmas was nearly upon us, I called Pat, Barbara, and Eileen one more time. On December 23rd I called Jean at the shelter with my “prank”. I told Jean I no longer wanted to sponsor Toby. I told her I had sponsored him for about 12 years now and that was long enough. She paused and waited for me to speak. I then asked if she’d be at the shelter the morning of Christmas Eve as I wanted to adopt Toby and take him home. Jean was wondering if that was what I was up to and overjoyed that it was. I had already told Eileen to switch my sponsorship to another AFOC cat and she said she’d pick one for me.
Felipe, My New Sponsor Cat

On Christmas Eve morning, 2016, I arrived at the shelter, met with Jean and the shelter volunteers, and thanked them for all they are doing. I then put Toby in my carrier and put him in my car. I stopped by Barbara’s house to drop off pictures of “The Pride Cubs” (my cats) before bringing Toby to my home where I had a spare bedroom prepared for him.

Toby In His Forever Home

Pepino has a Facebook page with many followers. Earlier that week I told them to expect a surprise on Christmas Eve. I delivered that surprise as a video on Pepino’s Facebook page. I introduced Toby, told him he was adopted and finally has a forever home, and wished him a merry little Christmas. Toby was one of AFOC’s longest term inmates and I just didn’t think he should die at the shelter. 

Since then, many of Pepino’s followers ask for Toby updates. Toby has met all of the cubs and has been slowly exploring the house. He’s made his first visit at my veterinarian and received a microchip. Even though all my cats are indoor only, I microchip them in case something unforeseen happens and they run outside because they are afraid.

Recently I received a big envelope from Animal Friends Of Connecticut. Inside was a large color picture of Felipe and a letter. I am now sponsoring Felipe with another sponsor. Sponsorship helps Animal Friends Of Connecticut give shelter, food, and veterinary care, to many homeless cats, for as long as it takes for them to find a home. Without this help, many of these cats would not have a chance. Sponsorship is ideal for those that want to help these homeless animals but are allergic, cannot have a cat in their home, or are not in a position to adopt one.

I waited 12 years for the time when Toby and I were both ready. Sponsoring him helped keep him and others alive at the AFOC shelter. I still have his last magnet on my refrigerator, only now, I just smile as I look at it sipping my morning coffee.
Toby Is Finally Home


Anonymous said...

Wow.Carmelo Aresco, you are one special man . I know the pride cubs are all proud and Toby, especially, is smiling. ��

marty johnson said...

Love it Carmelo, you are my favorite cat daddy and Pepino, Betsy, Fiona, keiko, Josie, Dottie, Toby are very lucky babies to have you !! Filipe is too :)