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April 19, 2014

First Person: Pets in our pages are looking for a forever home

Nathan Custis bombards the Internet with cute pet photos.

I can haz forever home?

My favorite part of my job is the fact that I share cat pictures with the greater Raleigh area as part of my regular duties.

No captions, though. I rather like my job.

Those who read our Page 2 probably notice the Pet of the Week feature that we run in most issues. Each of those pets is looking for a forever home: someone who will take them in for the rest of their lives.

I enjoy sharing the cat (and dog) photos not just because it makes me feel partially responsible for the more adorable portions of the Internet spilling out into real life. The main reason I enjoy it is the thought that I’m helping give these animals what my wife and I gave our shelter cat.

In the summer of 2012, I walked through rows upon rows of cages containing cats at the Wake County Animal Shelter east of Raleigh. My then-fianceé and I were there to pick out a cat to take home. Most of them were excited to see us (or perhaps to be fed or get the chance to be outside their cages), some were scared, others were just mellow.

I remember seeing the cat who would eventually be named Lady Elayne, the Regal Queen of our house. Laney for short. Her fur was matted and she was curled up in a ragged ball of discontentment at the very back of the cage. Unlike the other animals, she wasn’t eager to talk to us or get us to pick her up. She just wanted to be left alone.

At 12 years old, she was a grumpy old lady and had just had enough. It struck me that when I reached in to retrieve her, she didn’t make any defensive move. She didn’t growl or hiss or bite or swipe. She just cried this pitiful meow and tried to set her feet against the inside of the cage.

I knew then this cat was special. I knew she was going home with us — just as soon as I could get her out of the darned cage.

At the time, I thought we were saving her from certain death. I know now that wasn’t quite accurate. Not counting legally mandated euthanizations such as animals who have bitten someone or who have communicable diseases, the Wake County Animal Shelter actually has a very low euthanization rate: around 5 percent.

However, we still saved her from having to spend another second in a cage in a room full of other cats, and we gave her a better life. Although both my wife and I are allergic to cats, we take our medicine and we deal with the itchy eyes, because Laney isn’t going anywhere as long as we have anything to say about it.

Sometimes as Laney purrs, her tongue hangs out of her mouth; she’s the picture of pure feline contentment. She’s grown accustomed to a posh life with wet food once a night, regular brushing and more crinkle balls than she could ever hope to bat under the sofa.

When she got sick, I knew panic unlike anything I’ve recently experienced. I remember begging her to eat, offering her literally anything I thought might interest her: baby food, ground beef, tuna, you name it. The midnight trip to the emergency vet was agony. She was part of my family now, and I didn’t want to lose her.

After being wrapped up in a towel like the world’s grumpiest burrito two to three times a day to be force fed with a plastic syringe, she walked over to her food bowl and ate. I was nearly hysterical with relief.

Laney is the closest thing I’ve had to a child thus far, and we treat her like one. The love we get back from her is entirely worth the trouble. Even when she’s hiding in her cardboard box and being aloof as cats are prone to do.

Adopting can change your life for the better. Every bit of happiness and contentment she experiences causes us to feel the same. Adoption agencies like Alley Cats and Angels, Snowflake Animal Rescue, Best Friend Pet Adoption and dozens of others are out there in the Triangle right now, trying to find homes for animals like Laney.

I’m not going to beg you to do it for the animals. Do it for yourself. It’ll make your life better. It’s worth a little fur on your clothes.

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