Hot Off The Collar Blog

Saving rats and saving faith

Hot Off the Collar | Volume 18

Working in animal welfare, you see a lot of neglect, abuse and abandonment; too much to process sometimes. After a while, you start to question society as a whole. How can people just “throw out” live, sentient beings as if they were so much junk? Over the last few months we’ve taken in three Great Pyrenees that were abandoned in a field just north of Kingston, boxes of cats left to fend for themselves and most recently nearly 50 domestic rats.

The dogs – Molly, Nelly and Mike – have all found new homes. The cats are either in foster care or being readied for adoption. The rats are a longer story.

On the first Friday in May our office got a call about a recycling bin of domestic rats that had been left on the K&P trail, just north of Cordukes Rd. Knowing that these poor creatures would not survive in the wild, our Animal Programs Manager, Christie Haaima immediately drove up to the area to see if she could save them. When she arrived, seven had already died but she was able to capture 15. She brought them back to the shelter, grabbed a live trap, blankets, and peanut butter and drove right back to see how many more she could save. With some help from her partner, she made that same trip every five or six hours for the rest of the weekend, including in the pouring rain on Friday night and Saturday at midnight. When the weekend was over, Christie had saved 37 rats – two of which were pregnant and gave birth within days of coming into our care. The next step was finding housing for 37 rats. We put out a call on social media for cages, bedding and food and many community members stepped up right away to help. It also became apparent that we could not keep all these rats here so we reached out to our foster volunteers. By Monday morning, 32 of the 37 rats were in foster care.

Once the rats were safe and housing had been found, we as a staff found ourselves once again asking the question that is posed too many times – how can people treat animals this way? These poor, defenseless creatures were callously left to die and suffer needlessly. One simple call to us and we could have arranged to accept them. Like many local, charitable organizations, the KHS understands that sometimes life can get overwhelming. We could have helped if the owners had only given us a call, but they didn’t. As noted above, it’s enough to make you question your fellow humans.

Two years ago, when I accepted this role, the question posed to me most often by friends and family was, “How can you do it Gord? How can you handle seeing the pain and the abuse?”

My answer then, was the same as my answer now, you look for the good and you hold onto that.

Last week, the good was easy to find. Christie Haaima, a veteran of more than a decade at the Kingston Humane Society and a woman who has held almost every job in this building at one time or another, showed a level of dedication and commitment that is virtually unparalleled. A story born out of neglect and heartless indifference was almost singlehandedly transformed into an amazing story of dedication, community compassion and sheer love for living beings.

COVID and the isolation we’re all experiencing brings emotions to the forefront; little things move us to tears. Big things like this move us first to anger and then to action. So we decided to tell this story in the media and on our social channels because our community needs to know that for every cruel and unfeeling individual who abandons fifty helpless animals, I can point to someone like Christie Haaima. For every owner that decides they’ll just leave their dogs in a field or six kittens in a box beside the road, I can point to Talia or Natasha or Shevaun or Denny or Sebrina or Sasha or Emery; KHS staffers and volunteers willing to go beyond expectations to save lives.

In a world, and at a time, when we’re challenged to find life-affirming narratives, I only have to look at the smiling determination of my colleagues to be inspired and to bolster my sometimes shaky faith in humanity.

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