We make resolutions each year we hope to keep. We reflect on the previous year at the transition into the next. We sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

I do most of these things in my head or on paper. Since I don’t know all the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” just the tune, I try not to embarrass myself. However, I do not presume the heavens will provide me with an object lesson right at the turn of the year. I am no George Bailey.

Those of you who live in the neighborhood of Maple Street Book Shops or who frequent the store or who follow our tweets know we have a colony of feral cats living under our stores. Feral cats live under many a building and house in New Orleans; after Katrina, when pets were stranded, we had a kitty baby boom. When we visited NOLA in April for my husband’s interview at Tulane, we saw cats of every make and model on campus.

Working at Maple, I started naming the cats. Smutch. Blair. Two-Face. Not that they would come when I called or anything, but they were curious. They approached the door and sat just inside, fleeing if anyone got too close. Someone had been working to get the cats fixed; as each was captured, he or she would come back with a notch on the ear to indicate the new, neutered status.

I noticed when the littlest cat arrived. A little orange fellow. As he basked in the sun, I would inch near to see if I could capture him. One usually has a window of opportunity with feral cats to catch and socialize them, otherwise it is best to get them fixed and leave them where they are.

During the holidays, I did not think much of the tiny kitten, until I received a somewhat cryptic note from a coworker telling me not to worry about him. That he was being taken care of.  He was wily, though, and no cage caught him. When I got back to the store, I saw the little kitten, and I knew something was very wrong. I called the vet down the street. Two vet techs from Maple Small Animal Clinic came and tried to capture him. One gave me a diagnosis, a prolapsed intestine. I called the LA-SPCA. An animal control officer tried to wrangle the kitten.

On the following day, I set two traps, one of which did not work properly, so the cats ate the food I offered and scrambled off. In the other trap, I caught three cats, none of which was the little guy. I called the LA-SPCA’s Feral Cat Program coordinator and left a message–I wanted to get in touch with the woman who was trapping the cats at the store.

Diane and I connected on New Year’s Eve. I would watch the traps during the day, and she would take over later. She had a gnarly concoction to entrap the most reluctant cat. I received a call in the evening that Diane had trapped the orange kitten, and I was beyond ecstatic. I had stepped in unmentionable things, banged my knees on bricks, and flustered customers all in the name of catching this kitty. I called my mother to share my relief; she was worried I would adopt another cat. Unlike the wilder cats running around, this sweet kitten was probably adoptable.

Our New Year’s Eve was spent at home. Diane took the kitten to the ER vet, whom I had discovered by calling the Cat Practice of NOLA. I hoped for good news–I didn’t realize how hard I was hoping. We had caught the cat, a victory, but I wanted the whole king cake.

Diane called with bad news. The cost of treating the little fuzzball was going to be astronomical, and there were no guarantees. We made the decision to end the little guy’s suffering.

After New Year’s, I continued to look for the little orange kitten, even though I knew his fate. It is amazing how even the smallest beings leave traces. At the risk of sounding like a Lifetime movie, I did learn something from our encounter.

1. Patience is one thing, but waiting because it will be too hard, too scary, or too draining is another story. (What if I had been able to catch the little guy before he got sick?)

2.  “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” said Theodore Roosevelt. (I have spent my whole life worrying about what I didn’t accomplish, what students I didn’t reach, what animals I didn’t save. Wasted energy.)

3.  Alleviate suffering. Even when it is inconvenient.

This February 12th we are doing a Furtastic Fundraiser for the LA-SPCA’s Feral Cat Program and The Sula Foundation. Twenty percent of our proceeds from that day will be divided between the two organizations. We will also have a raffle for Animal Rescue New Orleans, and Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof, will be here.  I have the opportunity, thanks to Maple Street, to bring two of my loves together, animals and books. I hope I can do more throughout the year for these organizations.

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