Gray Matters — Welcome home, Dacoda
Belfast — Earlier this summer, our cat Mila went out the front door one day and she never came home.
My son Shane spent many of the days that followed standing outside calling to her, shaking her box of cat food in the hopes that the familiar sound of feeding time might be enough to draw her back. We walked alongside the road hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but never found any clues to indicate where she may have gone.
I didn't want to tell Shane as the days turned to weeks, the likelihood that Mila would return was getting lesser, and I had hoped for a while that maybe the friendly cat approached a neighbor who decided to start feeding her. It happens, I know, but not often.
Last weekend marked two months since our cat left home, and finally I decided it was time to see about obtaining a new feline friend for my son. Since we had planned to head up to Bangor to run some other errands, I decided to take Shane to the Bangor Humane Society and let him choose our newest family member.
While most people tend to seek out kittens because they grow up knowing how things work in their adopted household, I was in the market for an adult animal that was fixed, vet-checked and current on all shots. Oh, and litter box trained was quite important as well, for obvious reasons.
We headed up to the animal shelter, and before we knew it we found a dark colored, 12-pound tiger with double paws named Dacoda, a five-year-old that was classified as a stray. The shelter volunteers called her Dacoda, and we just loved her.
Dacoda fit right into our household as soon as we let her out of the confines of her cat carrier. She toured the house for about five minutes, we showed her where the litter box was, and then she promptly found a space in the middle of the living room floor and laid down. The first night home, she curled up on the foot of Shane's bed, and any unusual noises near the walls (squirrels throwing things onto the roof, the occasional rodent trying to find it's way inside) instantly caught her undivided attention.
Great, a killer of all unwanted vermin. Bonus!
While our loss of Mila left us saddened at her sudden disappearance, our adoption of Dacoda reminded us of how nice it is to welcome home a new family member, and how important it is to consider adopting when in the market for a new family pet.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, between six and eight million cats and dogs enter one of the country's 3,500 animal shelters each year. Of those, three to four million are adopted into new homes. But 2.7 million of those adoptable pets are euthanized each year — that's a lot of animals who, like Dacoda, could be settling into a new family.
And if you're not looking for a new pet, there are still lots of things we can all do to help make the situation better. Spaying and neutering our existing pets is a great start. According to data posted at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals website, one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can produce 370,000 kittens. That's a whole lot of animals who may find themselves surviving on the streets, living in neglectful homes or dying in a shelter because there was no home to be found for them.
That's just sad.
We may not have saved the millions of cats and dogs with uncertain futures by adopting Dacoda this past weekend, but we know we can at least provide our new kitty with all the comforts of a new home, which is likely far better than life as a stray.
And maybe when folks see how happy we are with our new feline, they might consider welcoming a shelter animal into their homes and lives, too.