OGEA Animal Friends
Written by Brianna Chenevey
Sheltering in place can be a sad, lonesome, and rather monotonous experience for humans, which is why the demand for pets is at an all-time high in the Bay Area and across the country. Back in March of 2020, when Governor Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order and allowed essential businesses to remain open, animal shelters were one of those businesses deemed “essential”. By June 2020, the demand for pet adoptions in the Bay Area was up 30% and the waiting lists had grown considerably. Those pets that were not getting as much love and affection before the pandemic were now finding humans to care for them.
Why is this? Well, there is a range of explanations. Adults were working from home more than ever before and looking for animal companions to help them get through these trying times. Parents were looking for ways to keep their kids entertained throughout the day. Many others that had already had pets were now thinking that perhaps their pets needed a companion to help pass the time. Heather Turner, an experienced pet owner and first-grade teacher at Frost Elementary School, has a slightly different, yet even better, story.
Since before the pandemic and going into shelter-in-place, Heather has had one dog, Lulu, a Chihuahua and Jack Russel Terrier mix (now 7-years-old), and one cat, Aaron Purr, a black and white tuxedo cat (now 2-years-old). Lulu and Aaron Purr are both rescues. Heather is also a devoted caretaker to a group of feral cats that frequently visit her front yard. Most of these cats have been trapped and released, in an effort to stop the kitten cycle, but one particularly clever kitty manages to never get caught.
Last summer, Heather spotted this cat in her front yard, with five kittens in tow! Heather explained, “I could tell they were old enough to be weaned, so I decided to catch them and get them out of the feral cat cycle.” Heather ended up caring for the five kittens, but she knew she could not keep them all. One, unfortunately, did not survive due to malnourishment. “I took two of them down to a kitten rescue to find ‘furrever’ homes together. At this point, I just had Hamilton, who then of course became Hameowlton, and Hercules Mulligan, whose name needed to become Purrcules Mulligan (of course!). I knew I needed to keep him as long as the household of animals could all get along. And they do!” If you are a fan of the hit musical, Hamilton, you surely noticed that Heather has creatively named all three cats after Hamilton characters.
Hammie is an orange tabby cat and Purrcules is a gray tabby cat. Heather often spots them playing or relaxing with Aaron Purr in their multi-story cat tree. According to Heather, “They nap on it. They climb on it. They eat on it. They wrestle on it. Sometimes, while teaching from home, I feel like I am on yard duty with kiddos on the playground.” Since their arrival, Aaron Purr has done a tremendous job stepping up to the plate as mentor to the two kittens. It took a couple of weeks, but eventually, he began snuggling with them, grooming them, and, as Heather describes, “Teaching them the lay of the land around the house.”
What about Lulu? Well, as Heather describes her, “Lulu is most definitely a rescue, and chose this as her home.” Heather discovered Lulu six years ago, living under a trailer parked across the street from Heather’s home. Heather could tell Lulu was hungry. She would hide under the trailer and occasionally poke her head out and stare at Heather. It took almost a month for Heather to befriend Lulu. She offered her food and special treats, like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, until Lulu gained enough trust to allow Heather to pick her up. Heather described her experience as she grew to know and love Lulu. “I took her down to the shelter to see if someone reported her missing. No microchip. No one was looking for her. It turned out that she was so fearful that she would cry all the time. So much, in fact, that the shelter was not going to be able to put her on the adoption floor. So I said, ‘Well, I guess she is coming home with me!’ The shelter did an amazing job of getting her fixed and getting her shots and letting me bring her home. She has been my snuggle-buddy ever since. She is super attached to me.”
Lulu’s favorite treats are cat treats. She begs for them whenever she sees Heather giving them to Aaron, Hammie, and Purrcules. Lulu prefers walks and snuggles over toys. The best part? “She chose me,” says Heather. “She knew I needed a little buddy. She is my first dog, and the perfect fit to add to the household.”