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Lessons from Viva the Cat….

As I was looking at a picture of a cat that I had rescued, I realized that I was able to draw parallels to human life and the state of the economy all by adopting a cat.  To be honest, I was not really much of a cat person due to my allergies and was actually looking for a dog to help entertain my two labs.  In a twist of fate, the dog that I was going to help rescue turned out not to be available. I was very disappointed and the woman at the shelter said, “Hey what about a cat..we have plenty of those.” I was very hesitant but went into the cat shelter and noticed a bunch of cute little fur balls staring back at me. To be honest, it was very sweet and yet heartbreaking at the same time knowing that the odds of a cat making out of the kill shelter alive were literally only about one in twenty.  I had seen news articles about the problems with overpopulation of animals where it stated right in black and white that the shelters were so overcrowded that that hat to “euthanize” over 35,000 animals. I had heard that there was a total of 50,000 animals in my city alone that were euthanized in one year alone. This figure was not only astronomical but heartbreaking as well.

One of the biggest questions that people ask me when I tell them about all of the animals getting put to sleep (killed) is the question of why this was happening in my area.  There are many reasons for the high rate of animal euthanizations with one of the main one’s of the notion that the economy had a direct impact on these poor animals’.  Some people would make the argument that there was overpopulation due to people not spaying or neutering their pets, however, this is really only one small component to the issue. The reality of the situation was that due to the fact that there were so many foreclosures,  people literally had to give up their beloved pets as they were forced to downsize and give up their family members (pets) that many people have had for years. I can only imagine what it must be like for a father to have to tell his little daughter that she had to give her kittens away because they had to move since they were losing their house.  Yes, the number one foreclosure capital in the United States also known as “ground zero” for the foreclosure crisis Las Vegas, was also becoming one of the top cities for animal euthanizations as well.  The shelter that I went to was literally taking in more animals in one year than all of New York City and this was only one shelter our of dozens. When I read this, I was startled and realized how bad thing had gotten.

As I was walking around the shelter in a fog after reading the pamphlet, I started getting very sad and was realizing how all of the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together. I realized how heartbreaking it was to be looking into these beautiful animals sad eyes and realizing that they were literally facing being put to death due to being homeless. I was imagining how their lives were before they wound up at the shelter. One of the biggest ideas that stuck in my mind was the irony of the fact that some of the animals in the shelters were purebreds’ and very expensive animals. I had seen dogs that used to cost thousands of dollars in the past being put up for adoption.  I remember seeing one dog that similar to a 3,000 dog that I had seen before.  What was going on? I realized that the animals at the shelter were literally teaching people a lesson about the economy.

Lesson #1

Yes maybe there had been some greed on the people in the area. After all, Las Vegas was a boomtown in the early 2000’s.  People were flipping houses and making lots of money doing so. Houses were literally being turned into cash machines with people in them.  To be honest, I think I had seen the writing on the wall when I would drive around town and see all of the opulence.  Deep down in my heart, I knew that the party would be over sooner or later. The days of people taking limos’ and town cars  were starting to fade into people not even being able to afford gas for their cars. In regards to the real estate market,  the market was not just tanking, it was plunging at a very fast rate.


One of the issues with the housing market all started when the banks were giving out the wonderful “liars loans” where basically a chipmunk could have qualified for the loan. Let’ s face it, if Alvin and his chipmunk friends would have been in Las Vegas at the time, they would have been in a newly built house hanging out by the pool with little drinks in their paws.  Seriously, the loans were pretty much going out to anyone who could sign on the dotted line. One of the biggest issues is that many of the bank and mortgage companies went belly up and literally disappeared overnight.  Many people could not afford their mortgages due to being upside down while others simply decided that they were taking such a hit that they would literally walk away from their duties to pay their mortgages.  In regards to qualifying for a mortgage, pretty much anyone could at the time. A chipmunk could have qualified for a mortgage at the time. I often think that if Alvin and his friends would have tried, they would have been accepted and been in a house sipping cocktails by their pool in their custom new home.


It actually reminded me of the time that I went to a car dealership looking at cars and turned the news on over the weekend only to find out that the dealership literally disappeared in the middle of the night and the employees had no idea about the situation until they went to show up for work the next day. This was all getting very surreal and bizarre.  The commercial and residential markets were collapsing so fast that people were literally disappearing in the middle of the night. Moving trucks and vans would show up and an entire building with all of the people would just “disappear.” The problem is that when the people would disappear from their homes, their animals would often be left behind with no one to help take care of them. I have actually heard of extreme cases where people would leave their dogs in the backyard and the  dogs would be drinking out of the pools and not have food. The neighbors would have to scale the walls to help get food to the animals.  The shelters were so inundated that it was often more cost effective to euthanize the animal than to give the animal the medical care that the pet so desperately needed.  I had a veterinarian tell me that her office was making more money off of boarding animals than treating them.


One lesson I have learned from my cats is the idea that their street smarts probably kept the alive. I helped save one little kitten that was wondering about Desert Inn Road all by herself. I can only imagine how lucky she was that she was never hit by a car.  The kitten named CeCelia probably realized that she would have to learn who she could trust and the people and situations that could not be trusted. After I adopted her, she became very adept as sizing people up.

Two of the cats I helped save named Albert and Shelia were the victims of a foreclosure.  The brother and sister pair became very protective of each other and had each others’ backs. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the cats to be left behind in a house or apartment without any air-conditioning  in the middle of July. The unfortunate situation of foreclosures’ happens to people all of the time. I cannot help but become very sad when I think of all of the families whom have had to move out in extreme heat or cold due to being foreclosed upon after the banks were bailed out for millions of dollars.  How many lives have been affected by the poor economy?

I find it heartbreaking to see animals getting killed due to the fact that there is overcrowding. Homeless people are in similar situations in the idea that they are often exposed to extreme temperatures making this a life-threatening situation. I often wonder how people in the Great Depression lived through everything not to mention all of the immigrants that came to America. I remember hearing my Grandfather telling me about how half of his family died trying to come to the United States.


I learned a great deal of about human life from the cats. One analogies was with a cat named CP. CP was so sweet and I fell in love with him from the moment I saw him. He looked like a big ball of fluffy fur with an adorable face. CP had been at the shelter for a couple of weeks and caught and nasty Upper Respiratory Infection which is very common among shelter cats. He was so sick that he was put on death row twice. CP was on the “E” list standing for euthanasia. CP was my miracle kitty as he was put on the E list twice and for some reason was not picked up on time. (I had also been calling the shelter asking about him). In a moment of stress, I drove down to the shelter taking every shortcut I could and ran into the room only to see the cart pulling up to pick CP and take him to have him killed. I made a very dramatic entrance and literally jumped in front of the cart waving my hands back and forth saying, “You’re not taking this cat!” I felt like a Navy Seal on a mission. CP was not about to be put to sleep.  I was finally able to talk the shelter into letting me adopt him after signing waivers and was able to save him. He is one of best buddies I have ever had and has become very loyal to me. I cannot help but think that if someone had not cared about CP, he would not be here today. Sometimes, it only takes on person with conviction and the will to stand up for what is right and to fight for the underdog.


In finalization, I would have to admit that Viva taught me a great deal about life. I was more of a dog person until I came across Viva. The name Viva alone means life and to live life. As I was walking through the shelter and realized that only around 5 out of 100 of them would make it out alive, I became so sad looking into the cats eyes and hearing their fear and terror as they were crying in their cages.  I was walking around and looked into Viva’s cage. She was sleeping on her back and had a big smile on her face.  Viva reminded me of a Hollywood actress sunbathing by a pool in Beverly Hills, all she needed was a pair of sunglasses. Viva made me laugh and smile in the midst of what could have been a very depressing experience.  I adopted Viva and took her home.  Viva had  been through a great deal in her life. She was on death row and almost died from a serious illness, yet she pulled though. Viva was a trooper and learned to love life.  Life can be hard at times, yet it is a great gift.  Whenever I have gone through a hard time, I always think of Viva and how she taught me to be brave in adverse circumstances and to live life to the fullest and to love life.  Viva was able to pull through all types of problems and she was able to be brave. Viva was a trooper, much like many of the American people.  We can all pull through and live on!

Oscar says “Happy St. Patty’s Day”

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