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Teaching a Lesson in Gratitude

Harllee Middle School students remind us of why becoming a No Kill Community matters.

After three litters of puppies and a chaotic fall, I decided to take a break from fostering.

That break was short-lived.

I don't have any puppies right now, but I do have a foster cat who is available for adoption. I took the cat reluctantly when Paige Suhay's friend called Lucky Dogs to plead for help. She foud an injured cat in her neighborhood and brought the cat to animal services.

The cat had been abandoned by someone who had moved from he neighborhood. His name was Nalia and since the family had gone, he had been trapped and neutered and his ear had been clipped. The cat had recently been injured and had a large wound on its back. Animal Services said it was unlikely the cat would make it out of the shelter unless the women could find someone to foster the cat until his injury healed.

I didn't know the whole story when I agreed to foster. I just knew a woman had called looking for someone to take care of the injured cat.

I called Animal Services and arranged to pick him up from Beach Vet where he was being treated. When I got Nalia home, he climbed out of the pet carrier and snuggled up on my lap. He was friendly and seemed to crave human contact.

So the cat settled into his own room, away from my dogs so he could quietly recover.

Suhay called Lucky Dog to check on the cat and said she told her reading students at Harllee Middle School the story about the cat and how two people helped to save the cat. She told the students they could write us thank you notes if they wanted.

The story inspired the middle school reading students. The students embraced the writing assignment, one even wrote a book for the cat to entertain him while he was recovering. Suhay recently brought the thank you notes to Lucky Dogs, where I met her and was able to read them.

The students never met Nalia, but hearing the story of the injured cat and seeing a photo I snapped of Nalia once I got her home moved them to write thoughtful notes, most of which were illustrated too.Many of the notes suggested that I bring the cat to meet them in person. Also many of the students wanted me to write back.

I'm no hero — in fact I can name at least a dozen more people that do far more to save animals than I can ever imagine —  but those cards sure made me feel like a hero. The students were unabashed in thanking me and telling me stories about the animals they loved. One drawing even showed a cat wearing a cape with the words super Whitt.

Inside the card Julio Ceaser wrote: Thank you for saving that cat. You were an angel when you decided to keep her because you saved her life.

A boy who signed the car simply, your friend Ladarius wrote: Thank you for saving Nalia. We are really proud for what you have done.

Marah wrote: Thank you for saving that cat. May God bless both of you. Even though I did not know that cat, I know she is thankful for still having a life.

Demetrez Buckley wrote: Thank you Ms. Sherry and Ms. whitt for helping the cats and dogs. I love you ladies for that.

Those are just excerpts of messages in the cars. Most of the cards include personal stories and thoughts about Nalia and their own pets. They taught me that

When you're fostering an animal it's sometimes easy to forget the big picture — it's not hard to get lost among each individual task or working to get one or two animals in good homes. But the Harllee Middle School students reminded me why it matters that Manatee County strives to be a no kill community.

The goal is the humane treatment of all creatures. By treating animals with kindness, we hope that we can treat one another with respect. The students wrote me stories about abandoned kittens, neighbors who mistreated thier pets and about the everyday dangers cats and dogs face.

The message in every card showed compassion and care. They reminded me that one small act can make a difference and serve as an example to others. They knew that Nalia's life mattered. Someone had loved the cat once and he needed a second chance at a good home.

Their thank yous are really meant for all of those advocates who are working so hard to make Manatee County a No Kill Community. They are also to all of those people who foster dogs and cats, to the vets who volunteer their time and services and to the people who clean cages and wash dogs and answer phones. And most certainly they are to all of those animal services employees who have worked extremely hard over the last year to increase adoptions and save more animals.

Mr December 07, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Hi Harlee Middle School READERS!!! I'm Ms Suhay's Mom. One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi. "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." How powerful is this thought! Thanks for your involvement in teaching others to care and love and help the animals. ps.....Tell Ms Suhay not to adopt anymore cats for her parents!!! Mr and Mrs Suhay presently have 9 cats living with them....all have been a "gift" from Ms Suhay.
Sheri December 07, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Demetrez, I am happy to hear that you have not had a bad day.
Karen Berner December 07, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Dear Paige, You and your kids are so lucky to have each other! Keep on saving the world, one child and one (or two or three!) animals at a time! Karen
Kris Wise December 07, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Demetrez, I hope you're having a good week in school and are listening to Sergant Suhay! She tells me you have been doing good in class and if that's true we'll treat you out to Lucky Dog again Saturday. Keep up the good work and continue helping to find homes for the animals in need. Your pal Kris
Sheri December 09, 2012 at 05:24 AM
I spent the afternoon with Phillip and Demetrez Buckle. They are now the official spookepersons for Axel. It was such a pleasure to see two A+ papers (hanging on the wall) . They met the City Fire Marshal and a City Council woman. The City Council woman said she would buy ice cream for every A +

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