Joan and Tiger—Turning Heartache Into Friendship

Many of us have had the privilege of sharing our home with animals. We remember the day we first met them and the great joy and immense love they bring us. Unfortunately, animals don’t live as long as we want or need them to, and eventually we have to say goodbye.

But sometimes an animal outlives their human, and then what happens? Will a relative come forward and care for the dog, cat, rabbit . . .? That is probably the best scenario for the grieving animal—to be taken in by someone they already know.

However, that is not always the case and many animals end up shelters, waiting for another person or family to love again.

This difficult situation happened to Joan Almond back in 2017. She received one of those dreaded phone calls—her brother Brian was in the hospital. Sadly, Brian passed away, leaving behind his beloved cat Tiger. The family not only had to deal with their own loss, but also had to figure out what to do for Tiger.

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Joan shared her experience with me. Here is her story.

Joan has always loved animals, but like many others, held back from taking on a pet because of the costs and responsibilities. This all changed in 2017 when her brother Brian passed away, just nine months after Joan had lost her mother.

Brian’s celebration of life was packed with friends and family, but there was also someone else represented—a framed photograph of Tiger, Brian’s beloved cat.

Neighbours and friends chipped in and helped take care of Tiger for the first couple of weeks after Brian’s passing. But a more permanent solution was needed.  

“I’m taking him!” Joan said without thinking. 

“Cat hair!” an older sister said.

“I don’t care!” Joan said. “I want him!”

As Joan drove home with Tiger crying in the back seat, she thought, “What did I get myself into?”

That night, Tiger slept at the end of Joan’s bed, on his favourite blanket.

There were adjustments, like the 5am wake up time, lots of scratched furniture and the cost of taking on a pet—vet bills, grooming, boarding, litter, and food.

Regardless, Joan says Tiger is her Best Bud, even though, like most family members, he does frustrate her somedays.

Joan has learned so much from Tiger, including how to share space, how lovely it is to be greeted at the door when she comes home, and of course what it means to be loved unconditionally.  

Joan, like many of us who welcome animals into our homes, often wonder who adopted whom.

I asked Joan if there is one thing she could change about the world, what would it be? Joan’s answer—That we humans learn to love, like Tiger does- unconditionally – not caring what we look like or what the colour of our skin is – what we’re wearing, or how much money we have- or even how successful we are – forgiving each other when we step on each other’s tail (accidentally.) 

Kate Thompson-Always Trying To Save Them All

I have known Kate Thompson for almost 25 years. She started out as our family hair dresser, and quickly became a wonderful family friend. We loved having our hair cut by Kate. Where else could you get a wash, trim and cuddle a cat at the same time?

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One of Kate’s lucky clients-getting a combo cut & cuddle from Wally

Though Kate has since moved to the United States, we keep in touch via social media. It’s not the same, but it’s something. I was so happy when Kate agreed to share her numerous and amazing rescue stories with me.

I’m sure Kate, like all animal lovers, has often been told ‘she can’t save them all’. As you will soon discover, it’s never stopped Kate from trying.

Kate was born in England. After living most of her life in Canada, she moved to Monticello, Indiana three years ago with her husband.

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Kate & one of her many furry friends

Kate has always been a huge animal lover. It’s just a part of her character. She says, “If being an animal empath is a thing, then I’m that.”

Over the years, Kate has had many opportunities to rescue animals in need, and thankfully for the sake of the animals, she always follows through. Kate jokingly wonders if she has a homing device for all needy animals.

Kate has rescued many animals—domestic and wild. I remember sitting in her salon chair, getting my hair cut, mesmerized as she told me about her daring rescue of a baby raccoon.

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It was a stormy day and the small creek behind her house turned into a raging river. She heard screaming (almost like the sound of a baby crying), and ran outside to find a family of baby raccoons huddled in a tree trunk, clinging to the branches for dear life. Unfortunately, one of the babies had fallen from the tree, into the river, and was being swept away.

Not thinking about her own safety or the fact that she had just had her cast removed from her broken leg, Kate jumped in. She did so despite thinking, “This might not be one of my smartest decisions!”

The water was above her head, but somehow, she was able to rescue the baby raccoon. He was gasping for breath so she laid him down on a blanket in hopes he would be okay. After about an hour, he slowly got to his feet, shook himself off and climbed up into the tree with his siblings. Kate describes the moment as “magical”.

For years after, the raccoon came back to visit Kate, or at least she likes to believe it was him. He would let her hand feed him. In return, Lucky, as Kate called him, gave her the most amazing photography shots. It was almost as if he was posing for her.

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Another one of Kate’s lovely rescue stories was about Murphy the squirrel. Kate’s hair salon in Canada was an old Victorian house. The salon was on the main floor and she lived upstairs. One day, a customer came in telling her there was a baby squirrel on the front porch. The customer had tried to shoo him off, but the squirrel wouldn’t go.

Clearly, the customer didn’t know Kate very well. She never ‘shoos’ an animal away. Kate immediately went outside and put her hand down to the squirrel’s level. Knowing he had found someone to trust, the squirrel stepped right into her palm.

Kate played with him for a minute but she had to get back to work. She made him a little bed in a plastic tote, turned it on its side and put in some Cheerios and peanuts. After work that night she went out and was thrilled to see he was still there, happily resting in the box. She put her hand in and once again he climbed on, gently running up her arm. Kate decided to name him Murphy. She couldn’t believe how friendly he was. She kept his little house on the porch and would visit with him many times a day. Kate kept this up for many days until one morning she woke to find Murphy was gone. Kate hopes his family somehow found him and Murphy went home. She reassures herself with the knowledge that Murphy was big enough to take care of himself. Kate believes Murphy is out there somewhere, alive and happy. She remembers this experience as one that brought her so much closer to the animal world.

Unfortunately, rescues can sometimes be difficult and don’t always have a happy ending… Last September, one of Kate’s local Facebook groups had a lot of chatter about a dog that had been seen limping badly in and out of a cornfield, and who wouldn’t go to anyone. Kate’s heart broke thinking about that poor, scared dog. She knew she had to do something. She went to the grocery store, bought a bag of dog food, and drove to the cornfield armed with food and some water. As soon as she turned the corner to the location of the field, the dog came right out onto the road and stood in front of her car. She immediately pulled over and got out. The dog continued to move toward Kate, snarling. Most people would have quickly returned to their car, but not Kate. Somehow, she knew the dog wouldn’t hurt her, that he was just reacting that way because he was scared and injured. Feeling the urgency to gain the dog’s trust, Kate didn’t bother with bowls, she quickly poured the food straight on the ground. Clearly, this was the exact thing to do. The dog went over and started eating. He still had his collar and leash on, so Kate was able to hold his leash and phone the police. They had been involved in the conversation on Facebook earlier so they already knew which dog she was referring to.

The dog must have instinctively known he’d met someone who only wanted the best for him. Kate sat with the sweet dog and cuddled him in the rain, while they waited for the animal control officer.

Now that Kate was able to be close to the dog, she noticed his leg was badly injured. He had a huge cut in the joint closest to his foot and whenever he tried to walk, he would limp with his foot just hanging. The reports on Facebook had described the dog as vicious and unwilling to go to anyone, but Kate disagrees. All she could see was a sweet dog who was desperate for affection.

His collar had a phone number on it, so once the animal control officer arrived, he called the number. After about two hours a girl showed up who didn’t seem very nice, and apparently was the sister of the owner. It seems that a couple of weeks back her brother had given the dog away to somebody who had gotten into a car accident, while Chiko (the dog) was also in the car. Terrified, poor Chiko jumped out and had been missing for almost 2 weeks.

Kate couldn’t believe it. She says, “If that was my dog, I would’ve been camped out at the accident site and looked for him every single day.”

Kate was shocked and devastated that Chiko’s family didn’t seem to care. She wished she could have taken Chiko home herself, but it was too late. Chiko went back to the owner, who from all reports around town was not a very nice person. Kate often thinks about Chiko, and it was months before she could think about him without crying. She did contact the owner to see how he was, and was sent some pictures. Kate was relieved to see Chiko looking good and safe. Kate tries to convince herself that maybe the owner wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and that Chiko will be okay.

Perhaps it’s true, we can’t save them all, but I’m grateful there are kind people like Kate, doing all they can to help as many animals as possible. Kate has rescued so many animals, that I’m going to continue the rest of her heartwarming stories in my next blog.

. . . to be continued