A Stray Who Was Rescued or A Stray Who Rescued?


Tegan Heswall, Staff Writer

With the holidays approaching, many breeders and shelters will be selling pets that will be adopted and gifted to a relative or friend. Multiple situations can come from this. Either the pet becomes a lifelong member of the family or only spends one Christmas with their “families” just to be abandoned at a shelter or neglected elsewhere. Whether the pet becomes a hassle, too time-consuming, or destructive, these animals may not have another chance to be in a loving home if brought to the shelter. Different shelters have different policies on how long they keep animals. The local animal shelter, Orphans of the Storm in Riverwoods, does not participate in the action of euthanizing animals after they have been there for a certain amount of time. They take dogs and cats from multiple shelters in the Midwest and provide a loving, no-kill, and temporary home for these animals. 

I have always been passionate about animals and the treatment they receive. From my childhood dreams of wanting to be a marine biologist to becoming a vegetarian during the middle of my sophomore year, a piece of my heart has and will always be connected to animals. They help so many people, from being trained as an Emotional Support Animal, Therapy Pet, or a Service Animal, the least we could do is provide a safe living place for them. 

Perhaps nothing has impacted this love for animals more than adopting one of my own from neglect. This is the story of how I met my best friend.

My family was having a day of yard work (super exciting for five-year-old Tegan, as you can imagine!) My sister and I spent midmorning and the afternoon picking up twigs, raking leaves, and helping my parents with any tasks children of our size could handle. This not-so-exciting day took a turn for the better when I saw a skinny cat from the street strut up to our driveway. 

We were slow to approach her, but she came over to us faster than we expected. While being swatted by my mum to stop petting the cat with the concern of rabies, a smile came across my face. I sat with the cat on the pavement outside of the front door, watching her bask in the warm sun as if that was the first time she felt any sort of comfort.

The next day, the cat came back. We knew she wasn’t being taken care of. My dad, sister, and I went outside to grab her, but as soon as she saw us, she darted up the tree. She went up high enough that if my dad tried to grab her, she would go up higher. I then turn to my right to see my sister waving a leaf in the cat’s direction, saying, “Meow, meow, meow!” After a couple of minutes of a seven-year-old mimicking her “language,” the cat seemed convinced that we weren’t going to hurt her. She climbed down the tree, and we brought her in. She made herself right at home. 

Before she got too comfortable, my parents walked around the neighborhood to ask our neighbors if this was their cat. It only took them walking down to the end of our road to a house that always gave me the heebie-jeebies when driving past it. Outside were tons of lawn decorations and a rocking swing that looked like somebody hadn’t used it in years. My mum and dad walked up to the house to see multiple Chihuahuas barking and scratching the window as if they had a chance to get out. Luckily, the cat was able to. 

My parents asked her if it was her cat, and she said yes. She then said we could keep her if we wanted to. I figure if someone can give up an animal that quickly, they shouldn’t have been caring for it in the first place. After a Walmart trip to buy cat food and litter supplies, the cat received a warm bath (against her will!) and spent the next two weeks sleeping on my parent’s bed. 

When it came to choosing out the cat’s name, we weren’t the most creative. I was heavyset on naming the cat “Oreo” since she was greyish and white. Glad we didn’t go with that one. “Lola” was up in the air for a bit but soon fell. Instead, we copied my uncle and named her the same name he had for his cat: Millie. It seemed to fit her perfectly. Original, I know. The two Millies were worlds apart as my uncle lives in New Zealand. So, yes, there was an American Millie and a Kiwi Millie. The two didn’t seem to mind. 

Twelve years later, it is hard to imagine my life without Millie. From her intruding our Lego forts for a nap to getting used to the smell of her wet food (a not-so-fancy feast, in my opinion), having Millie taught me how to care for someone other than myself. I had to remember to feed her, give her water, and give her plenty of love, all of which were responsibilities I was excited to have. 

She has been a comfort for me during difficult times in my life. Depressive episodes or anxiety attacks, Millie has never failed to be beside me. Whether that be on my bed or her new favorite spot, the lounge chair layered with all of her favorite blankets, I can always count on her to just be there. 

Millie can sense when I am upset and comes up to my room to spend time with me. I’ve had “light switch friends” before, and Millie is not one of them. A light switch friend is someone who is there for you during the positive and happy times of your life, but as soon as the lights go out and you need help finding your way back to the switch, they ditch you. Cats have excellent night vision, so I guess she had an advantage. 

When you think about it, who rescued who?

If giving a pet to someone is on your mind, please consider having it be a surprise to pick out the pet at the shelter rather than surprising them with one that they might not click with. 

For more information, click on the following link: 

Why experts warn pets should not be a gift, especially during pandemic