The million and the one

The million and the one

Morgan sends you his thanks and loveWe are about a lot of things at Tabby’s Place.

We are about love.
We are about “the least of these.”
We are very much about Veggie Straws, and the color orange, and obscure names for kittens.

But we are not, and have frankly never been, about the numbers.

There's a sense in which we left the ninety-nine "easy," "adoptable" cats to go save the one Adelaide.
There’s a sense in which we left the ninety-nine “easy,” “adoptable” cats to go save the one Adelaide.

Tabby’s Place is part of a few loose networks of sanctuaries and rescue organizations. Some of these networks require regular reporting on our “outcomes” — that is, our raw, nitty-gritty numbers.

Number of cats rescued this month.
Number of adoptions this quarter.
Number of “live outcomes.”

These are not unimportant numbers — far from it. I’m in dumbfounded awe of those juggernauts that rescue tens of thousands of cats a year, spaying approximately one jillion an hour. We want to increase our numbers. We are, in fact, increasing our numbers. We’ll never scorn the numbers.

But the numbers have never been our motor.

When it comes down to it, our love is stubbornly inefficient.

Take Adelaide, our newest oldster. It doesn’t take a doctorate in economics to see that the money we’ll spend on saving Addy could easily rescue/spay/adopt out twenty young, healthy, “adoptable” cats.

Cats like Adelaide noogie our numbers.

We are stubbornly, curmudgeonly about cats like Adelaide.

Morgan's numbers: 12ish (age). 0% (compatibility of his heart disease with life). Infinity (value).
Morgan’s numbers:
12ish (age)
0% (compatibility of his heart disease with life)
Infinity (value)

I don’t raise this to stir any sort of debate. When it comes to different kinds of rescue organizations, I firmly believe that we need us all. The ones that focus on kittens. The ones that focus on old-and-moldies. The ones that focus where nobody else focuses.

It is a mystery and a calling bigger than any one or ten or thousand of us. We each find our niche and plant as many flags as we can for love while we’re here.

I can’t help but think of the words of Wendell Berry, one of my heroes and a curmudgeon for justice. While we’d like to score soaring numbers and boast of our thousands, Wendell cautions:

Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe or the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field, ‘the least of these my brethren.’ Love is not, by its own desire, heroic. It is heroic only when compelled to be. It exists by its willingness to be anonymous, humble, and unrewarded.

Love can look entirely unspectacular. Which is precisely what makes it spectacular.

Kitty's numbers:  17 (age)  824 (miles traveled home)  Infinity (value)
Kitty’s numbers:
17 (age)
824 (miles traveled home)
Infinity (value)

This is not to turn away your one hundred million dollars, which would unquestionably allow us to do more, in a more spectacular-looking way. I am no scorner of the spectacular. There is a place for glitter bombs and victory marches and flotillas.

But even if we were given a million million dollars today, even if we had a billion billion volunteers, we’d have limits.
We could save more, yes. We’d love to save more. We would float that flotilla, glitteringly.
But it would still stop somewhere.
Because we’re human.
We’re stuck in these earthsuits.
And our calling will always be to the precious particulars.

Although we are — as Jonathan often reminds us — a “loving, dysfunctional family” at Tabby’s Place, I think one of our strengths is in accepting our humanity and its limits.

Forget your limits, and your wings melt right off.
Forget your limits, and you babble until nobody’s left listening.

Remember you are made of time and earth, and you just might fly.
Play within the contours of your humanness, and you just might breathe a poem.

Tabby’s Place’s peculiar calling is to see the cats nobody else sees, and to go farther for them than makes any sort of rational “sense.”

Ella's numbers:  ~900 (king's horsemen and king's men required to put Ella back together again) 3 (legs remaining) 2 (semesters at college her surgery would pay for) Infinite (value)
Ella’s numbers:
~900 (king’s horsemen and king’s men required to put Ella back together again)
3 (legs remaining)
2 (college semesters her surgery would pay for)
Infinity (value) 


Yes, we will spend the equivalent of a semester at Yale to put a semi-feral torbie teenager back together again.
Yes, we will adore cats who spew sweary venom at us.
Yes, we will weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Yes, we will dare to know and be known by creatures we know will break our hearts.
Yes, we will believe in love stronger than death.
Yes, we will do it if nobody sees. Especially when nobody sees.

As I write this, I realize I’m risking the danger of making it all sound rather precious and heroic. That’s the last thing I intend. It isn’t. Yes, there’s a noble, holy part of us that does this because it’s Good and True and Beautiful. But there’s also a big, honest, hungering part of each of us that does this because we want to be seen too. We’ve seen at least a sliver of what it’s like to go unseen. We’ve not necessarily been the spectacular ones of the world.

And we know the richest sweets are at the bottom of the barrel, plucked out one…at…a…time.

Numbers have glamour. Numbers merit banners. Numbers dazzle grantors.

That’s good.
It’s just not our thing.

Max's numbers:  13 (age)  80,000 (known mental illnesses)  Infinity (value)
Max’s numbers:
13 (age)
80,000 (known mental illnesses)
Infinity (value)

Tabby’s Place will never be the Uptown Funk of the rescue world. We’re more like the weird Art Garfunkel song that comes on at 2 in the morning when you can’t sleep, and soothes you in spite of the fact that you find his voice whiny.

We’re not every woman.
We accept our limits.

And we’ll love the ones — one by one by slow, costly, priceless one — who need us.

Because it’s in the precious, limited love of the particular that we touch the infinite, the eternal and the awesome.

4 thoughts on “The million and the one

  1. Because of Tabby’s Place, Sylvia, Chance, Tony, Albert – and other dear cats in hopeless situations and running out of luck got to live out their remaining years with dignity, respect and, of course, love. That is so worth it.

  2. Yes – we need all the rescue groups because each one does something a little special and we are all in this (the saving and loving of cats) together. It’s like not counting the days of our lives, but the life in our days. The numbers are secondary. But the common thread to all — LOVE.

  3. Because you are not about the numbers, even when things got tough for me, I canceled my cleaning lady, I stopped going out to eat, but I didn’t stop my monthly automatic withdrawal to Tabby’s place. God bless you, Angela, and everyone at Tabby’s Place.

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