Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cats, Caymans, & CARE with Guest Author Kim Thornton

Adopt-a-Cat Month continues with award-winning pet writer Kim Thornton, whom I have known since I pitched my first freelance magazine article many years ago. Because June is also Caribbean-American Heritage Month, Kim has combined the two celebrations into one interesting post about cat rescue in the Cayman Islands. Welcome, Kim! ~ Sheila

Cats, Caymans, and CARE

by Kim Thornton

At a luncheon a couple of weeks ago for members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I was asked whether my pet writing was informative or comedic. Sometimes it’s both, I like to think, but for the most part it falls into the “informative” category. 
For me, that type of writing is a way to help people coexist with animals, communicate with animals, and choose the right animals for their personalities and lifestyles. It also allows me to tell the stories of people who help animals. And I meet those people in unexpected places. 

Kim smooching her husband
on a dive. 
A dive shop on Grand Cayman’s East End, for instance. My husband and I have been diving with Ocean Frontiers since 1996, and we’ve come to know many of the employees over the years. Other than the owners, the person we’ve known the longest is reservations and marketing manager Lesley Agostinelli, who schedules our dives and helps with car rentals and other travel particulars. But it wasn’t until I was roaming the office one day after a dive, idly reading the staff bios, that I discovered Lesley was a fellow animal lover. Even better, she’s one of the founding directors of Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts, or CARE. 
CARE took shape in 2009 when a group of animal lovers who volunteered at the local humane society wanted to do more to help the island’s companion animals. Like most rural areas, East End and other districts on Grand Cayman have many free-roaming dogs and cats. The members of CARE wanted to improve those animals’ lives and build awareness in the community about animal welfare. 
Through grass-roots efforts that included door-to-door campaigning, community dog washes and other community programs such as Meals on Wheels, they’ve worked with the Cayman Islands Humane Society and the Department of Agriculture to help end pet overpopulation and provide information about animal care to ensure that pets become part of the family. The overarching goal is to change community attitudes toward spaying and neutering through education and example. 
Their activities include offering a free spay/neuter service, including transportation, and an active trap/neuter/release program for feral cats. Since 2010, CARE has paid for more than 980 dogs and cats to be altered and will reach their 1000th surgery some time this month. They organized the transfer of more than 255 puppies to mainland shelters to give them a better chance at adoption and have placed 62 dogs and cats in homes in Grand Cayman. Working with a local woodshop, HMP Northward, CARE has commissioned and placed 45 dog houses for outdoor pets who need shelter from the elements.
 Although no cats are currently in need of homes on the island, CARE plans to take advantage of Adopt-a-Cat month to promote its TNR program and set up more feeding stations for the community cats. (Cayman cats tend to be friendlier than most feral cats, we discovered, when during one visit a couple of them wandered into our timeshare unit from the beach and had us petting them and feeding them within minutes.) 
Animal-loving tourists sometimes help out by visiting CIHS and walking the dogs. It’s refreshing and encouraging to receive support from visitors to the island, Agostinelli says. 
“This really is a great way of helping get the animals exposure and exercise and can often lead to the occasional overseas adoption,” Agostinelli says. “We will occasionally receive calls and emails from concerned visitors regarding the condition of an animal they have seen. Occasionally we have assisted visitors who have rescued a stray dog or cat and decided they want to take them home with them. We are happy to offer support and knowledge when it comes to exporting a pet.” 
When she’s not helping other animals, Agostinelli is spending time with her own dogs, Thumper, Bubbles and Peg. She adopted all three of them after Hurricane Ivan hit the island in 2004. All three were in poor condition, with Thumper testing positive for heartworm disease, Bubbles suffering a fractured hip, and Peg a broken leg. CARE might not have come into being if Agostinelli hadn’t taken them in. 
“Truly, they are the best thing that happened to me,” she says, “because they introduced me to the world of animal rescue.”

Kim Campbell Thornton has been writing about dogs, cats and wildlife for 28 years. She's the author of hundreds of articles and more than 20 books. Her work has appeared in Consumers Digest, on, and in many pet magazines and newsletters. It has won multiple awards from the Cat Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America, as well as a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for her most recent book, Careers With Dogs, published in 2010. She lives in Lake Forest, California, with her husband, two dogs--a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a longhaired Chihuahua mix--and an African ringneck parakeet.

Want to read more cats & writers posts? Check out these posts from earlier this month:

  • The Money Bird is on the Wing - Sheila Boneham taks about her Animals in Focus mystery series - where's it's been, where it's going, and - yep! - CATS
  • The Reinvented Writer - Amy Shojai talks about reinventing herself in these crazy times for writers - and cats & dogs!
  • Writers and Cats - Sheila Boneham talks about the cats in her life, and in her Animals in Focus Mysteries. 
  • Kitty Typos and More - Dusty Rainbolt talks about the hazards of writing with cats! Plus an excerpt from her paranormal mystery (yes, with cats!)
  • Cats in My Life & Writing - Marilyn Levinson talks about some of the cats who have inspired her adult and young-adult fiction.

Come back Thursday to see what mystery & romance author Lois Winston has to say about the cats in her life and her work. 

1 comment: