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Norwich Bulletin - 2/6/2005

The Plight Of The Elderly

On Martin Luther King Day I received a call from Herbert; an obviously elderly gentlemen who appeared to be in great distress. It seems he was being evicted from his home because of his nine cats and he had nowhere for them to go. His one daughter lived in North Carolina and he had no relatives that could help him. He had a mom and dad cat, and 7 older kittens, around the age of eight months. Would I please help him?

I had been turning away people for the past two weeks because we were full, but there was something in this man's voice that told me he really needed our help. I told him I would take five of the younger cats and he could bring them to us. But Herbert told me that he couldn't drive, as he was almost totally blind. And so my wonderful husband Clint agreed to go to his apartment and try to help him as much as he could.

Herbert is about 80 years old and can hardly see anything. My husband was able to handle four of the younger cats and the older female, who, as it turned out, was Herbert's favorite. He wanted to make sure she ended up somewhere safe. The younger cats were scared because the only person they have ever known is this slow moving, quiet speaking elderly man. They were very scared as they were taken off to Colchester vet to undergo tests, shots and altering.

Clint felt that we really needed to take all the cats as the man was terribly upset and kept saying that they were going to "kick him out of his home" the next day and he needed to know his cats were safe. However, the four cats that were left, had seen what happened to their siblings and would not come near my husband. So Clint left with a promise to return for them the next day.

Meanwhile he learned that Herbert did not owe any back rent or large utility bills. He survived on social security and disability payments and the only reason he was given for the pending eviction was that he had the cats. My husband encouraged him to call legal aid as we were unsure he had been notified of his eviction legally. But, Herbert was too upset at the loss of his cats to care about himself.

The next day Clint went back to Stafford Springs and found an empty apartment. There were people clearing out the furniture. Herbert and the cats were gone. A neighbor let my husband know that the Marshal had come and knocked on the door and asked Herbert to step out of the apartment. Herbert did as he was asked and they locked the door behind him. In slippers and with no coat on the coldest day of the year, this elderly man lost his home, his possessions and his cats. He was lucky that there was a bed available for him in a hospital or he would have been out on the street, left to wander.

As soon as I learned what happened, I telephoned the animal control officer of the town and was told that the town would release the four cats to Helping Paws. We then picked up the four scared kitties and had them join their friends at the vet. Then we went looking for Herbert. I knew our job was not done until he was told that his cats were safe and we needed to make sure that he was going to be okay, too.

This is not an unusual scenario for seniors who are alone in the world, and when this type of tragedy occurs, I tell people they must contact their local state senators and representatives and ask for help. I also wondered what had gone wrong with the system, and why social services had not helped this man. We did not know when he received notice of eviction, and were not sure why eviction had to take place since Helping Paws took his cats. So many questions left unanswered and Herbert had no champion to ask them.

When Clint finally found Herbert in the hospital, he began asking him questions. It was a shock to find out that the local state representative owned the real estate company that owned the apartment building that Herbert had just been evicted from. We still don't know the entire story but we found some local services that are working to try to help Herbert.

Meanwhile, we are trying to find homes for his nine cats. They are indoor/outdoor cats - a few of them preferring to be out more than in. They are young and beautiful and now, fully vetted. Jet black double pawed kittens, tabby and white double pawed kittens, black and white and a beautiful longhaired mostly white kitten. But they are all scared and require some patience and understanding before they will able to be pets again. Confused because they have lost their home and their person and are now living in cages, waiting for families willing to give them a chance. We would love to hear from some of our readers who might be willing to help one of Herbert's cats.

And for those of you who are seniors and do not have anyone out there looking after you, please do not hesitate to call Legal Aid (860-447-0323) to learn about your rights and/or the possibility of getting help. Do not assume all people are treating you fairly or legally. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not allow the system to bully you. While Helping Paws is an animal rescue organization, I also realize that the world can be scary for humans when you are alone. But, if you look in certain places, you, too, can find a champion in the kindness of strangers.

As of February 1st, Herbert was on his way to his daughter's home in North Carolina and had been reunited with his beloved cat, Missy. Helping Paws has placed one of the older kittens and continues to look for homes for the other seven.

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