Written by Christopher Moraff, Red Paw foster.
My wife and I have a funny way of attracting animals in need. And in a city like Philadelphia, it’s not hard to find them. In fact, most of the time they find us. We are both prone to melt at the knowledge that an animal needs our help, so we often have to serve as checks for one another. A sort of animal rescuer’s voice of reason. This policy extends to our fostering; we make every effort to avoid getting too attached to our temporary charges.
It usually works out. But every once in a while a furry creature enters our lives that tugs so forcefully at our heartstrings that no amount of reasoning can possibly keep us from making them part of our family. That’s what happened when we brought the Tillies into our home. That’s Tillies, plural: Specifically, Tillie One – a precocious little male with a white muzzle and loving personality; and Tillie Two – a tiny female waif with big saucer eyes and a cute gopher-like smile.
We’ve fostered cats for Red Paw before, and we could tell from the start that the Tillies – who are brother and sister – had a rough go of it. When Red Paw rescued them from the burned-out building that had been their home, they had been fending for themselves, along with two kittens. Red Paw also found that they were all infested with fleas! By the time they arrived at our door, the fleas were gone but the scent of smoke on their coats lingered.
Their personalities could not have been more different. Tillie One bounded out and got right to rubbing our legs and purring. Tillie Two hid behind a bookshelf for days, sneaking out to eat and hurrying back until we finally convinced her she could trust us. Soon enough, when we would open the their room in the morning, both Tillies greeted us with hungry cries. We so enjoyed this little scene that we would fight over whose turn it was to “feed the babies” in the morning.
The next order of business? A name change. Tillie Two was simplified to Tillie, and Tillie One became Tillman. Seemed logical enough. For several weeks they stayed in my office until our three other cats and tolerant dog had had a chance to be properly introduced.
Given the precariousness of the situation in which they were found, we weren’t too surprised when we learned about a month in that the Tillies’ owner had relinquished them to Red Paw. We weren’t exactly heartbroken either. By then we’d fallen in love with Tillie and were reluctant to let her go. Tillman, however, posed a bit of a problem. He was not getting along with our cat Stretchy, and she was spending less and less time in the house. This worried us. So we decided that as much as we’d like to keep them it was best that we try to get them adopted. The plan was to keep them together, so we starting hitting adoption events to show off the Tillies. No takers. We left each failed attempt event – the Tillies stuffed in their box – with a mixture of relief (Tillie gets to come home with us!) and regret (would anyone ever take these two?)
After the third event (and another celebration of little Tillie’s return to our home) we asked each other what in the world we were doing. We knew we couldn’t give our new baby up. It was foolish to keep trying. But what to do about Tillman? My wife had an idea.
My love of animals is wholly credited to my mother, who filled our home with cats from the day I was born until well after I moved off to college. But after losing her last cat, Bella, in 2011, she was reluctant to start over. The pain of losing her beloved feline friends was just too great. “I just can’t do it anymore,” she told us. My wife made bringing her back into the fold her personal mission and eventually she was able to convince Mom to take Tillman. (She renamed him ‘Cutie’ and not a phone call goes by without a mention of his latest antics).
Today it’s hard to imagine that Tillie is the same cat that hid for weeks and shivered with fear when she was picked up. Now she’s never far behind one of us. We work from home, and Tillie bides her time alternating between between our offices, insisting on attention and letting us know with a cry when she’s not getting enough of it. (It’s amazing such a loud sound can come out of such a small kitty!)
She keeps our other cats on their toes and has developed a special bond with one of our other hard-case rescues, Whitey Ford, who very much enjoys giving Tillie baths. (They’re both kind of half wits so they compliment each other well).
Thanks Red Paw, for all the work you do and for introducing us to our new baby. Tillie has given a little something to everyone (both two- and four-legged) in our home. We hate that she had to go through such hard times before she found us, but it’s nice to know Red Paw is there to bridge that gap between disaster and salvation. Keep up the good work!
*The kittens, rescued with the Tillies, also found a loving home and were adopted together!