Hard work and dedication – the unseen side of animal rescue

Last September, my life took an unexpected turn and got changed for the better. I learned compassion, I learned empathy, I learned patience, I learned boundaries, I learned responsibility and most importantly I learned love. Why? You would ask. Well, the answer may come as unexpected: I saved a kitten.

The little boy has been thrown in a random yard from my hometown and luckily, that’s how he found his way to me at just 5-6 weeks old. I wouldn’t consider the fact that I took him in, a big, selfless act, because it turned out, I needed him just as much as he needed me. I named him Suki – “the loved one” in Japanese. He is teaching me lots about myself and is bringing out the best in me. We are growing together every day and hopefully we’ll be able to do this for at least 20 more years.

I am well aware he was one of the lucky stray animals that walk the streets hungry and without a home every day, or even being born in families that do not want them. Which makes me wonder: what happens to those others furry little friends? Who is there to take care of them? Who tries to give them a better life, a place they could call home?

Before we answer this question, let’s see what the numbers have to say about people’s interest in owning a pet:

According to the research made by the “European Pet Food Industry” Federation (FEDIAF) in 2021, almost half (42%) of Romanian households own a pet. In Europe, the percentage is around 38%, meaning 88 million households.

Given the high numbers of pet owners, what are the advantages of having a pet? “As this figure grows, so does their role in people’s lives. […] In addition to being a source of love and friendship, there have been numerous scientific studies analyzing the many ways in which pets are good for our health. One of the more obvious health benefits of owning a pet is exercise – dog walking or playing with a cat are great ways to stay active. Also, contact with animals is proven to encourage physiological and psychological benefits: reducing stress, helping to prevent illness and allergies, lowering blood pressure, aiding recovery, and boosting chances of survival after a life-threatening illness.”(FEDIAF).

According to a study conducted by the “Food for Pets Producers” Romanian Organization (ARPAC) in August 2020, the pandemic caused by the virus Covid-19 have impacted the number of animals either purchased or adopted. 17% of Romanian dog owners and 16% of Romanian cat owners had stated that they got a pet during lockdown. Dogs are the most common pet found in Romanian households, followed by cats (58% of the pet-owning households), then birds (12%), fish (11%) and so on. Most dog owners got their pet from friends or family (51%). 31% bought their dogs and only 23% adopted them. However, when it comes to cats, most cat owners stated they adopted theirs (48%). 35% got theirs from friend or family and only 12% bought them.

Romanians have also showed interest in adopting animals on social media. There are many Facebook groups regarding the matter, with tens of thousands of members. “Offers/ requests of adoption for cats” has 52.000 members, followed by “Offers/ requests of adoption for dogs” which has around 47.300 members, “Animal Protection Cluj” with 46.000, “Cats and dogs’ adoption” with 28.100 and hundreds more.

the animal rescue world through ada’s eyes

When it comes to saving stray animals, Ada Mureșan is the right person to talk to. Ada is a 20-year-old girl who lives in Turda, Romania (a city about 30 km away from Cluj-Napoca). She started her higher education at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, but dropped out shortly after to fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian at the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, where she is going to apply this year. Between studying to become a vet and her job as a make-up artist, she always manages to find time for her true passion, saving stray animals.

source: Ada’s personal archive

Ada considers herself a very empathic, sociable and ambitious person. “Animals mean everything to me,” she stated. “When I was little, the lady next-door used to save and take care of the strays from our neighborhood, so I would say that’s where it all started. I noticed from a young age that animals have so much love to offer, and my neighbor taught me how much help they actually need. I loved them from a young age, not only cats and dogs; I used to take care of hamsters, horses, pigs, baby goats – pretty much any animal that I laid my eyes on.”

source: Ada’s personal archive

“Nowadays I have three animals of my own. I adopted my first dog when I was twelve. He was found by my neighbor and then I took him. Then there is my cat, which I got as a present when I turned 18 and has been by my side ever since. Last but not least, we have another kitten. My mom found her on the streets. She was in such poor condition that no one wanted to adopt her, so we decided to keep her. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

She started to get involved in rescuing animals in the summer of 2021, when some people found three kittens in a box. She took them in for two months where they were medically treated and eventually put up for adoption. Then more cases started coming in. Three days later, a puppy whose mother had just died. He needed urgent care. A week later, another kitten. “At that point, there were five kittens running around in my house, besides my own.”

According to Ada, the hardest part of animal rescue is that it is emotionally draining. “Although sometimes I find myself cracking mentally, my little furry friends feed me with energy and strength to keep on going. The biggest satisfaction I feel in life is the moment I see the animals getting to a safe, loving home and that all the costs regarding their medical care have been covered, regardless of how hard it was. Animals’ health and safety is my priority, so when I get asked for help, no matter how tired or busy I am, I can never decline. Most of the time I take into my care really severe cases that others turn away from, either because they require too much money or too much time, energy and emotional involvement.”

Ada then proceeded to explain to me how a case is carried out: “First thing I do after I get called or get a notice that there is an animal in need of my help is I get there as soon as I can. Next, I take them to the Emergency Care Veterinary Clinic USAMV, Cluj-Napoca, given the fact that most of the animals are unstable and in critical condition. Usually, the costs are above 2.000 RON (approx. €400), but this has never made me reconsider the choice of saving them. After they are stabilized by the vets, I take them to the Tashi Vet Clinic from Cluj-Napoca for post-surgery care. From there, I try to find them a home by posting them all over my social media. Sometimes, until someone decides to take them in, I foster them.” She usually gathers the money necessary for medical care from her private Facebook account or from different animal lovers Facebook groups. She always posts the receipts, this way earning people’s trust and support.

Like everything else in life, not every story has a happy ending. “There is only one animal that I was not able to save from the dozens of cases that I was responsible for, and it will haunt me forever. Unfortunately, the puppy had a severe skull fracture and there was nothing the doctors could have done to save him. Although every other animal I took care of got a happy ending, this puppy didn’t, and these are the cases that really stick with you.”

But on a happy note, there are also little miracles happening that make everyone come to the conclusion that it is all worth it in the end. “The case that brought me the most joy and satisfaction was a dog I named Happy. She was the victim of a hit and run in which she was left paralyzed in her lower legs and with a pelvis fracture.” She was hospitalized for one month and a half before the magic happened: she was able to walk again on her own thanks to an amazing doctor who took care of her every day. Happy is now living her best life with her new family. “For me, it is 100% all worth it. It’s worth all the exhaustion and the stress because, at the end of the day, I know I was able to give those pure souls better lives. I will keep on fighting for their rights and for them to get what they deserve: love and respect.”

Even more reasons to adopt a furry friend

If this wasn’t enough to make you want to adopt, rather than shop, there’s more. According to “The Humane Society of The United States”, if you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller, or flea market, you’re almost certainly getting a dog from a puppy mill. “Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Animals from puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care and are often very sick and behaviorally troubled as a result. The moms of these puppies are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family. And after they’re no longer profitable, breeding dogs are simply discarded—either killed, abandoned, or sold at auction.” Although it is not always the case, these cruel conditions in which the animals are being kept is a big part of the animal breeding industry.

There are several benefits of animal adoption. Even if you find them on the streets or if you take them from an animal shelter, you will turn their whole life around and also, get a best friend for the next (hopefully) many years. Adopting costs less, or maybe not at all and by saving a soul and taking home a furry friend, you make room for another one in the shelter. Give them a second chance at life! Adopt, don’t shop!