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In conclusion: Puma found her forever people (in a one-pet household), endorphins were released and rescue is easier and more rewarding than you think.
There is irony in being the de facto cat lady for a dog rescue. It loosens a bit when you consider that Jayma has/does rescue dogs and RezDawg Rescue has saved thousands of cats from an “uncertain fate.” The fact remains: Jayma is an animal person. This matters to Puma. It matters a lot. As an example of living life with a big heart, a passion for animals and the patience of Job, Jayma sets the standard.
Puma’s rescue was a long drawn-out process that actually started in 1998 – seven years before she was born. This is when we cut to the scene showing Jayma sneaking into a kennel in the back corner of the Kansas Humane Society in Wichita. Cue the foreboding orchestra music with lots of sad woodwinds because this cage is the rescue version of being banished to the gulag. It’s where the unadoptable, sick or terrified dogs are sent because most people (even animal-loving volunteers) don’t have the patience, instinct or knowledge to heal the shattered souls that have been banished there. Out of sight, out of mind.
Pay close attention: Jayma didn’t look at the dog. She closed the kennel door behind her and sat down, doing her best not to look at anything. And she sat. And she waited. And she killed time, maybe balanced her checkbook in her head or concentrated on breathing through her navel. The specifics aren’t pertinent. What matters is the dog in the gulag had time to evaluate Jayma, to realize she wasn’t a threat. A connection was made, a hand got licked. Then a face. A life was saved and while that dog may no longer walk the earth, the excitement Jayma felt when this dog responded fills her heart to this day.
In the next scene, Jayma stands next to a guy who wants to adopt a cat but has great fear about what might happen to his furniture if he brings home a grey tabby. Jayma asked a few questions and learned about the guy’s Norwegian sensibilities… and how they resulted in a home filled with smooth, stark white furniture. The solution seemed obvious. “Why not adopt a white cat?” she asked. No fur problems then. At least no obvious ones…
Per Jayma, “The guy looked at me like I invented plutonium or something.” He left with a white cat and Jayma learned that common sense is a crucial cog in the rescue wheel.
Jayma eventually moved away from Wichita but she carefully packed her Common Sense and her Animal-Loving Heart. She’d need them later on. Unknown to all, Puma was that much closer being rescued.
And Puma moved even closer to rescue because of a senior dog named Oso. Oso was a 16-year-old German Shepard/Husky mix who needed a new home. Animal rescuers, volunteers and fosters lead the same busy lives you do. They sometimes have health problems, annoying neighbors or competing priorities that cut into their propensity to volunteer for the local Humane Society. So Jayma skipped the Humane Society and adopted Oso off a Facebook post because Oso got the raw end of the deal.
And boy, did Oso’s bad situation get better. As a senior dog, he didn’t get around as well as he used to but he did love his new people. He loved playing with the kids, sleeping and generally winding down a long life as we all do: with aches and pains that didn’t matter much when you considered Unconditional Love was again part of his everyday life. One day at the dog park, Oso ran around with his buds and Jayma’s daughter asked a simple question. “How long will Oso live?”
Cue the sad woodwind music again because Oso passed a few days later. Jayma thinks this part of Puma’s rescue story is about the satisfaction she (and her family) felt from ensuring Oso’s last nine months were happy ones. During the edit, I’m going to change out this scene’s sad music for something inspirational. Not quite as annoying as trombones and trumpets, but something that escalates to a crescendo… a harp may well be involved. I think this part of Puma’s rescue story touches on the fact that Jayma’s daughter was clearly in touch with Oso on a level available only to young children and clairvoyants. This part of the story is about how love, empathy and a connection to animals can be passed to future generations. Good People raise Good People, and in this day and age, we need all of them we can muster… Puma is about to be rescued.
Puma finally makes her entrance at the start of Act Three. Puma was a new mama in a bad mood. The scratch marks on Jayma’s arms, echoes of panicked hissing in her ears and the common sense earned in Wichita resulted in Puma being moved to a quiet corner in the spare room to do her mama cat thing. Despite this, Puma’s behavior grew worse and worse. She began to abuse her kittens. One of them didn’t make it. Puma was all but unmanageable. Something needed to be done as The Question approached: Kill, No-kill. All rescuers fear the moment when The Question becomes pertinent, but Puma was miserable and her quality of life was deteriorating quickly.
Jayma found another nursing mama who accepted Puma’s kittens. She moved them from one room to another one at a time, slowly and patiently. But Puma was having none of it. Jayma couldn’t get near Puma without protective clothing. They may not have been welder’s gloves, but they should have been because Puma still managed to injure.
As The Question rolled around in the part of Jayma’s mind she prefers not to visit, a thought occurred. “This cat is going to die if I don’t do something. I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing and I’m out of ideas on how to help…” Of course, this is when inspiration strikes.
Jayma donned the gloves (and maybe a helmet and shin-guards as well – I would have,) got a good grip on Puma and gave her an injection of Clavamox. And she did it again the next day. And the day after that.
And Puma responded. She looked better, her aggression dissipated and she slowly became the cat that Jayma saw the whole time. Puma’s behavior resulted from an illness we can’t define, but who cares? She responded to treatment. All we know for sure is that Jayma’s refusal to give up on “just another cat” resulted in a successful outcome. Puma was soon ready for her forever people.
And the people came. Puma is now the only pet in the household and if you didn’t know her backstory, you’d never know she had such a hard time of it.
There are other details about Jayma and how she lives her life that help explain why her story is worth sharing. RezDawg Rescue works closely with the Highlands Ranch (Colorado) PetSmart. Jayma grew that relationship from a point where there were no cats available to where they maintained a dominant presence in the cages at the front of the store, the middle and the back. We don’t know how many cats are alive because Jayma became involved in rescue, but we know that whether rescuing one at a time or facilitating relationships that save herds of cats every month, she’s extraordinarily deserving of a badge that says, “Good People.”
The badge will be huge. It’ll look like an All-Access Pass to the Super Bowl. On it, we’ll place pictures of a dark kennel in Wichita, a happy senior dog running at the dog park and one of her daughter. Jayma’s daughter represents the next generation of Good People and frankly, I can’t wait until the day she crawls into a kennel with a scared dog and looks at nothing. Until a hand gets licked…
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For more information about what you’ve read here or about RezDawg in general, please visit RezDawgRescue.org, The Rez Dog Biographies, or stevensable.com.
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