The Story of Boo – a life well lived.
Liz White, Director | July 17, 2020
It was August 27, 2013 and Lia and I were hard at work at Animal Alliance. The day was warm and the back door to the office was open. We have installed a screen so the cats who live at our office — Momo, Shiloh, Isaac, and Hannah — can enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
That day we heard a meow and saw that a little black cat was at the door, asking for our help. Lia took a cat carrier outside and this cat simply walked in knowing somehow that he would be safe. We could hear him purring. He was very engaging and friendly.
We considered integrating him into the office cat family, provided he was healthy. The office cats are positive for FIV so we are careful about maintaining a healthy, active and stress-free environment. By all accounts, we have succeeded because at age 11, all four are in amazing condition.
We took the little lost cat to our veterinarian, just a couple hours after meeting him. He wasn’t microchipped and the vet thought he might be 2 years old. In fact, we don’t know; he could have been older or younger.
One thing was clear – he was underweight, and when the blood work was done, we found out that he tested positive for feline leukemia.
Was he lost or abandoned? We wondered, “who would abandon such a wonderful guy even though he has this disease?”
The Adventure Begins
Whatever fate led him to our door, the little stray cat was a lucky guy and we were lucky to know him. He became a Project Jessie rescue and we needed an immediate foster family. Luckily, one of our long-time office volunteers, Kathrine, said she would take him. Kathrine has rescued and provided sanctuary for many desperate animals.
According to Kathrine, he fit right in with her human and animal household. She named him Boo.
Boo looked like a bobblehead, a big head on a small body, his head magnified by a body deficient in nutrition. But Boo thrived with Kathrine, easily recovering from his neuter, and soon we were actively looking for a new home. No one in the area was looking for Boo – there were no “lost cat” posters, no phone calls to our office.
At around the same time, my niece Katie was looking for a furry companion. She was living in a basement apartment and working close by. When I told her about Boo, she jumped at the chance to adopt him even knowing that his disease would likely mean he would not live to old age.
Life and Love with Katie
It turned out to be a match made in heaven. Katie and Boo were soulmates, sharing love and companionship. Lia said they were like two peas in a pod, their personalities so alike – friendly, outgoing, loving and adventurous.
But Boo’s life with Katie was about to change. Katie met JC, her husband and Boo’s furry family grew. JC had two rescue cats, Bruiser and Gus, and a rambunctious rescue dog named Harley.
In the intervening years, Boo’s family grew again with the addition of two children, Alice and Arthur. Boo was now part of a busy and interesting household instead of being lost and alone. Boo handled the chaos of a young family in a laid-back fashion, much in the same way he handled all the enormous changes that had happened to him over the years.
Several times a year I would visit Katie, JC, the children and the furry members of the family. It was a treat in many ways because it allowed me to occasionally connect with Boo.
Boo always held a special place in our hearts at Animal Alliance. When Lia and I rescued him, he was so vulnerable. But he survived against all odds, and found love and protection with Katie’s family.
The last time I saw Boo, in the fall of 2019, I did not know it would be the last. In the same week that Regan Russell died in a tragic accident while giving water to thirsty pigs, Boo succumbed to his leukemia. Katie and her family and all of us at Animal Alliance will miss him.
Project Jessie’s History
Our Project Jessie rescue network changed the lives of so many animals, like Boo. He enjoyed an incredibly rich life as a beloved member of Katie’s family. We were able to help so many animals because of the faithful kindness and generosity of our supporters.
We are now at a crossroads concerning Project Jessie. The program is a lasting tribute to a dog, Jessie, who we tried to save but could not reach in time. For many years we rescued animals who had no one else to turn to. But the hands-on rescue of lost pet dogs and cats from pounds that were selling animals to research was a ‘band-aid’ solution. Our original intent was to shut down completely the sale of pets to research, nation-wide.
This year we made the difficult decision to change our Project Jessie rescue program in the form it has existed. We decided to reconnect with the programme’s original mandate. We realized we could make better use of our staff and volunteer time to reach even more animals by adapting our strategy. Over the years the nation-wide rescue movement had grown considerably and many pounds we worked with were no longer selling animals to research. We realized we needed to refocus our resources to have a better chance at ending the practice of former pets being used in research across Canada. By changing a system that hurts so many animals, we can save far more lives than we could ever through hands-on rescue.
Through our three years of work on our No Pets in Research campaign (generously funded by LUSH Cosmetics), we have come to understand the need to expand Project Jessie’s efforts to reach beyond Ontario. All provinces still allow pounds to send lost pets to research.
This miserable practice of using former family friends in research needs to be shut down. To achieve this we want to reach out to other rescue groups across Canada to network with us. We know that this will take time; but when we are successful, together we will have saved thousands of innocent lives.
How You Can Help
We would love to hear what you think about these important changes to our Project Jessie rescue network. As our trusted supporters and friends your thoughts and suggestions matter to us. Please send us suggestions of rescue groups you know and trust, that might become our allies in this effort to keep lost or abandoned dogs and cats out of the pounds which would send them into the hands of researchers.
We know that many of you have also known a ‘Boo’ in your lives. You too have been part of the rescue of an animal whose future looked bleak until love and care turned everything around for them.
And that, in a nutshell, is what we are all trying to do – to change the lives of animals whose lives and futures provide little hope or comfort for them into lives that are rewarding, safe and filled with love.