Joleen's Journey: Learning to Trust Again

Joleen is in her new home tonight.

It was a moment that caught her foster caregiver with unexpected emotion. A moment that brought tears of both joy and some sadness. Joleen is home.

In early September, Joleen was brought to Dakin after her lifelong caretaker was moved into a nursing home. And, in an instant, Joleen’s world was turned upside down. For the first time, there were unknown smells. She was without her routine, without the familiar noises of her person, without the stability she had known for six years. The transition jolted Joleen. She stopped eating. She started trembling.

Team members at Dakin are trained to recognize signs of stress in cats early on. Just like in people, stress can make those experiencing it more susceptible to illness. For cats one of the most dangerous signs is anorexia. When they stop eating, this has the potential to compound the problem exponentially. Intervention is critical, and for Joleen, this meant being placed in a foster home.

A foster home can be a lifesaver for cats that do not cope well in a shelter environment. Foster caretakers provide rooms at their homes that are more natural for animal companions. The sounds and smells are more familiar at a home, while a shelter setting can be likened more to a vet clinic.

Joleen’s foster caregiver, Mary Jane, drew on her years of experience as well as her Cat TLC training. Cat TLC is a new volunteer program to provide enrichment for cats at Dakin Humane Society. Mary Jane gave Joleen what she needed most at that moment- patience, love, understanding, and a chance to trust again.

Joleen spent the next two weeks on a tiny ledge in Mary Jane’s storage closet. Mary Jane recalled, “I could hear her come out at night to eat, use the litter box, and scratch on the scratcher.” During the day Mary Jane would visit her in the closet, remembering to give her lots of options. “I wanted Joleen to decide for herself what she wanted from our interactions. I never pushed her one way or the other.” Mary Jane added.

On week three, Joleen felt comfortable enough to jump down and adventure out of the closet. She began taking small steps toward trust and connection. Finally, by the fourth week, Mary Jane was delighted. “She was stuck to me like Velcro! She followed me around the house, loved playing with her wand toys, and loved her cozy couch time.” The patience had paid off, and Joleen settled in.

And then, the phone rang. It was one of Dakin’s Counselors with good news: Joleen had an adopter. They had watched the video made by her foster caregiver, and they fell in love. Mary Jane recalled how in that moment, despite the happy news, her eyes filled with tears.  “I felt guilty about putting her through another tough transition after it took so long for her to trust again. But, then I took solace in the fact that I knew she could do it and I had all this information to share with her adopter about how to help her be successful. I also knew that I would be able to help another cat after her.”

Mary Jane is one of many incredible, dedicated foster caregivers who make up Dakin’s foster network. Foster caregivers expand our ability to provide specialized care for vulnerable animals, like Joleen. At the end of the day, Mary Jane reflected upon the news of Joleen’s new home. Thinking about Joleen’s journey, from her first home, to Dakin, and to an adoptive family, she was reminded about how she was able to be there for Joleen, and Joleen’s person, during their time of need. “I can't imagine how difficult it is to have to give up your beloved pet. Like Joleen's caretaker, most people who surrender simply don't have any other options. People trust us to care for and make the best decisions for their animals. It feels good to be there for them in that way. And that makes it worth it.

Joleen is in her new home tonight.

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