OMG MY FIRST TIME AS A CONDUCTOR!
Being a cat loving girl since I moved out on my own nigh on 30+ years ago, it was only logical that once on Facebook I search for others like me. As I looked for cat groups, I happened upon
#URRKN – Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network. With my interest peaked I soon realized their mission was to help transport rescued kitties across the US to their forever homes. In this technological era, the world had gotten much smaller. Rescues, sanctuaries, shelters, colony caregivers now had websites and Facebook pages to spread their messages to the far corners of the country, to rally help with saving so many homeless kitties. Someone on the west coast might see a cat in Georgia…touched by their story, connected by the look in their eyes, or just a feeling this cat was meant to be part of their family. Whatever the reason, short of expensive flights, or long and uncomfortable car trips, how does a faraway adopter get
their new baby home?
Enter the 24,000+ member strong #URRKN, the Love Train. I was hooked. I was on board. I joined immediately…then waited and watched. I checked the #URRKN postings daily waiting for a transport to head through my area so I could sign up to be a conductor for the very first time.
I was anxious…but patiently watched and waited. And then it happened! Sunshine, a sweet old guy who was dumped in the middle of a feral colony in Maryland had been plucked to safety by the loving caregiver. After vetting him, sadly Sunshine tested positive for FIV. The caregiver couldn’t keep him, he wouldn’t survive if she returned him to the colony, and the uninformed city shelter was known to euthanize FIV+ cats. After some searching, she found a shelter who specialized in hospice for unadoptable kitties – but it was in Iowa! How would she ever get this boy more than 1,000 miles away. Well, #URRKN of course. Me, me, me!
But I was certainly not alone, each transport takes a team. More than 20 women and men working together on this one transport alone. From admins and screeners, to transport coordinators and event ambassadors, to dozens of cheerleaders and conductors on the road, all with just one mission…getting sweet Sunshine “home!” I was beyond excited to be part of this event. I signed up to be a conductor for two legs on the second day of the transport. As the weekend drew near, the transport coordinator, reached out to me. The B&B hostess, the person who boards the kitty passengers overnight midway in the 2-day transport hadn’t been found, would I do it? Plus halfway through day one, another kitty would join the Love Train, so I would be hosting two kitties on Saturday night. I excitedly, albeit nervously agreed. Quickly I made arrangements to entertain my little guests separate from my own feline babies, and awaited the big day….my very first #URRKN transport.
On Saturday evening I met the conductor before me at the agreed upon destination, brought my two road weary guests home and settled in for the night. Of course, I didn’t get much sleep, there were too many kisses to give, too many purrs and head rubs to receive. I’m not sure what happened but I became instantly attached to these little orange souls. The next morning arrived too quickly and I sullenly packed up my guests and their belongings to head further west. Over two hours later I met the next conductor. As we began to do the transfer it happened, I began to sob. Tear blinding, chest heaving sobs. Now, don’t get me wrong….I was happy Sunshine and Taffy were rescued off the cold streets. I was happy they would have a family where they could live out their lives knowing love and care as never before. But it was still so hard to wave goodbye as they continued their journey west towards Iowa. Was it because I had recently lost two of my own babies? Was it because I had a soft spot in my heart for orange cats? I drove the long distance home in a state of melancholy, checking in with #URRKN home base to hear how the transport was progressing and see the photos the other conductors were posting along the way.
I didn’t understand these emotions I felt swelling inside me. Could anyone? A resounding yes! Although embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t stop the tears, the event ambassador for the trip was empathetic and kind. She consoled me by saying it happens to all members sometimes, no matter how long they have been doing transports, including her and the rest of the #URRKN management team.
Now almost a year and several transports later, I still find myself tearing up when transferring kitties to the next conductor. But I know now that is because of my passion and that of others, to help these kitties find real love, to find a real home. I know it is the great joy that fills my heart to tears. For myself and the 24,000+ kitty loving volunteers of #URRKN Network that make this happen all year long, I hope we never quit shedding tears of joy…or lose our passion to make a real difference.
As a final note, I will again be not only a conductor but a B&B hostess on June 6, 2015 …you should tune into the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network Facebook page that weekend to follow the excitement of so many dedicated volunteers working to get these next two kitties to their forever home. Hmm….I feel the tears coming already.
Written & Submitted by Cindy Hauff