This last August, the community at The Hacienda at the River, through a fostering program created by Pima County Animal Care Center, took in three very young kittens who had been found without their mother. The kittens’ eyes were open but they could not see. They needed a warming pad as their bed because they were too young to control their own body temperature. They needed to fed with a small bottle every three hours.
Within a few days of their arrival, these three very small animals were exerting an almost magnetic appeal across a rather large community. The kitten room, as it became known, became a true destination. The kittens attracted residents and volunteers who were drawn to the role of nurturing caregiver. Soon, as they grew and became a whirlwind of activity, their antics delighted a larger audience. The kitten room needed a few more comfortable chairs as the weeks went on.
Through the PACC program and their sponsorship by PetCo, the kittens arrived with all the materials that they would need over the 5-6 weeks while they lived at The Hacienda. In a general orientation session, Jackie, the PACC volunteer who had been caring for them, trained residents, volunteers and associates how to feed and care for the kittens. Jackie remained a valuable resource throughout the kittens’ stay.
The timing of this program was especially fruitful. The kittens arrived at The Hacienda within a few months of its opening, when community members were still getting to know one another. As the community organized itself around caring for the kittens, unexpected resources appeared and a true generosity of spirit was at hand. One friend of a resident, who was with the kittens every day, said: “The addition of the kittens is yet another example of how I see our community is growing, bonding, and caring for each other. Nurturing the kittens seems to be a great opportunity in “bonding our village” for the greater good of our loved ones while at the same time bringing “Oooohs”, “Aahhhs”, and smiles to the residents. I’m looking forward to the next several weeks as the kittens grow to provide entertainment for the residents as their personalities start to show.”
The kittens were a special touchstone for residents who were in a new environment for the first time, one that was not their home. These residents drew special comfort from sheltering a tiny wrapped kitten on their lap. They helped with feeding and savored the moment when the kittens would nod off immediately after their bellies were full of warm formula. Time with the kittens an important part of their daily routine. One resident softly sang lullabies to the wrapped bundle. The kitten program is one of several programs at The Hacienda that promote strong community connections and personal well-being that resonates physically, spiritually and emotionally.
The kitten program at The Hacienda was lucky enough to become part of the Shelter Me film series. The episode will be available this December and is premiering on Saturday, December 2nd at 5 p.m. at The Loft Cinema, 3233 East Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716. More information on this showing is available here.
As is apparently common, the three kittens did not go out for adoption at the end of their five weeks at The Hacienda. One kitten went home with a Naya, Hacienda’s universal caregivers, who had named him Cubby almost the day he arrived. Another kitten now lives with Mary Koithan, Associate Dean, Professional and Community Engagement at the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing and one of The Hacienda’s integrative healthcare partners. The last kitten, now named Harvey, went home with David Freshwater, Chairman of Watermark Retirement Communities and initiator of the kitten program at The Hacienda.
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