Gracie Brings a Ray of Hope and Good Cheer to the Down-and-Out at Women's Shelter in Fredericton
"She runs through Grace House into the office, going from bedroom to bedroom, often bringing things with her, like some girl's earring, or a toy that someone has bought her, which may be bigger than she is. She takes turns sleeping wherever she pleases. The women wake up in the morning and someone always says, 'Gracie slept with me last night.' She is an absolute delight and we are so happy to have her."
-- Shelter manageress Marcia Tanner
The best things in life truly are free, unconditional, and totally unexpected. The staff and inmates at Grace House Emergency Shelter for Women in Fredericton, New Brunswick, know that only too well now that Gracie has come to brighten up their otherwise dreary surroundings. (See photo above.)
No stranger to homelessness herself, Gracie was a six-week-old tortoiseshell kitten living in the mean streets of Fredericton when she first came to the attention of shelter manageress Marcia Tanner last September. Spying the kitten while on her lunch break one day, she was able to corral it and bring it back to the shelter with her.
She since has been spayed and vaccinated and now has a home for life at the shelter. "She will reign for many years to come and will definitely bring joy to the lives of all the women she will meet here, no matter how long a period of time they spend at our shelter," Tanner told The Daily Gleaner of Fredericton on March 28th. (See "Gracie the Cat Brings an Extra Bit of Grace to Grace House Emergency Shelter for Women.")
Although Gracie's favorite place to hang out is high atop the office window where she can discreetly follow the comings and goings of both staffers and inmates from a safe distance, she has free rein of the entire facility. "She runs through Grace House into the office, going from bedroom to bedroom, often bringing things with her, like some girl's earring, or a toy that someone has bought her, which may be bigger than she is," Tanner related to The Daily Gleaner. "She takes turns sleeping wherever she pleases. The women wake up in the morning and someone always says, 'Gracie slept with me last night.' She is an absolute delight and we are so happy to have her."
Gracie also functions as a substitute alarm clock by gently nudging the residents back from the Land of Nod each morning. "Gracie sleeps with me most of the time and is my alarm clock," a woman identified only as Marion confided to The Daily Gleaner in the article cited supra. "When I get my wake up call for work she gets up on my bed and licks my nose and kneads the blanket around me until I'm out of bed."
Already looking forward to the time when she will be able to get back on her feet financially, Marion has no intention of forgetting the kindness bestowed upon her by Gracie. "I'm very glad she came to live here," she added. "I'll sure miss her when I go but I'll come back to visit her."
The elites must grudgingly be given credit for doing such a sensational job of bamboozling the hoi polloi into forsaking all that is truly beautiful and genuine in this world in favor of an artificial existence where only the accumulation of shekels and the consumption of the ordure churned out by the mass media is valued. Consequently, the joie de vivre to be found in cats, friends, family, Charles Dickens, lightning bugs, crickets, and sunsets is lost on most individuals.
If Marion, Tanner, and the other inmates and staffers at Grace House have learned that there is more to life than money and mindless self-indulgence, then Gracie has taught them an invaluable lesson. Furthermore, if the lesson sticks, even a detour into the black hole of homelessness will have been a small price to have paid for their enlightenment.
If there is one place that is even drearier than a homeless shelter, it is a women's prison but even there cats and kittens are having a huge impact upon the morale of both inmates and guards. For instance, the Solano County Sheriff's Claybank Sentenced Detention Center in Fairfax, west of San Francisco, a few years back inaugurated a highly successful program whereby female inmates foster feral kittens. (See photo above of inmates Donica Laury and Latisha Bevilacqua, left to right, with their cats, Lucky Charm and Lilyanna.)
The Blaine Street Jail in Santa Cruz has a similar program and there are probably others in existence elsewhere throughout the penal system. (See Cat Defender post of October 27, 2005 entitled "Inmates at Women's Prisons in California Save Lives by Fostering Feral Kittens.")
Unlike people, cats do not judge individuals by the size of their wallets and the positions that they occupy in the pecking order of society. On the contrary, they judge individuals solely on how they are treated by them.
Considering that the homeless are treated like dirt everywhere, it is not surprising that the unconditional love, nonjudgmental attitude, and companionship that Gracie has bestowed upon the women at Grace House has been so appreciated. As Dickens once astutely observed, "What greater gift than the love of a cat?"
Photos: The Daily Gleaner (Gracie) and Vanessa Stumpf of the California Aggie (Laury and Bevilacqua with Lucky Charm and Lilyanna).