Sophie’s Choice vs. A furParent’s Choice

19 Nov

Betty laying on her mommy

Sophie’s Choice vs
A furParent’s Choice

Most of us remember the movie Sophie’s Choice starring Meryl Streep, who played a Polish immigrant mother who had a split second to make a decision about which one of her children would be killed in a gas chamber or live in a labor camp. For those of us who saw that movie, we gasped and watched in horror when she chose to have her daughter killed and let the son live.

Do we think about what we’d do given that same type of choice between our loved ones and furry children?

Whether we are faced with the inextricable tragedy of a natural disaster or the loss of a job causing us to lose our homes, do we really have to choose which of our children come with us to safety? How do we choose who goes and who stays?

Recently, I was served with an unlawful detainer to move out of my townhouse near the ocean because I refused to get rid of my two beloved cats, Betty Boop and Trevor. Apparently, I cannot get reasonable accommodations from the property’s management to have them.

I left New York City amid Hurricane Sandy in an effort to find a peaceful new life for me and my furFamily. At the time, I had two dogs and two cats. My two dogs were trained to provide me with services for my invisible disability. One was bred specifically for the purpose of being my therapy dog. The other acts as a meter to gauge my levels of fear and panic when I am out in open spaces. For years, I suffered with this debilitating issue. My only source of healing and emotional well-being began when I started caring for three colonies of stray cats and adopting two cats of my own. When it was time for me to leave New York, I made full provisions for the colonies of stray cats to be cared for through the supervision of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative.

I then traveled cross-country with my two adopted cats, who had been with me for years, and my two dogs. My therapist wanted us to continue with my treatment by getting out of the city and going to a place by the water where I could work toward going outside and acclimating back into society. My home had been my only haven of peace and tranquility. But I found the fresh air to be amazing. The ocean breeze was healing. After a year of rebuilding my life and enjoying the outdoors more with my animals, though, my treatment took a major hit. There I was being accused by my home’s building property owners of wanting to “collect” animals.

Living with my animals has been my alternative to living with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The first time I was in bed and this overwhelming feeling of fear hit me, my whole body began to shake, and I experienced shortness of breath. My curious cat, Betty Boop, slowly walked up to me, sniffed my ear and my nose, and then somehow instinctively knew to lie down on my chest. It was the warmest touch that I’d felt during a panic attack, and I was so overjoyed by my cat’s concern for me. I noticed that my breathing became relaxed, and that intense feeling of fear dissipated. Today, she just sleeps on me, and I am okay with that too.

Each one of my four furry love-bugs offers a healing touch or performs a task that benefits me in such a way as to making my life more fulfilled and giving me a sense of wellness.
Asking me to move out of my home or get rid of my cats is like asking me to halt my recovery, contend with sleepless nights, and endure endless frightening panic attacks and lose my sense of well-being. It’s like choosing which one of my kids gets the gas chamber.

Just as my animals have been a huge gift to me emotionally and mentally, I have also committed myself to being a stable and loving provider and parent to them. It is not a choice. They are a part of me, and where I go, they will be with me until their last breath.

I created the furLifeLiving company out of my gratitude and amazement for what our animals bring to our lives. They are not to have just for recreation or until they come of age. They might give us 12 years or 15 years of their lives if we are fortunate. Our animals live the life we give them. Let’s choose to give them a great, full life. #furLifeLiving
The furLifeLiving website and community aims to share with the world the benefits of our relationships with our furry children. To learn more, visit our website at Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Francyne Ellison, creator & executive producer

The furLifeLiving Company

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