Nancy Rodriguez grew up with dogs, so she wasn’t aware of that funny but unnerving habit cats have of staring at people while they sleep. “I woke up and he was right there, looking right at me,” Rodriguez said of her first night with Fish, the young, medium-haired stray she’s fostering for ASAP, the Animal Shelter Assistance Program. “It was terrifying.” She slowly fell back asleep, and the next time she awoke, Fish was curled up next to her in the dark, dreaming about kibble, toys, and the mysteries of his little universe.
Rodriguez, the Independent’s digital editor, and Fish have become fast friends in the two weeks since she picked him up from ASAP on March 26, her birthday. The shelter was rolling out its emergency closure plan after Governor Newsom ordered the state on lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In a matter of five hours, ASAP handed off all 50 of its cats to impromptu caretakers who answered the call for help and lined up to take carrier after carrier through their car windows. “I’ve been doing this work for 18 years,” said director Angela Walters, “and I’d never seen anything like it. The community response was just incredible.”
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Since then, ASAP has helped pair another 60 cats from facilities across Santa Barbara County with foster parents. “It’s a whole different model of remote sheltering,” said Walters. The organization does its best to make the right matches ― “It’s a little like blind dating,” Walters said ― and with the stay-at-home order still in place, prioritizes placing cats with people who are alone and particularly isolated. ASAP has also had to create a virtual adoption process on the fly, but they’re already seeing a lot of success ― 22 of the foster parents say they want to permanently adopt, and another 85 outside applications are pending.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez and Fish are making the most of these strange times together. Initially very shy, Fish is spending more and more time outside the safety of her bedroom closet. Things that used to send him scampering ― the window, bird sounds, Rodriguez’s roommate ― are finally less scary, and now he’s playing like the rough-and-tumble youngster that he is. During our Zoom interview, he even made a quick cameo in front of the camera.
Rodriguez thanked ASAP for making the process so easy. They provided her food, a bed, litter, and everything else she needed, and they even footed the bill for a late-night vet visit. “Every single interaction I’ve had with them, you can tell they really, really care,” she said. Rodriguez is now thinking about giving Fish a permanent home. “He’s just so sweet,” she said.
To foster a cat, or to sponsor a fostered cat for $35 a month, visit ASAPcats.org.
Follow all of Fish’s crazy adventures on Instagram at @FishtheRescueCat
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