Family means nobody gets left behind

***

What would you grab if your home was on fire? It’s a common enough question and a good one to consider should anyone find themselves presented with such a dire situation. I had the opportunity to know my answer to that question. Earlier this year when I was staying at the YWCA shelter, a fire alarm went off early one morning. No drill was scheduled, so I had to assume this was the real deal.

As I flung the covers from my bed and rushed to dress myself, I wasn’t thinking about grabbing my jewelry, additional clothes, or memorabilia. There was only one – well two – things on my mind… how to get my cats out of there quickly and safely.

The alarm was loud and frightening. I can only imagine how much it hurt their sensitive ears. By the time I had dressed and gotten their crates down from the shelf in my closet, they had already hidden themselves inside the box spring of my twin bed. Quickly, I pulled the mattress off and carefully turned the box spring onto its side. Peering through the hole one of them had made in the bottom, could see them both looking quite frightened. I reached down and pulled one out.

It was a struggle to get them each inside their respective crate. I still have scars (one on my left arm and the other on my leg) from their back claws as they fought me trying to get them to safety. But I wasn’t going to leave them behind. Bella and Tiger are not pets and they are more than therapy animals – they are my family.

It probably took me an extra ten minutes getting them secured and by the time I got outside, it was clear that I was the last one out of the building. What was disturbing about this is I was not the only one with companion animals in the shelter. However, I was the only one who brought my animals with me.

Thankfully, it was a false alarm – but none of us knew that the moment it was happening. So it was upsetting to see how many women were willing to let their pets burn. Some were clutching backpacks and others a purse and photo album. But none (other than myself) were holding their animals.

I guess that makes me special. Perhaps it means Bella and Tiger are special. But I like to think it means that we are a family… and family means nobody gets left behind.

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