Several years I’ve worked at an animal shelter in a small village near my hometown Groningen.
I was a volunteer at the special department Reso, where shy, traumatized and feral cats got help to learn to trust people (again) and to relate to them. The first few years I worked with the cats on several days a week, including the Sundays.
One day early September 2013, a collegue told me there had been a new arrival, several days before.
Her name was Darlene.
But hardly anyone of the Reso-volunteers knew she had arrived, ’cause she hid immediatly and didn’t come out again. She was feral and totaly afraid of people. Her favorite hidingplace, infact her only hidingplace, was a steelplate in the corner of the outside pen. Nobody knew how she could even get under that slap of steel which was barely 5 cm high. We didn’t know whether she was eating and she definitly missed out on the treats the volunteers gave the cats once a day.
Several techniques were tried to lure Darlene out of her safeplace … food … toys … treats … you name it … I tried it. But she wouldn’t move.
After a while I just thought ”well, if you won’t come to me, then I will get down to you”. And so I went down on my back on the cold ground alongside the steelplate. And just talked to her, with a calm and soothing voice. Darlene couldn’t make eyecontact and just kept staring outside.
Two weeks passed with the same action (mine) and inaction (hers) when suddenly she turned her head and glanced at me for a moment or two. There and then I knew we had a connection.
Since that Friday she would occasionally show her face from a distance and had found several other nice hidingplaces like a certain hangingbasket.
We made progress, bit by bit. She wouldn’t run away anymore when seeing me entering the outside pen. At one time she sat under the couch and accepted some treats as I lay about 30 cms from her. Yep … again on the cold floor.
After a while she would even stay in plain sight and let me approach her. Then I knew she would soon be ready to come home with me. To be honest … I’d already decided to adopt her the moment I heard about her that day in early September.
On Friday a collegue had managed to catch Darlene and put her in a big crate. The next day, on Saturday 9. November 2013, Darlene came home with me. She had finally found her forever home.
Very soon afterwards she was called Annie.