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By Scott A.
Life is a journey! We never know the experiences that can change our lives, the people and animals we will meet, including the true friends that make the journey worthwhile. My life’s journey was meant to cross paths with Sister Marijon Binder, the founder of the animal-rescue organization Touched By An Animal, and Crackle.
My journey has not been easy. I have mental health issues and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age nine, more than 25 years ago. I had been unhappy with my life for many years, struggling to overcome my limitations due to my mental illness. I needed a job after not working for a year and a half.
In the summer of 2017, my mother received an email from Sister Marijon. Touched By An Animal was looking for an immediate employee to clean and care for the cats in their cageless cat sanctuary.
I called Sister Marijon the next morning for a phone interview. During my interview, I said, “Cats need more than just a food dish, water bowl, and litterbox. They need a great deal of love and attention, something I can provide.” Sister Marijon was impressed, and I made my way to the little blue “cat house” in Chicago’s Bowmanville neighborhood. As I walked in, a couple of dozen cats came racing to the door to greet me. One of these cats was Crackle. Little did I know this sweet little boy would become my best friend in time.
Touched By An Animal was founded 38 years ago as a grassroots neighbor-helping-neighbor organization but has since grown into something larger. The organization helps the elderly, disabled, homeless, and others to keep their loving bond with their companion animals.
Of the number of cats in their home at any given time (usually 60–80), about a third of them are healthy enough for adoption, another third are boarded for owners hospitalized or temporarily unhoused, and the final third due to their age or special medical needs—cats exactly like my Crackle.
Crackle wanted to be everyone’s friend. He would sit for hours on the countless volunteers’ laps, smiling and purring. Like many animals at the rescue, Crackle has special medical needs. He has an autoimmune deficiency. He was adopted as a kitten but was returned because his owner could not deal with his illness. I genuinely saw the love in Crackle each day I helped take care of him.
After a couple of years, I agreed to foster him. One of the happiest days of my life was Valentine’s Day 2020, when I brought Crackle into my home. He became my best friend. He understands me, and I am compassionate to his special needs. It’s a true honor to love and care for this sweet soul.
During the middle of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, Crackle’s autoimmune problem took a turn for the worse. Crackle did not eat for two days. The vet diagnosed him with severe stomatitis, a rare and potentially fatal condition. Marijon decided, with consultation from the vet, to have Crackle treated at a specialty veterinary hospital. When he was fully recovered, the bill was over $5,000 and the organization paid it. Since early 2021 Crackle has fully recovered, and I went from Crackle’s foster to Crackle’s adopter.
My love, affection, compassion, and stewardship for others have grown stronger since I’ve cared for Crackle and become more involved with Touched By An Animal. By 2019 I started writing their grants and helping with their graphic-design projects. In 2021, I set up the organization’s donor management system. Today I continue as a grant writer and graphic designer and help Marijon with research projects in an administrative-assistant capacity. I see myself today as a productive member of humanity and in recovery from my mental illness because of Marijon, Touched By An Animal, and, of course, Crackle. They have touched my life, making my spirit and soul glow more brightly.
Mutual Rescue’s films, book, and programs illustrate how “mutual” and “rescue” so often converge when people help homeless companion animals.