From Rescue to Best Friend: Jasper’s Journey
In April 2018, at the request of the New Mexico District Attorney and Union County Sheriff’s Office, the ASPCA assisted with the removal of nearly 120 cats and dogs from an “animal sanctuary” in Clayton, New Mexico.
The animals, all living in deplorable conditions, were transported to a temporary shelter operated by the ASPCA for immediate medical care. But one, a black-and-white cat named Jasper, was fearful and eluded rescuers. Hiding in the ceiling, Jasper was later discovered by property caretakers through a hole in the wall after the scene had been cleared.
Deputy Jody Reeser of the Union County Sheriff’s Department returned to retrieve Jasper and took him to Animal Humane New Mexico, where he was cared for until he could be transported first to the ASPCA’s temporary animal shelter.
“When he arrived at our temporary shelter, Jasper was extremely fearful and shut down,” explains Christina Lee, Director of Behavior for the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center (ARC) and Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment (CARE). “Eventually he came out of his shell, but we had to move him frequently, eventually housing him alone because he was often bullied by other cats.”
Christina explains how behavior responders who were deployed to the temporary shelter by the Behavioral Sciences Team, which Christina oversaw, worked with Jasper on a regular basis.
“One of our responders, Karen P., described Jasper perfectly,” Christina relays. “He’s like the awkward but nice, new kid at school who wants to be everyone’s friend, but gets his lunch stolen instead. But he’s really come a long way.”
Jasper was later transported to the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City. He arrived in June alongside 10 other cats from the case.
Jasper’s Health Journey
While at the ASPCA, Jasper was treated for inflammatory bowel disease, and an oral mass—which was thankfully benign—was removed from his mouth.
The ASPCA’s Foster Care and Placement team found foster placement for the 11 cats, including Jasper, so they could get used to living in a home environment. Because of custody rules during court proceedings, the cats couldn’t be placed for adoption for months.
“If they hadn’t gone into foster care, they would have had to remain at our temporary shelter,” says Jasmine Holsinger, Senior Manager of Animal Placement Rescue and Removal for the ASPCA’s National Field Response team. “Getting them into foster homes helped tremendously by making their transitions to adoption much faster and less stressful.”
The Perfect Present
In November 2019, after the ASPCA got official custody of seven-year-old Jasper, he was returned from foster care to the Adoption Center. Just before Christmas—on December 21—Jasper was adopted by Matt L. of Queens, NY, who had seen Jasper’s photo on the ASPCA website.
“He was kind of a gift to myself,” says Matt, whose birthday was the following day. “I had a cat named Amélie who I had to put to sleep last summer, and I really wanted to adopt another one. I’ve always had cats in my life.”
Matt and Jasper bonded immediately.
“He came right up to me,” Matt recalls. “And when we got home, within 20 minutes he pried open the door of the room where I had put him. He was comfortable walking around and adjusted quickly. He seems to like where he is.”
Every night, when Matt gets home from his job in advertising, Jasper is at the door waiting for his new dad.
“He greets me with a couple of meows, then throws himself down and flops back and forth,” Matt explains. “We might spend the evening playing with a mouse on a string. Sometimes he’ll stare at a cat across the courtyard in another apartment. He usually falls asleep on couch.”
A Comfortable Companion
Though not on any medications currently, Jasper was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and has a heart murmur. These conditions need to be watched, but they don’t interfere in Jasper’s day-to-day life.
“Jasper came from a very concerning background,” says Dr. Felicia Magnaterra, Adoptions Veterinarians Manager who oversaw Jasper’s care. “Animals housed in such conditions often suffer from undiagnosed illnesses and are susceptible to infectious diseases. Had his concurrent disease processes been left undiagnosed, this would have led to significant decline.”
Dr. Magnaterra credits the ASPCA’s Foster program with helping Jasper and his former housemates recover.
“Jasper and the other cats received close monitoring and care in the comfort of a home setting through their medical work-ups and the resolution of his legal case,” she says. “I cannot emphasize enough what an impact this has on animals in need of alternate housing for their duration of time with our organization.”
Matt has since renamed his cat Joey, inspired by a song of the same name by the alternative rock band Concrete Blonde. “It’s a good name for a cat,” Matt says.
Seven of the 11 cats in the original case were officially adopted by their foster caretakers, reports Matthew Richards, the ASPCA’s Manager of Foster Care and Placement, who handled the majority of foster arrangements for this case.
But Jasper was destined for Matt.
“He’s a buddy, you know?” Matt says. “He’s always in a good mood. I think he enjoys my company. I certainly enjoy his.”
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