Addicted to Caregiving

Posted: Apr 8, 2014
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I was never a cat person. I grew up with dogs and pocket pets. After being a Pharmacy Technician for a few years I decided that I wanted to finally fulfill my lifelong dream of working with animals and I started working for an animal shelter in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My heart was immediately stolen by two tiny stray kittens and I had my first foster babies. I named them Scout and Lenny. Sadly, Lenny passed away within a few days. He was smaller than Scout and not as healthy. My heart was broken. Scout stopped being a foster and became my first cat. He lived to be 16 years of age.

My life has been ruled by animals for the past 17 years. I lived in Rhode Island for five years and became the caregiver to an estate that was “owned” by 13 cats. I lived in that old house with them until they all passed away. During my time there I started taking in stray cats from the veterinary hospital that I worked at. The local county shelter would also call me to take their “last chance” cats... I had officially become a crazy cat lady! I also did wildlife rehabilitation during this time and my house would have litters of squirrels and opossums in the spare bedroom. I became addicted to being a caregiver.

I moved to Oregon to work at DoveLewis as an ER/ICU CVT. I’ve see so much trauma working in an emergency setting. I hadn’t even worked in the ER for two months before I took in my first stray cat. He’d been hit by a car and had multiple fractures in his face. I named him Jeremy. He was the first of many animals that came home with me from DoveLewis. I’ve taken home everything from parvo puppies to elderly cats in hospice situations.

Erin Sochocky's cat Jeremy on presentation to DoveLewis after being hit by a car.

Currently, my clowder (read the definition here) is up to 13, and I also have a dog and a tortoise. For someone who was never a cat person, that’s pretty significant. I imagine you wincing at that number, and immediately imagining an episode of Hoarders. I can assure you that this is not the case! Living with such a large number of cats I feel like I’m always defending myself... I find it so strange how often veterinary people find my lifestyle so odd.

If I wasn’t a CVT I couldn’t do what I do, especially with the number of animals that I take in and the amount of nursing care that some of them require. Within the past four weeks I’ve spent well over $1,000 in cash on medical care and supplies. Rescuing animals is costly and very time consuming. I can’t imagine my life any other way though.

I recently had to purchase a new dryer because mine finally croaked. Spending $400 on an inanimate object that I would be using several times a week for years almost sent me over the edge with stress and worry. But spending $700 on my cat Luna’s dental procedure at a local veterinary hospital (we don’t have dental services at DoveLewis) was no big deal to me. I didn’t even blink when the receptionist told me how much I owed. I was really excited that it was way less than the high end of the estimate that I had been given!

I’ve always been a sensitive, introverted person who felt more comfortable with animals than with people. Being a CVT has increased my sensitivity and made my empathetic nature come to the forefront of who I am as a person!

Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose to life is to give it away.”

I’ve found my gift and accepted it gratefully. When you’re a rescuer and caregiver, you must give away all of your spare time and finances to these amazing animals who’ve often been through more than you can imagine. The feeling that I get when I am able to rescue an animal in need is priceless.