+
Heroes

Changing the false stigmas about black cats requires patience, knowledge and a lot of love

Changing the false stigmas about black cats requires patience, knowledge and a lot of love

Black cats. For centuries, they've been the target of conflicting reputations. Some say they're bad luck. Others—sailors and actors, most notably—wouldn't dream of launching a ship or a theater production without at least one dark-furred kitty along for the ride.

Superstition aside, Leah Lyman--owner of Jagger's Journey Cat Rescue in Oregon—simply finds them beautiful. She devotes her life to fostering and finding permanent homes for abandoned black cats and kittens. "I rescue them all, but black cats are my top priority," she says. "Some people are still ignorant about them. The phobia's out there."



In early October, I didn't need another cat. I had two indoor kitties, plus a barn cat outdoors. But I walked into Petsmart in Springfield, Oregon with my 13-year-old daughter and stopped in front of three cages of black kittens and cats on a table. Lyman stood beside them wearing a tee that read "Rich people have brand logos on their shirts. Happy people have cat hair on their shirts." I introduced myself, trying not to look at the silky four-month old kitten next to me—a carbon copy of my late lamented Alger Hiss.

Over 17 years, first as a volunteer with other rescue organizations and then as founder of her own non-profit, Lyman has pulled wet filthy kittens from canals, rescued flea-infested dehydrated felines, and set her alarm to bottle-feed orphans every four hours around the clock. Last year, she found a cat suffering from a broken jaw, with glue smeared in its eyes and nostrils. "He was nearly dead, but I rushed him to the vet who repaired his jaw and used mineral oil to remove the glue," Lyman recalls. She syringe-fed the cat, whom she named Damien, and found him a loving permanent home with an elderly woman and her grandson.


Leah Lyman and Jagger, photo courtesy of Rich Cassady Photography


She traces her passion for helping abused animals back to a Southern California childhood spent with an alcoholic father who abused her mother and their pets. The family moved often. "We always had a bunch of animals that I was attached to and we always had to get rid of them or leave them behind," she explains. "I developed a strong bond with them, regardless."

After high school, she worked as a show girl in Las Vegas before returning to California. Seventeen years ago, she was volunteering at a Gurrs and Purrs adoption event in Rosemead when someone walked in with a black kitten locked a birdcage. "They'd been keeping him on their front lawn," she says. "He had a bad respiratory infection, and he was covered in ear mites. We picked off all the mites, and he followed me everywhere. He was the best little cat I'd ever met."

The cat, Jagger, moved to Oregon with her and an older black kitty 13 years ago, and became the inspiration for her rescue organization. "I saved up all my bartending tips for four years to hire a non-profit lawyer," she says. "Now I've got a circle of people I trust—foster parents, adoption event staff, and an amazing trapper who works with feral cats and kittens. Cats are my world."

Jagger's Journey is one of a handful of organizations across the country that specializes in black cat rescue and adoption. There's also Black Cat Rescue in Boston, and Black Cat Holistic Rescue in Los Angeles. The women behind each agree that cats can be difficult to place in permanent homes. They don't always show to advantage in adoption pictures, unless they're photographed in natural light or brightly lit indoors. And superstition--as Lyman points out--persists. "Black cats are less likely to be adopted than other cats," she says, "though when the movie Black Panther came out, everyone wanted them for a while."

But that trend has slowed. And so, every Saturday, her cadre of foster parents bring cages of rescued black kittens and cats to an Oregon PetSmart, and she displays them on tables for shoppers to consider adopting. She's there to answer questions and help potential cat-parents through the application process.

She answers all of my daughter's questions about the silky black kitten, and then—when I allow that we probably have room in our home and our hearts for another cat—she interviews me extensively about our current pets and our veterinarian and my plans for the kitten if I unexpectedly ascend to that great litterbox in the sky.

"People are starting to consider the underdog," she says as she approves my completed application and congratulates my daughter on the acquisition of a new friend. "This a lot of work," she says, "but on the flip side, I see more and more people opening their hearts to black cats."

Melissa Hart is a writer based in Oregon and the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Architectural Digest/Youtube

This house was made with love.

Celebrity home tours are usually a divisive topic. Some find them fun and inspirational. Others find them tacky or out of touch. But this home tour has seemingly brought unanimous joy to all.

“Stranger Things” actor David Harbour and British singer-songwriter Lily Allen, whose Vegas wedding in 2020 came with an Elvis impersonator, gave a tour of their delightfully quirky Brooklyn townhouse for Architectural Digest, and people were absolutely loving it.

For one thing, the house just looks cool. There’s nothing monotone or minimalist about it. No beige to be seen.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to run their YouthLine teen crisis hotline

“Each volunteer gets more than 60 hours of training, and master’s level supervisors are constantly on standby in the room.”

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to man YouthLine teen crisis hotline

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Mental health is a top-of-mind issue for a lot of people. Thanks to social media and people being more open about their struggles, the stigma surrounding seeking mental health treatment appears to be diminishing. But after the social and emotional interruption of teens due the pandemic, the mental health crises among adolescents seem to have jumped to record numbers.

PBS reports that Oregon is "ranked as the worst state for youth mental illness and access to care." But they're attempting to do something about it with a program that trains teenagers to answer crisis calls from other teens. They aren't alone though, as there's a master's level supervisor at the ready to jump in if the call requires a mental health professional.

The calls coming into the Oregon YouthLine can vary drastically, anywhere from relationship problems to family struggles, all the way to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Teens manning the phones are provided with 60 hours of training and are taught to recognize when the call needs to be taken over by the adult supervisor.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Mom shares her brutal experience with 'hyperemesis gravidarum' and other moms can relate

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe case of morning sickness that can last up until the baby is born and might require medical attention.

@emilyboazman/TikTok

Hyperemesis gravidarum isn't as common as regular morning sickness, but it's much more severe.

Morning sickness is one of the most commonly known and most joked about pregnancy symptoms, second only to peculiar food cravings. While unpleasant, it can often be alleviated to a certain extent with plain foods, plenty of fluids, maybe some ginger—your typical nausea remedies. And usually, it clears up on its own by the 20-week mark. Usually.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes moms experience stomach sickness and vomiting, right up until the baby is born, on a much more severe level.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), isn’t as widely talked about as regular morning sickness, but those who go through it are likely to never forget it. Persistent, extreme nausea and vomiting lead to other symptoms like dehydration, fainting, low blood pressure and even jaundice, to name a few.

Emily Boazman, a mom who had HG while pregnant with her third child, showed just how big of an impact it can make in a viral TikTok.

Keep ReadingShow less

The cast of TLC's "Sister Wives."

Dating is hard for just about anyone. But it gets harder as people age because the dating pool shrinks and older people are more selective. Plus, changes in dating trends, online etiquette and fashion can complicate things as well.

“Sister Wives” star Christine Brown is back in the dating pool after ending her “spiritual union” with polygamist Kody Brown and she needs a little help to get back in the swing of things. Christine and Kody were together for more than 25 years and she shared him with three other women, Janelle, Meri and Robyn.

Janelle and Meri have recently announced they’ve separated from Kody. Christine publicly admitted that things were over with Kody in November 2021.

Keep ReadingShow less