Changing the false stigmas about black cats requires patience, knowledge and a lot of love
"Black cat" by @Doug88888 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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